Quorthon's Sleeve Notes For "blood On Ice"
Blood on Ice is a legend among those who have followed us
throughout the years. Never permitted to forget about its existence,
constantly reminded of it as I was by all the tens of thousands of
letters from our fans that I've received throughout the years ever
since I breathed about it in the press some years ago, Blood on Ice
seemed a very difficult piece of gravel to get out of my shoe.
It seemed to all these thousands of fans and fanzines a
frustrating fact that we could let a complete epic-type of a theme-
album collect dust on a shelf. The truth is it was, of course, far
from that complete, ready-to-be-released epic creation of a theme-
album it was made out to be.
Blood on Ice was an hour long of material recorded during the
same circumstances that four of our albums were recorded... that is on
equipment hailing from the late 60s, early 70s and using a 14-track
demo-style mixing table of home made-fashion (in reality 12-tracks due
to the fact the table itself didn't have any effects of its own -
hence two tracks were used for echoes etc. mind you, sometimes tracks
on that old made tape-machine we used just wouldn't work from one day
to another). This private demo-studio was seldom, if ever, used for
anything serious other than BATHORY and occasionally up until '87 (but
all the time after that) it was actually working as a garage (which in
fact is just what it was to begin with) and not only used car parts be
stored there, but the damn place would function as a repair shop in
between the recording of Blood Fire Death and Hammerheart (and as such
all the time when the latter was recorded)...
Oh, those were the days...
The size of the room where we would 'pile' our amplifiers up
against the wall (if we're talking the first album, that's plugging in
my shitty little 20w Yamaha amp, mind you) and where we would rig up
our drums, was not large enough to allow us to record, say, the guitar
and the drums or the bass and the drums at the same time (hence the
use of clique-track on most of our albums). More than once a very
primitive, not even a second generation drum machine had to be used to
replace the snare-drum due to the poor sound quality. When we did the
first album we didn't even have a complete drum kit but worked with a
snare drum, a ride cymbal and a bass drum only.
Working with such a comparatively limited number of tracks meant
that an instrument and a sound effect such as thunder, wind or church
bell or whatever, could occupy one single track. This became routine
when our music developed and became more and more arranged,
incorporating stuff like harmony backing vocals and acoustic guitars.
At times a track could host the acoustic guitar that started a song
off only to some moments later feature a doomsday type of drum in the
choirs or whatever, maybe paired with a clap of thunder or some other
type of sound effect. Then a guitar-solo would usually follow before
that acoustic guitar would end the song. Of course very primitive and
sometimes extremely frustrating as each instrument or sound effect
would have to have its own particular sound (and volume level) meaning
that the Eq's and effects as well as level would have to be switched
(by hand in those days) while the whole thing was run down onto the
quarter-inch master tape (and this is just talking one single track on
one song - there could be five or six tracks on a song that had to be
taken care of in the same way - simultaneously!). Screw up. And you
would have to do it all over again. Many times we just left things as
they were because we couldn't care less about fuck-ups at that stage
of the recording process. These small 'errors' are there every time
that I listen to a Bathory track and not only will the 'studio-artist'
in me concentrate on picking them out and get upset about them, but
the metal-fan within is never allowed to simply sit down and enjoy the
stuff like so many others.
Many times the recording room would be occupied by more or less
usable parts of old Porsche-cars to such an extent that we had to
record those lead vocals, backing vocals or an acoustic guitar in
every possible confined area such as a bathroom, the cleaning cabinet
or, if possible, any small unoccupied area in the actual recording
room that was just large enough to stand when doing your vocals or
where you could place a chair for sitting down with your acoustic
I remember vividly one moment in June '89 when we came down the
Heavenshore Studio to record the material for what was to be the album
Hammerheart. The whole place had not only been stripped of everything
that functioned as sound isolation, but the whole place was filled
with a three foot thick layer of coarse gravel (to be flattered and
covered with a layer of asphalt any day now we were promised). When
we recorded the drums, the kit would have to be placed any way
possible on top of that undulating landscape of coarse gravel, which
only just reminded me of the Sahara desert. And as if that wasn't
enough, there were no lights in the studio. We had to use a small
table-lamp to be able to see anything at all. Don't ask me how we did
it, but somehow we did just that.
