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When you're reviewing an album that is definitely a classic and so many people have already given their input on it, it's really hard to say anything that hasn't already been said. This is the case for Bathory's legendary self-titled 1984 debut album. With this release, Quorthon and Co. managed to create an entirely new genre. What we have here isn't something overly technical or musically sophisticated and that's perfectly okay, as this album needs none of those things. Venom coined the term "Black Metal" with their 1982 album but with this release, Bathory released the first actual album in the black metal genre. To call this album influential is an understatement and, rightfully so, it is almost universally loved by many fans of extreme metal.
It becomes apparent right away the music is meant to be destructive and raw. The guitar tone is dirty. Very, very dirty. So dirty it makes Miley Cyrus look clean. Its absolutely ear piercing and pretty damn thin to the point where if it were a razor, you'd slice your hand open upon touching it. Most of the riffs are fast-paced and aggressive. "Hades" is the first song after the "Storm of Damnation" intro track that appears on represses of the album. This song's riffs, like many others, tend to sound very close to early thrash metal and speed metal. It's not like Venom but something far darker and much more raw, with the riffs thrashing like an angry child that just wanted some godsdamn ice cream! These riffs really don't sound all that complex but like I mentioned earlier, the lack of complexity is one of the album's charms and is a fairly comment element in black metal. There are solos on this album as well although they sound very primitive and quite simplistic, as do most of the actual riffs as well. Something a lot of people have picked up on is how the song "Necromansy" was "stolen" by Burzum. The riff in this track appears on Varg's track "War", which also shares its name with a song on this album. I'm not going to say he "ripped off" Bathory here, but it's clear this was an influence and hard to deny it. Although this is the first black metal album and it certainly fits the genre, songs like those mentioned before and "Sacrifice", especially, definitely boast their fair share of thrash riffs.
At this point, Bathory was not a solo project specifically belonging to Quorthon. Stefan Larsson preformed drums on this album and Rickard "Ribban" Bergman played the bass as a session musician. The drums here are controlled and kept extremely simple and to the point. The drum lines are mostly d-beat punk patterns heard in plenty of early thrash/speed metal bands at this time and sometimes they speed up a bit. There are a few moments of blast beats here but really the drums manage to stick to a thrashier, more rocking pattern. He's not doing any flashy stuff here and it keeps well with the flow of the music. Had he ended up going overboard it would most likely have derailed the entire affair. The bass is audible in some instances like within the track "Hades" and that kind of sucks in this case, because some cool basslines really would have helped this early proto-black metal sound quite a bit. It's not a flaw that drags the album down in quality, thankfully.
Bathory was the first band to use this inhuman vocal style. Other bands like the aforementioned Venom featured harsher vocals, with Cronos sounding like some sort of possessed demonic madman, but Quorthon took it to an entirely new level. This here is one of the earliest examples of extreme, harsh vocals. His shrieks and screams are horrifying and, I guarantee you, many people that heard this for the first time upon its release shat themselves. Even while so many bands have since adopted this style of vocals, Quorthon's plagued screams of death still freak me out a bit when I listen to this album. Of course this is not a bad thing. This music was not meant to be tame and controlled. During the song "Reaper" he sounds especially demented. I’m not sure why this track sticks out more to me, but it always has.
In terms of Bathory’s black metal era containing this album, “The Return…” released in 1985, and “Under the Sign of the Black Mark” released in 1987, I’d say this is his finest. It’s not very often a band’s debut is their best work, but it does happen. Also, I will say I enjoy his Viking era a bit more than his black metal one. Regardless, Bathory is an anomaly that managed to completely pioneer two genres: black metal and Viking metal. While bands like Metallica and Anthrax were thrashing about and more extreme bands like Slayer and Sodom were also in the earlier stages of their careers, Bathory was doing something beyond evil and beyond innovative. This took that thrash sound and made it far more horrifying. It may be simple, but “Bathory” is one of the most important black metal albums ever. Why wouldn’t it be? It was the first!
