Among the first Dutch black metal bands in the early nineties, Countess have always set themselves apart from other bands by a fierce loyalty to their old school influences. For two and a half decades, while fashions came and went, Countess stayed true to their vision and thus earned a worldwide cult status in the metal underground.

In spite of their sworn allegiance to metal orthodoxy, Countess have never shied from innovation. In 1994 they created the first black metal song with Dutch lyrics (Bloed In De Sneeuw) and in 1997 were among the first bands to take a rocking approach to the genre (Hell's Rock & Roll).

Over the course of 25 years and 15 full-length albums, Countess' sound has evolved from the raw black metal of the early releases towards a more traditional heavy metal-influenced style. The band's most recent offering, Fires Of Destiny in 2016, being a powerful example of a seamless integration of heavy and black metal elements.

In 2014 the band returned to the stage after a long period of not having played live. Since then, Countess have performed impressive shows at numerous prestigious metal festivals in their own country, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Finland.

The core of Countess consists of long-time members Orlok (vocals, bass) and Zagan (guitars) who both have been involved with the project since the nineties. They were recently joined by Mortüüm (drums, 2015) and Häxa (keyboards, 2016) to complete what is probably the band's strongest formation to date.

April 10, 2016

Classic tracks: The Wrath Of Satan's Whore

'The Wrath Of Satan's Whore' was an instant classic and still is a favourite among many Countess fans. In this post, Orlok looks back on the song's history and the woman who inspired it.
"The creation of this song goes back to October 1994, when we had just wrapped up the recording of the second album and I took a trip to Regensburg to deliver the master tape to Opyros, who would release it on NEP. Opyros had the idea to shoot pictures for the album at one of Elizabeth Bathory's castles, Burg Lockenhaus. Of course, I liked the idea so we drove to Lockenhaus, currently located in Austria on the Hungarian border.

The original version released in 1995 on 'Ad Maiorem Sathanae Gloriam' 

When we were there, we spoke to people in the village below who still believe Elizabeth haunts the castle at night . . . this castle itself is somewhat of a museum nowadays and was easily accessible. It was a pretty weird feeling walking around the place wearing paint, though. We took a ton of pictures, several of which would end up in the booklet of the second album.

When we returned to Regensburg, we had dinner at fancy Spanish restaurant. Over dinner, discussing the inspiring visit to Lockenhaus, we felt we should write some lyrics for a song about Elizabeth. After all, with a band named after her, it was a bit weird we still hadn't written a song about her. So we began writing down some lyrics, on a napkin. Once I got home a few days later, I immediately began to write music to these lyrics. Before long, the song was ready. Late 1994 I recorded a demo version of this song, along with several others that would all end up on the third Countess album. Almost immediately after the release of 'The Return' in December 1994, we were already in studio to record 'Ad Maiorem' in January 1995. Though the album itself wasn't released until October 1995, 'The Wrath Of Satan's Whore' was released in March as the title track of a cassette EP just prior to our German shows with Mortuary Drape.

The song was also a regular in our live set even before the release of the album. In 1995, as a three-piece outfit, we played it without the intro but when we had two guitarists again in 1996 we played the entire song. It was obviously also recorded for the unreleased live album. Though the live album was never released, it has been made availble on our official YouTube channel. The clip for 'The Wrath Of Satan's Whore' uses the audio from the live album, but video footage from another show (Berlin in the same year).

The unreleased live version from 1996

In 1997, having reverted to a three-piece formation, we played the song without the intro again. We did, however, usually tack the fast final part of the song 'Black Sabbath' to the end of it, dubbing this creation 'The Wrath Of Sabbath'.
When we returned to playing live in 2014, initially 'The Wrath Of Satan's Whore' wasn't part of the set. Not because we didn't like the song any more, but simply because with our rather vast back catalogue, there we just too many songs to choose from. However, when the idea came up to do an 'old school' set at the Veneration Of The Dead festival in 2015, we just had to include 'The Wrath Of Satan's Whore' in that set. We revamped the song a little, though: we changed the acoustic guitar in the intro to a piano, shortened the intro a bit and Zagan created a new solo for it. Since we liked the way this turned out, we even recorded it this way. Though this new version has not been released, it is available on YouTube.

Elizabeth Bathory has of course inspired many stories (already in centuries past), movies, books, plays and songs. Interest in her in popular culture seems to have increased since the year 2000, though. Back when we wrote 'The Wrath Of Satan's Whore' I was only aware of three other songs about her (Venom's 'Countess Bathory', Bathory's 'Woman Of Dark Desires' and Tormentor's 'Elisabeth Bathory'). By now there are literally dozens of songs about her.

But who was Elizabeth Bathory and what should we believe about her? When Elizabeth was born, the Báthory (as it is spelt actually) had already been an important noble house for a long time. They ruled Transylvania and her ancestors also included kings of Poland. At fifteen, Elizabeth was married to Ferenc Nádasdy, who was nineteen at the time. He was a military genius who spent his entire adult life fighting the Turks (maybe someone should write a song about him?). In 1604 he died of an illness and Elizabeth inherited his vast possessions, making her perhaps the most powerful woman of her time. She owned vast amounts of land and many castles throughout central Europe.

The new version of 'The Wrath Of Satan's Whore' from 2015

After her husband’s death, according to legend, she had some 650 supposedly virginal peasant girls slain or even tortured to death and drained of their blood in which she bathed, believing the virgin blood would keep her skin young and healthy. Probably the number of 650 is exaggerated but apparently the number was great enough to eventually end her reign of terror. She was imprisoned in 1611 – her servants who had done her dirty work were executed instantly – and spent the last few years of her life in prison. Her cause of death is unknown.

Modern historians do not agree whether the accusations brought against her held any truth. There have been many speculations over her motives: some say she went mad after her husband’s death, some say she was simply insane because of all the inbreeding between the noble houses and some say she was a lesbian sadist. Recently, some have even claimed she was completely innocent; a victim of political intrigue, much like Gilles de Rais is looked upon these days.

Interestingly, there is also somewhat of a connection between Elizabeth Bathory and Vlad Dracula. Historians of considerable reputation have suggested that at some point there was a marriage between the Dracula and Báthory families, implying that Elizabeth had Vlad's blood in her veins. Though far from factual, this is very well possible, since both families were important noble houses for centuries at the time and it is a fact that Elizabeth's great-uncle Stephen (István) was an army commander for Vlad III.

'The Wrath Of Satan's Whore' live in 2015 (at 8:14)

It has also been suggested that Vlad's own vampire image was at least partly inspired by his connection to the bloodthirsty countess (also because Vlad was a prince, not a count, and ruled Walachia, not Transylvania, whilst the Báthory family actually did rule Transylvania). The historically probably quite inaccurate, but very entertaining movie about Elizabeth from 1970 called Countess Dracula by Peter Sasdy clearly also draws on this connection."