Remembering A First-Wave Black Metal Icon’s Lost Grunge Records

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Over the course of his influential two-decade career, Tomas “Ace” Börje Forsberg (better known as Quorthon) etched his name in the pantheon of extreme music. 

The visionary behind Bathory, his first four albums became cornerstones of the 2nd-wave black metal movement. Embracing their epic side, the band became vital in the development of pagan and Viking metal by crafting Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods

While most metal purists reviled grunge, Quorthon surprised headbangers around the world  by embracing the movement with open arms in the ’90s. Albums like Album (1994) and Purity Of Essence (1997) showed a different yet refreshing side of his musical identity.

While some Bathory fans might find this shift jarring, its seamless execution is a clear testament to Quorthon’s multifaceted genius.

Purity Of Essence, in particular, stands out as a refined blend of styles that touch on Seattle luminaries like Nirvana and Soundgarden while also flirting with Amphetamine Reptile-esque noise rock like Helmet and Hammerhead; again underscoring Quorthon’s ability to transcend his metal roots.

Purity Of Essence emerges as a polished and focused work compared to Album. While the latter is inarguably a good record, it’s clear that Quorthon was still figuring out how far he could take the project. 

These two records might not be nearly as extreme as classic-era Bathory, but Quorthon’s unmistakable guitar sound provides a unique layer of grit to the more-polished rock format.

Despite his singing voice not consistently hitting its peak (a notable improvement on the second album), the Swedish metal icon’s melodic style integrates seamlessly within the alternative template. 

Having become disenchanted with Bathory, this brief excursion into more traditional rock territory provided new inspiration for Quorthon to reignite the project; veering towards thrash for a series of albums before circling back to Viking metal.

This unexpected foray showcases Quorthon’s ability to excel in diverse genres, solidifying his status as a musical maestro beyond the confines of metal.