Bathory´s debut had a ridiculous playtime. Its design was almost painfully reduced to the essentials. Additionally, Quorthon (R.I.P.) made no secret of the fact that he was heavily inspired by Venom. His song formula was very simple and the album got the award for the most primitive drumming of all times. Furthermore, the lyrics glorified violence and sucked completely. Please do not expect me to go into details. Yet it is a fact that this album influenced legions of metal musicians and that alone is an excellent thing. But it gets even better, because all these aforementioned shortcomings paled beside the aura of the album. Its uncompromising approach, its stubborn bigotry and its youthful excessiveness merged with each other and a beast emerged from the primordial soup of black metal. "Bathory" must be seen less as a debut but rather as a statement. This groundbreaking album is the manifesto of evil.
You must be able to afford to be primitive at times. Quorthon´s musical (and lyrical) primitiveness knew no boundaries. But nobody took care of this situation, because his riffs and his malignance were capable to challenge Venom and Slayer at the same time. Of course, Quorthon did not need more than one riff per song. Everything else would have been a waste of resources. But each and every of the eight riffs was provocative, lethal and brilliant. With an outrageous explosiveness, the guitar salvos angrily burst out of the speakers. Filled with hatred and even more hatred, the unholy vocals heralded nothing less than the end of the world. In this lyrical context, "Armageddon" or "War" chose a global approach, while "Reaper" set the focus on individual destruction. To be honest, the lyrics of the later made me feel slightly desperate in view of its extremely moronic lines like "Every virgin needs a rape".
Lyrical content aside, the average speed was remarkable. Six songs were mercilessly rushing forward, only "Necromansy" and "Raise the Dead" followed a less furious approach. Especially the latter one added a certain amount of atmosphere. The funeral bells at the beginning transferred the listener on an autumnal cemetery and the subsequent riff was fairly melodic and ironclad at the same time. To put it very politely, the lyrics were slightly influenced by Venom´s "Buried Alive". Please compare Bathory´s "I gasp for air / I scream for sight" with Venom´s "My lungs gasp for air / My eyes scream for sight" and form your own opinion. I see a minimal similarity, but maybe I am just a pedantic bureaucrat? The line "I tear at the lid" was also cribbed by Cronos. But everything is allowed as long as the result is right. And "Raise the Dead", there is no doubt about it, belonged to the best tracks of one of the best albums in terms of black metal.
The B side was slightly stronger than the first half. The extremely energizing riff of "Armageddon" and its minimalist yet absolutely effective bridge attacked the neck musculature of every headbanger and "In Conspiracy with Satan" appeared as a sonic hellfire. Not to mention the elemental sounds of Quorthon during the one-word-chorus of "War". But under the bottom line, I also appreciate the songs of the A side very much.
When subtracting the overlong wind intro of the relentless opener "Hades", the album surprised with a playtime of less than 24 minutes. A long time after its release, I read in an interview with Quorthon that he had been quite unsure whether it was a good idea to put such a short "full-length" on the market. But it has been shown that most metalheads are intelligent people (I am the exception to the rule). They were therefore focused on quality and not on quantity. Well, we can discuss whether the production shines with high quality. It was reduced to the necessary minimum, but - unlike the songs - it offered a very individual sound. I guess that attributes like raw, perfidious and infringing describe the production in a suitable way. However, the mix formed an indissoluble unit with the songs. Long story short, "Bathory" still marks a unique masterpiece of a lone wolf that acted both instinctively and successful. Its place in history is guaranteed.
What haven't been said about this album already? It's been almost universally hailed and I've yet to hear anyone into metal dislike the first Bathory album. If I were to describe this record in a few words I would say that it's raw and simplistic. During this review these words often came to mind in describing what's on here.