To this day I wonder if these circumstances haven't contributed
just a bit to our 'sound' in those days. Just imagine all those car
doors, hub caps and assorted odd pieces rattling along. I recall when
recording Hammerheart, working around these ordeals in a rather casual
way: when I was sitting down doing the acoustic intro for Valhalla,
how the neighbours' motorized lawnmover would find its way onto the
two-inch tape, sort of taking the Viking or barbarian atmosphere away
just a bit. The recording room itself had been soundproof before the
whole place was literally torn apart to be transferred into a repair
shop, so I was now sitting in this cleaning cabinet while the asphalt
was setting in, and the cabinet with its paper thin walls was surely
anything but soundproof. If this makes you drop your chin from pure
amazement, wait until you hear about the lead vocals done in the
Few bands, if any, would accept to record under these
circumstances, I'm sure, and even our patience could be pushed to the
limits occasionally. But still today, when even the most ill-sounding
black or death type of bands have access to the very most modern
recording techniques, using todays DATs and computer mixing
possibilities, I'm not sure whether I really would have wanted to miss
out on those days. It is with a great big fat smile that I look back
on those days when I could stand knee-deep in either hub caps,
packages of washing powder or even laundry while doing my lead vocals
or an acoustic guitar intro, usually with my arms and legs wrapped
around broomsticks, pipes or hoses, while worrying about whether the
neighbour's lawnmover, a bypassing car, an airliner or just a dripping
toilet would find its way onto the tape too much. This certified but
charming hell is forever after immortalised as the Heavenshore Studio,
the very place where Bathory, Under the Sign..., Blood Fire Death and
Hammerheart were recorded... and the original material which lay as
the base for Blood on Ice as well. Especially charming is it that not
only is Heavenshore Studio a legendary place among our fans and known
to most folks with at least one foot within extreme metal, but the
studio as such just doesn't exist anymore other than in the form of a
private garage in a residential area in a southern suburb to
Recorded not only during these circumstances but also in a sort
of half-hearted way, I was amazed, when listening to the tapes again
all these years later, that the material even held together. Half-
hearted in the sense that we were not too damn sure about the great
stuff in going onto a Viking styled concept-album after having
produced such wonderful mother-of-all-evil slab of satanic shit like
our second album The Return... (from January'85... and mind you, once
labeled as the most evil album ever released... incredible what
liberal amounts of Swedish vodka and some distorted guitars really can
accomplish). Going from stuff like the demons of hell etc. To an all-
and-all-out Viking styled concept-album based on a self-written saga
containing swords and muscles and snow soaked in blood (and who knows
what else...), in other words, stuff quite a bit far away from good
ol' Antichrist and his grandma, was quite a big step to take.
I'm astonished when thinking back, realizing not only was the
material that forms the base for this album laid onto tape in pieces
where one song would feature a single rough guitar and a monotone drum
beat and another would have been worked on a little more, including a
bass and even vocals, but all the more astonishing is it that
virtually all of the original material for Blood on Ice was recorded
not only in between albums (Blood Fire Death and Hammerheart) but some
of this material was worked on even during the recording of the
Hammerheart album. The original Blood on Ice material was worked on in
the studio over a period of one and a half years.
The confusion and the element of distraction of working on the
'real' albums at the same time as we were trying to find out whether
Bathory and a theme album really was such a good combination really
should have made the original Blood on Ice material sound like a
mishmash, but when listening to the stuff all over again after all
these years, I was taken by surprise how good some of the stuff
actually was, making me all the more convinced that maybe I should
spend some time giving this material a touch up and a patch job.
So what was the 'soul' of Blood on Ice'? It actually started with
the decline of enthusiasm for yet another full length album packed
with screams of satan etc., and all this due to the fact that I came
to the personal conclusion that this whole satanic bit was a fake: A
hoax created by another hoax - the Christian church, the very
institution and way of life that we wanted to give a nice big fat ball
breaker of a kick, by picking up the satanic and occult topics in our
lyrics, in the first place. It's not easy coming out of school and
starting a band at the age of fifteen and lacking the sort of
experiences that great metal lyrics seemed to be made of, such as
striding a Harley going down the highway doing 120 and fondling a
babe's tits while drinking from a bottle of whiskey, like all the big
bands seemed to do it. And what the hell... you gonna write songs
about something, right!?
