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Classic Review: Bathory - Hammerheart

Label: Black Mark Productions
Year released: 1989
Duration: 55:44
Tracks: 7
Genre: Viking Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: July 5, 2004
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating

Rated 4.6/5 (91.9%) (84 Votes)

This is it, right here: the original Viking Metal album. While "Blood, Fire, Death" was a mix of harsher, faster, old-style Bathory with some more epic tunes, "Hammerheart" signaled a complete transition from the noisy thrashiness of the old sound to a new and innovative style.

This is Viking Metal because it's about Vikings, and because there isn't anything else to call it. It's epic, it's heavy and sort of doomy, but really Quorthon wasn't following anyone else when he made this one. For "Hammerheart" he broke the mold. This is as epic an album as you will ever hear, with thunderous riffs piled on top of each other to form monuments of sound. "Shores In Flames" opens up with the soft acoustic intro and then swings right into the huge riffs, "Valhalla" follows with rumbling horns and then crushes your skull with sheer brute force. "Baptised In Fire And Ice" gets a bit repetitive, but remains compelling. "Father To Son" is one of the best songs on here, with more killer riffs and tons of atmosphere. "Song To Hall Up High" is a short, melodic piece that serves as more of a breather before the final two cuts are unleashed. "Home Of Once Brave" is one of my other favorites, and "One Rode To Asa Bay" has great music, but the vocals don't seem to quite fit, which mars this otherwise stellar tune. Overall I would have to say the vocals are my only real issue with this album. We all know Quorthon can't really sing (or rather, couldn't), but he's not really trying to here as much as he did on "Nordland". He's mostly just yelling to a tune. On some songs this comes off OK, as on "Valhalla", but on others like "Baptised.." it gets on my nerves a bit. He has a lot of emotion, but he still takes some getting used to.

The design and artwork on this album are just classic: A beautiful cover of the painting "A Viking's Last Journey" by Sir Frank Dicksee, a simple but tasteful layout inside with a very cool centerfold landscape photo. The lyrics are like a blueprint for 'how to write cool Viking lyrics.' You won't want to skip them, trust me.

This album was a milestone, and basically invented a genre at a stroke. While in my opinion not as good as "Nordland I", this is a revered classic for a reason, and no fan of epic or Viking metal should be without this landmark on the metal landscape. Everyone from Doomsword to Graveland owes something to this one, and its effect on metal is probably impossible to calculate. Quorthon is no more, but his music will live forever. Ride to Asgard, man. Pound your sword-hilt on the golden door and tell them a metal warrior has come home at last.

"Fallen heroes
In Battle slain
Await my arrival
At the Gates of

Other related information on the site
Review: Bathory (reviewed by Michel Renaud)
Review: Blood Fire Death (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Blood on Ice (reviewed by MetalMike)
Review: Destroyer Of Worlds (reviewed by Michel Renaud)
Review: Hammerheart (reviewed by Ulysses)
Review: Katalog (reviewed by Michel Renaud)
Review: Nordland I (reviewed by Christian Renner)
Review: Nordland I (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Nordland II (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Twilight of the Gods (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Under the Sign of the Black Mark (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
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