The songs on here are all fantastic with their simple yet defined and strong riffs. All of them built around easy verse/chorus structures much in the same vein as Venom and Motörhead (the bands this album most often is compared to – and for good reasons). This in no way deteriorates from the experience but instead makes every song readily acceptable and all of them feels like a hit track. The songs, due to their structure and tonality are somewhat similar but the quality is so high that the similarity doesn't come of as a problem.
Quorthon's vocals are some of my favourite screeches in metal and on this album his voice has this perfect balance between demonic howl, teen angst and and sleazy rock 'n' roll charm. If they ever would have played live I think that Quorthon would strut along the stage like he owned it – like any good rock/metal front-man should.
The music on the other hand is a bit sloppier. As mentioned the songs are good and Quorthons guitar playing is proficient but the rest of the band really only goes through the motions. The bass is barely audible and for the most times follows the guitar or play the root. In some places the bass does something different like for example in the chorus of 'In conspiracy with Satan' which is nice in it's simplicity. The drums, too, are kept to the bare minimum and never stray from variations on simple rock beats and some kind sloppy proto-blastbeat, that I call the one-beat (I don't know if it has a proper name) where snare, kick and cymbals are all struck at the same time on every beat. Simple stuff indeed but it has charm and tons of it. The sound is so raw and energetic that I can't do anything else than surrender to the awesomeness that these tracks have. This is probably the best ever debut album and one of the absolutely best albums ever, in any genre.
The one and only real complaint that I have is that on my release [the 2003 remaster] the intro 'Storm of Damnation' and 'Hades' are the same track. When listening to the full album this is no problem but sometimes I only want to hear Hades and don't really feel like waiting for it. That, however, does not deteriorate the supreme quality of this album.
Best tracks: Raise the Dead, Hades, Necromansy
Worst tracks: none, not even Storm of Damnation is bad.
If you gather ten Bathory fans and ask each of them what their favorite album is, chances are at least seven of them will have a different reply due to the diversity within the twelve full-length releases that spanned from 1984 until Quorthon's untimely death in 2004. None being as identifiable by looks alone as the debut self-titled album that boasts a sinister goat head and olden gothic font, however. This iconic record set Bathory ablaze in the underground from the get-go and it has remained a cult phenomenon decades later. How has this original black metal classic held its ground for so long?
Lets keep in mind that this album was released in 1984, at the very dawn of the black metal genre. If released in modern era, Bathory would most likely receive a lot of negative comments for a variety of reasons. It's not that the content itself is bad, but the production and execution of said content is sloppy. The work is as raw as a freshly cut hunk of blood-filled steak and often the material comes off as if it was recorded in one or two takes, which given that the total time spent on the record was 56 hours this is quite possible. Often the listener will find the instrumental elements switching audible locations from track to track; the guitar will fade into the abyss especially during solos, the vocals will become vibrant and then distant, the bass will perk up and sink back down... the only real constant remain the drums. There are also many off tempo areas that cause the album to be jagged around the edges and more regularly than not the guitar solos hit off notes or the hammer-ons/pull-offs get tripped up. All that being said, those characteristic flaws are what made this album what it is. The raw quality, immense energy and greasy pace of the material spawned an entirely new perception of metal at this time; it doesn't have to be done in outstanding quality with hundreds of dollars invested in recording equipment, nor be neat and tidy like a lot of the more well known records and it can be ultimately, bluntly evil.
Everyone who has at least a moderate knowledge of metal in general will already know how prolific Bathory as a band is in general, they will also already understand how big of an influence their self-titled debut album was on many notable bands, so it's really no use to reiterate the topic again and again. The music itself is a dark descent into necromancy, Satan worship, the apocalypse and a variety of blasphemous themes that leave a heavy imprint on the audience, even more so if one thinks back in terms of when it was released. Though Coven predates Bathory by about ten years, Quorthon said "fuck it" to any lyrical limitations and raised the bar tenfold in terms of malevolence. "Storm of Damnation" is also one of the earliest heard uses of an atmospheric introductory track to help set the theatrical overtone to an album; this track is compromised entirely of tolling bells, howling wind and thunder for over three minutes and as such it truly lives up to its given title. One can almost imagine walking through Hell and through its vast chambers all the way to Satan's throne, and when "Hades" bursts onto the speakers all thoughts of salvation are thrown out of mind.