And so there was this thing created by the church (or
Christianity, if you like) to herd the terrified world into its arms
(and cathedrals). A thing like the satanic or occult dish is bound to
work well as a bad motherfucker or main ingredient for your lyrics.
Usually old gods and religions were turned into bad ones, and the
Christian image of a bad anti-god was swiftly accepted by the
uneducated mobs of eleventh century Europe (it's really amazing what
we are prepared to accept and do when facing the sword held in one
hand and the crucifix in the other, as well as facing the danger of
missing out on that eternal life-trip up there... but then there is
always that forgive-you-all type, so I guess a little bit of sin can't
be too bad after all). Nevermind. This personal conclusion of mine had
me set my mind on finding other stuff to use when writing material for
future Bathory albums.
Since I am an avid fan of history, the natural step would be to
find something in history that could replace a thing like the dark
(not necessarily always the evil) side of life (and death). And what
could be more simple and natural than to pick up on the Viking era.
Great era, and great material for metal lyrics. Being Swedish and all,
having a personal relation to, and linked by blood to, that era at the
same time as it was a, if not a well-known, so at least an
internationally infamous moment in history, I sensed that here I just
might have something. Especially well suited was it since it was an
era that reached its peak just before the Christian circus came around
northern Europe and Sweden in the tenth century, establishing itself
as the dictatorial way of life and death.
And so that satan and hell type of soup was changed for proud and
strong nordsmen, shiny blades of broadswords, dragon ships and a party-
'til-you-puke type of living up there in the great halls... an image
of my ancestors and that era not too far away from the romanticised
and, to a great extent, utterly wrong image most people have of that
period in time through countless Hollywood productions etc.
When I grew up there were two comic magazines one read every
week. One being a horror type of mag called Chock (in the same vein as
say, Tales from the Crypt). The other one was Savage Sword of Conan or
Conan the Barbarian. Having grown up reading Chock, I was already
nourished with a great well of inspiration when stuff for the first
triple set of albums were written (no serious reading of the so-called
black bible here, oh no... not even the blue, yellow or even the pink
one either, mind you). Now the world of swords and swelling muscles of
Conan worked pretty well as an inspiration source when I was writing
what was to be the material that ended up on Blood Fire Death and to a
certain extent maybe even on Hammerheart, the latter being, actually,
a compromise, having rejected the idea of a concept-album as being
something too far fetched, an album that instead would deal only in
general with the Viking era but enough to at least satisfy ourselves,
was regarded as a good solution and bit of a compromise and so
Hammerheart was born.
I was also a long time fan of the life and works of Richard
Wagner, addicted to his operas and aware of what he read when finding
inspiration for them, I turned to the same books and legends. As it
turned out, I was borrowing liberally from both Scandinavian and
Germanic mythology. Ingredients like Mjolner - the hammer of Tor,
Sleipner - the ieght legged stallion of Oden, as well as Hugin and
Munin - his ravens, all became important subjects of inspiration when
I started to write the Saga of Blood on Ice. From the works of Wagner
I more or less stole the legend of Siegfried and the dying gods of the
Gotterdammerung, as well as the sword Notung.
At this stage, even as the saga was coming together, I had not
yet thought about putting music to it or cutting it down into rhythm
and rhyme. Blood on Ice was still just a story I had written for my
own pleasure. Realizing, of course, the potential in the story for a
great epic-type of a metal album, the transformation from a private
saga to what you now hold in your hands was not too far away once the
idea had crossed my mind.
