Bathory was formed in Stockholm in 1983, for fun, by the then 17-year-old Quorthon. After various names and numerous line-up changes, the group finally settled on Bathory. Their first recording deal came that same year, when Quorthon managed to secure the consent of Tyfon Grammofon's boss, who was the main man's father, to record two tracks for the compilation Scandinavian Metal Attack. The tracks which he recorded gained unexpected attention by fans. Soon afterward, Tyfon Grammofon contacted Quorthon and asked him to record a full-length album.
Although Venom's Black Metal (1982) was the first record to coin the term, it was Bathory's early albums, featuring Satanic lyrics, low-fi production and an inhuman vocal style, that defined the genre. On a further note, many fans had speculated that Venom was an influence on Bathory, however Quorthon has said in an 1985 interview with Kick Ass Magazine that he only heard Venom after the first Bathory album was released. He also expressed his dislike of bands such as 'Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. He has also stated that the band's early work was influenced primarily by Black Sabbath, Motorhead and Oi! punk.
Bathory's subsequent releases, the self-titled debut, The Return and Under the Sign of the Black Mark are now regarded as major influences on the Norwegian bands which extended Black Metal's musical progression and popularity in the beginning of the 1990s.
The first signs of what was to follow appeared on what some fans consider to be Bathory's best album: Blood Fire Death, where on some of the tracks the pace had slowed down to allow for a more epic songwriting approach. It was also here that the Viking theme was introduced. Most of the musical elements of Black Metal were still present, however. It was with the release of Hammerheart that Bathory surprised many of its fans. The style had now drastically changed towards less aggressive, more epic and atmospheric music; the lyrics dealt with themes about Vikings and Scandinavia's Norse mythology. The album also featured the usage of the "triplet gallop beat", which has its roots in bands like Manowar (Different than the more steady gallop of Bands like Iron Maiden, albums like Manowar's Into Glory Ride foreshadow Bathory's later direction). Also (early) Manowar seemed to be an influence on the choir vocals that Quorthon was now employing as well (as well as the lyrical content). Bathory had become pioneers in yet another genre within the world of extreme musicthat of Viking Metal. The style of Hammerheart was further perfected on the subsequent Twilight of the Gods and Blood on Ice.
With 1994's Requiem, Bathory changed style once more, this time turning to vicious retro-thrash in the vein of 1980s Bay area thrash bands. In recent years, critics have seen Bathory's output as increasingly erratic, as the band has returned again to Viking themes and, with the Nordland albums of 2002 and 2003, largely abandoned the retro-thrash sound of the mid-1990s in favour his more popular, more epic style for which he is best known.
Bathory have been cited as an influence by musicians as diverse as Metallica, Marilyn Manson, Cradle of Filth, Eric Hoffman and Brian Hoffman of Deicide, Black Crucifixion, Beherit, Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins, Opeth and Dimmu Borgir. An early member of the band was Jonas Åkerlund, the music video and film director.
In June 2004, Quorthon was found dead in his home, apparently due to heart failure.
On June 3, 2006, Black Mark Records released a box set in tribute to Quorthon containing three CDs of his favorite Bathory & Quorthon songs, a 176 page booklet, a DVD with his long-form video for One Rode To Asa Bay also containing an interview and some rare promo footage and an 11x14 poster.
Several Bathory tribute albums were compiled by various black metal artists, one of which was entitled In Conspiracy with Satan: A Tribute to Bathory.