Monday, February 17, 2014

Happy Birthday Quorthon 1966-2004

I don't usually post things related to the birthdays of metal figures, but as it happens, I've been thinking a lot about the late great Thomas "Quorthon" Forsberg recently. Today, as chance would have it, is his birthday. Consequently, I've decided to go ahead and talk about him for a minute.

When I was in college, I took a class on the history of rock. I pretty much cruised through it, since I love digging into music and I grew up on blues and oldies. It was kind of like a Mexican taking Spanish 101, but I found the professor entertaining and it was a good excuse to listen to music and call it "doing homework". One of our few major assignments in the class was to write a paper detailing who we would want to be (and why) if we could have been any one person from the history of rock music or one of its branches. It sounds like a 2nd grade assignment, and truth be told it kind of was, but I nonetheless took the question very seriously. My answer was Quorthon. I've made no secret that his group, Bathory, is one of my favorite metal bands. I wish I had a copy of that actual paper available to post or link here, because I gave an earnest and thoughtful explanation of how deeply this man's music has touched me and how connected I feel to him when I hear it. No other figure in the metal world has ever bared his soul so clearly to my ears, which makes listening to Bathory a profoundly emotional experience for me. I realize that may sound a little hokey, but it's how I feel.

Even beyond the brilliant, passionate work he did himself, Quorthon's impact on my own musical world is massive. Half of the other bands I listen to and enjoy today would probably not exist without his influence. All of Norwegian black metal is, by the admission of some of its greatest purveyors, basically just a slightly-altered imitation of Bathory's classic Under the Sign of the Black Mark. Viking metal, whether you believe that it is an independent sub-genre or not, owes its existence entirely to Quorthon's work with Bathory. Few people can claim to have pioneered a new style of music, but Quorthon pioneered two.

Those of us who spend a good deal of our time and energy in the music world tend to have our own musical heroes. This is true in all genres, though it seems to me that metal fans often feel especially connected to the bands they enjoy. For some people, Rob Halford is the ultimate metal god. For others it's Dio, or Iommi, or Hanneman, or any one of the gifted musicians who have changed the face of that delightfully dark music we share and love. We all have our metal heroes, and Quorthon is mine.

Happy birthday Thomas Forsberg, and thanks for everything.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice.

    I've been listening to metal for a long time, because it makes me feel feelings. Any time King Diamond wails, I get a chill down my spine. SubRosa literally gives me a sensation that feels like my heart fluttering. Opeth gives me an enormous, welling feeling in my chest. But I've never felt a metal artist's music to touch me in the way that you've described here. But now David Eugene Edwards (of 16 Horsepower and Wovenhand) has become that for me.