So why was the whole thing aborted to begin with and that at a
stage when we had even bothered to start to record the basic tracks,
some even featuring vocals? Well we probably weren't too sure whether
this really was such a good idea to begin with. It had only been two
years since The Return... when I started to write Blood on Ice in saga
format, and the fanzines were still referring to us as that
"...satanic band from Sweden...". Even as I was putting down guitars
for some of these tracks back in '89 I would still receive fan mail
from all over the world asking me if those rumours about me eating
infant babies, drinking angels' blood and living in a satanic (!)
bat's cave in the north of Sweden really were true. And man... I'm
telling 'ya... judging from how they came across in their letters, not
to mention all those inverted crosses and magical symbols they had
drawn all over the pages in presumably their own blood... they were
really knee-deep into that shit... I ain't kidding.
Even though we had done things since The Return..., stuff like
'Enter the Eternal Fire' or 'Call from the Grave' and would do things
like 'A Fine Day to Die', 'Odens Ride over Nordland' and 'Blood Fire
Death', stuff that guaranteed no one could ignore the fact that new
frontiers were being explored both musically and lyricly, an all-and-
all-out theme-album might just prove too far, too deep, too big a step
to take and maybe too hard to handle for someone out there who might
just be able to afford only one or two albums a month. Those dollars,
pounds, marks or kronor might just as well be spent on a safe bet
rather than on a theme album by an already narrow band like Bathory.
And remember, we are talking '88-'89 here, times when bands like
Bathory not necessarily would be released on the then new CD format.
Blood on Ice on vinyl would have meant a double album. As if the whole
project wasn't swaying already... here was another grain of salt in
its wounds to prevent it from becoming reality, it seemed.
With all this in mind, no wonder the thought of spending all this
time and all this money all these years later in a modern expensive
studio putting all these pieces together into a releasable and
representable CD never crossed my mind when people asked me about it.
Until the day came when I dug that cassette up and was taken by
If I hadn't been constantly reminded of Blood on Ice when I read
fan mail or was doing interviews with fanzines and magazines, either
personally or over the phone, I am sure that in the future I would
probably only think of Blood on Ice as a birthday present you never
unwrapped or a girl you never nailed. That is, something that just
didn't happen. But the underground movement should never be
underestimated as a contact net. From the time I had breathed about
Blood on Ice, sometime in '89 very little time passed before piles of
fan mail regarding Blood on Ice would start to drop in. Especially
intensive was the campaign to have me release Blood on Ice when I was
traveling around Europe for a month telling folks why there was a solo
album out. That European promo-trip and long conversations with all
sorts of people not only made me think about Blood on Ice with a
different attitude, but everybody seemed to know about its existence
anyway, as well as urging me on to release it. There were moments
however, when fans would gather around me and with almost tears in
their eyes, tell me about how much Bathory had meant to them, as well
as filling me in on that revival things and what Bathory has meant to
a whole generation of fans and bands in terms of inspiration etc. I
think it's safe to say that I started to rethink and refuel.
After Twilight of the Gods and celebrating ten years on record by
releasing two Jubileum CDs instead of a more expensive and cumbersome
double-monster, I had found myself out of ideas and totally
uninterested in loud guitars and that loose subject of "rock'n roll".
To make things a bit worse (!)... from '86 and thereafter, the only
thing spinning at my place was classical music in general and Wagner
and Beethoven particularly.
The solo effort, Album, worked as a sort of therapy. I found the
way back to enjoy playing again. Imagine someone asking you to go into
this studio on your own to spend two weeks in there doing whatever the
shit you feel like. If you have been tied down something like Bathory
for ten years, every single note and word you've done in the studio
having to fit under a certain umbrella, you're gonna ask yourself
"Just who the hell am I?" Especially when a solo release is also
supposed to be a personal effort, you're bloody well intitled to know,
right!? Love it or hate it, but that step aside, that breath of fresh
air brought me back to rock'n roll no matter how little or how much
"rock'n roll" you can track down in stuff like 'War' or 'Dies Irae'.
Urged on as I had been by those fans talking about the "good ol'
noisy days", within two weeks after I had returned to Stockholm from
that promotion trip, virtually all the music for what was to be
Requiem had already been written. When Requiem has been recorded and
mixed, I was still running on top gear. That is when the stuff for
Octagon was written. The two of them being recorded within six months
of each other, as well as being released six months after one another,
roughly. This had brought me back on the track again. Having left off
some steam, I figured now was the time to earmark the coming handful
of months for Blood on Ice.