The guitar is made up of a high treble tone that rips through fast onslaughts of early thrash riffs, dancing an unholy tango between power chords and hammer-on/pull-off bridges. Being both fast and relentless, Quorthon's fingers trip up from time to time on a few of the solos, but the louder you play the album the less this seems to matter at all. The riffs are actually quite memorable and they never once are heard incorporating tremolo picking, which is a technique overused by black metal bands of today. The drums manage to keep a breakneck speed throughout the content, only slowing down at key parts and then quickly picking back up again. They do go off tempo a few times, however they also recover with recognizable agility. While a lot of modern black metal stoops to using one-two blast beat drumming with bass kicks for nearly the absoluteness of an album, Stefan Larsson only uses blast beats within "Hades" and "In Conspiracy with Satan", the rest of the while making use of an assortment of standard early trash metal patterns. The bass varies on a track-by-track basis in terms of audibility, however when it is heard Rickard Bergman pulls off powerful walking lines, the beat riding the drums to help glue them to the guitar in a grooving fashion that has a very subtle Venom inspiration.
All of the tracks on Bathory are prominent in their own way and given the wavering production quality they each have features that stand out more than the other. Arguably, the "first black metal album" is truly a force to be reckoned with, still by today's standards. Maybe not in terms of quality, but in the aspect of wickedness and brutality it is for sure. The greatest thing about this album is that the band didn't even have to try to be raw, it just came out like that and they didn't give a fuck. This is unlike the way follow up groups have their material edited post-production to give a similar likeness. The album is raw, authentic, gritty and down right obscene. Still causing mayhem and influence to this day, recently Joel Grind of Toxic Holocaust even released a similar tribute album, The Yellowgoat Sessions. All hail the hordes!
- Villi Thorne
Okay, where do I even begin with this? This is the album that has founded the black metal scene. By far, it is also one of the most important albums to have in any heavy metal collection known to mankind. This was the first full length album release by Bathory and by far possibly the greatest in my opinion. It may sound weird that I think that this was the band's best work for that this was just a cheap, low budget, garage style production project, but truly it set the definite meaning to the sound of black metal. Many often site Venom's album Black Metal as the foundation of the genre but really this set it right in musical terminology. In this Album you got everything that any black metal band would do in their career. Fast paced music followed by shrieking guitars that sound like static, muffled blast beat drumming (which in my opinion sounds like a guy getting punched in the face repetitively but deepened to the fullest), deeply distorted bass that is almost unheard of, and most importantly, the revolutionary inhuman death shriek vocals performed by Quorthon, the true father of black metal and viking metal. But by far this is one of my favorite albums that I ever listened to and goes as one of my favorite works of black metal ever to be released.
Now, this album is truly revolutionary for its time since no music like this was produced like this for a year as early as 1984. At the time, Quorthon, the lead front man and multi instrumentalist for the band, was 17 years old when he made this album. Despite the fact the reason for its production was primarily flawed through the lack of budget, yet he could perfectly pull off the sound if it too still sound raw, awesome, and brutal beyond belief. This album went down in history as an icon for extreme metal back in the 80s and so much more of a reputation it deserves. but the things I personally love about this album is not only the music, but the effort and inspiration it was for me to become a solo musician myself (work in progress). For a bunch of crazy ass Swedish kids to make an album so amazing placed me in the field myself as for the fact that they could pull it off and soon evolve to be even greater as the years would go by.