That's when I decided to track down a cassette I knew I was
keeping in a plastic bag in a closet. Upon finding it and listening to
it for the first time in many years, I was, as stated earlier, amazed
it didn't sound too bad. I realized it would take some work to breathe
some life into it, but I decided to arrange a session in a studio to
listen to the old two-inch tapes that I knew I had stored somewhere
down my basement.
Ready to take notes, all levers up so to speak, I was at first
very confused. The stuff seemed to be all over the place. Everything
had been recorded on that old 14-track tape machine at Heavenshore.
While listening to the tapes on a modern 24-track tape-machine, a
guitar would "leak" or spread out over three tracks and nothing seemed
to be where it should be. I realized then that this would take all of
the summer to straighten out.
What we had to do was to separate each and every instrument and
to decide whether we should keep a particular piece or not. Then we
had to transfer it all, instrument by instrument, down onto another
tape using a second tape-machine. Now we had all the songs neat and
clean down onto two 2-inch 24-track tapes.
Most songs featured only a rough guitar together with a basic
drum beat and occasionally a bass played using chords and that through
a guitar amp if I remember correctly. Only three quarters of the songs
had a vocal track and none featured backing vocals or a lead guitar. I
realized I had to start to rehearse those old guitar riffs again to be
able to lay down a second rhythm guitar right next to the old one.
Secondly a bass, this time lined and played using single notes,
was added. The drums was a story of its own. We had to separate each
part of the drum kit and then give each and every part a totally new
sound using a disc from a sound bank as well as correcting a few blows
here and there by a millisecond. Some drum rolls were added live and a
smack on the snaredrum or floor drums would be enhanced here and
there. Most of the hi-hat and ride were re-recorded using a computer.
To tighten the material further, some songs were speeded up about
fifteen per cent to add a flash of modern sound and crunch to them.
Next in line were lead vocals, something a handful of the songs
actually just didn't have. I had great troubles finding my old lyrics.
A few corrections here and there in the story, and all I had to do
when doing the lead vocals for those songs, as well as the backing
vocals, was to place myself before that microphone and imagine myself
being back at Heavenshore in '88 or '89 when the original material was
recorded. It was actually difficult to change my voice so that I was
sounding late 80s rather than mid 90s, this was, of course, necessary
since I didn't want to ruin the general mood of the material by all of
sudden sounding seven years older.
Now the only thing missing (except for a lead guitar, something I
usually always put down during a tea-break) were backing vocals. Now
this was a field we had pioneered years before on Blood on Ice. Sound
effects followed next. Since it was a theme album, we worked with the
effects as if it had been a motion picture and not an album. I wanted
the listener to feel the frozen wind tearing his face. The topic of
the lyrics, the story itself, had to come alive.
After having worked on the project for a month and a half during
the summer of '95, from listening through the original material to
chosing what shit to keep and what shit to scrap, from transferring
the usable bits down onto a second 2-inch, 24-track tape to picking
the new sounds for each part of the drum kit, from recording an
additional rhythm guitar and bass right next to the original ones to
laying down lead vocals on the songs that didn't have any, and from
working hard with the sound effects and backing vocals to making sure
we weren't ruining too much of the original atmosphere, we would now
let the whole thing set in for a while. It would be mid February '96
before we were able to reassemble, to finally cement it all together
in the mix.
Once all of the material had finally been digitally mixed down
onto DATs, we all had a feeling of great satisfaction. The fact that
Blood on Ice had finally come to life as an end product was a rather
Now that Blood on Ice is finally here, our hopes are that you
will take this souvenir to your hearts. Because that is exactly what
this release is all about, a souvenir to all our fans who have
followed us throughout the years and who have written to us begging
for this album to be put into releasable format. Although it could
very well sound embarassingly outdated to some aware of trends, this
album nevertheless deserved to be released. This effort embodies
everything that our mid 80s phase stood for, the so-called "Viking"
albums. This album was written and recorded in '88 and '89, completed
in '95 and mixed and mastered in '96. All in all it captures pretty
well what Bathory has been doing in between recording the vinyls and
compact discs you already have in your collection.
This saga is for you all...
Quorthon, Stockholm 1996