The music is beyond amazing. You start off with an eerie intro (a running gag for the band) in which entitled as "Storm of Damnation" is a dark atmospheric piece were ambient noise is combined with the sound effects of a harsh whirling storm of death. Also, every so often a bell chime goes off (which is actually the sound of the London clock tower) comes in and makes the scene only more haunting. It runs on for some three or so minutes being the third longest track on the album but truly sets the mood of it and of what is expected of the album. That in which is the quintessence of darkness and evil. Then it forms to the song "Hades" afterwards which is by far my favorite song on the track and perhaps maybe even my favorite Bathory song. The extreme lead guitar riff is phenomenally brutal, catchy, and faster than anything I heard for music released back then. The drums come in blast beating ferociously and once Quorthon's voice sounds the stage, shivers and fears are sent to the listener who dared to pick up the album. If you are like me, you will find yourself playing this song again and again like I did so many times in the past. Then there is the song "Reaper" which is a very Venom-orientated like song yet still pulls off better effect for black metal then they did. It's catchy, brutal, and all death-like. Really, if you are into necrophilia, you'll love this song as the song even interprets the Reaper's fetishes for dead women's flesh. Then there is the song "Necromansy" (yes it was spelled wrong on a misprint for a reason look it up) which is slower than the other songs for that the drums are calmer but the guitar and bass still sticks true to being awesome. It's the longest song out of these two to three and three quarters length songs but you will regret nothing once you here the amazing guitar solo at the end which runs nearly for a minute length or so. The there is the song "Sacrifice" a re-recorded edit track that originally came from the Scandinavian Metal Attack split as a more thrash/ speed metal orientated song. Still none of the less one of the best songs on the album. The drums return the repetitive crazy thrash beat as the guitars pull off amazing riffs that one can easily identify, rather than some black metal bands that tend to have the issue of using monotonous rhythms and riffs to the point where every song sounds the same, well in this case Bathory is the total opposite of that.
The second half of the album starts with the song "In a Conspiracy with Satan" which is a short song but terrifyingly brutal like the others. The song is all about going to hell and witnessing its wrath inflicted from the devil. Rather explicit, yet goes as one of the fastest songs in the album. The there is "Armageddon" a self explanatory song that every heavy metal band writes a song based on doomsday and the apocalypse. But the shrieking guitar distortion is really high on this song for that the riff spams again and again until it gets to the middle where it has a death/ doom metal based approach. The drums as thrashing violent like ever before the bass so deep and eerie as so the terrifying vocals makes this song very intriguing, yet not the dominate piece to this album, it's more like last minute filler but still sounds great. Then there is the song "Raise the Dead" which was not meant to be a Venom cover but its own song itself. This song starts off differently and has a more technically ambient approach to it like the intro. It starts off as an echoing gong going off and as it fades away one can hear a heart beat go on and off. Until then, the guitars come in and begin the song. A more rock based drum beat is incorporated and is slow like the 4th track but still pulls off great music and composition. The vocals are more snarly than the usual daemonic death shrieks, but none of the less it makes Quorthon sound like a zombie coming out from the grave commanding other zombies to arise with him in grand power. This song also runs nearly four minutes yet not enough to exceed but still goes as one of the longest tracks. The there is the song "War" which Varg Vikernes of Burzum clearly stole the chorus from for his song by the same title, but that's a different story. This is probably the shortest song yet the one of the fastest of the others and basically finishes before you know it. The guitar solo is epically amazing and intense like every other guitar solo on the album which nearly every song incorporates, and the funny part is many black metal bands that came after Bathory hardly used them at all. But still an awesome song it is and goes as another favorite. Then there is an outro called "The Winds of Mayhem" which only runs twenty six seconds and it somehow appears on like every single Bathory album released for no really good reason (another running gag I guess). It's basically a dark ambient keyboard solo of this eerie ghost like choir/ wind noise while a bass drum monotonously and slowly beats every few seconds later. It fades away gradually and so the album ends, unless you decide to play it again and soon play the shit out of it like I did and continue to do on my iPod.
To sum up, this album rocks. It is pure fucking black metal at its best and for the first black metal based release it deserves much praise. Yes the band got better musically over time especially when they moved to viking metal like in "Blood, Fire, Death" "Hammerheart" and "Twilight of the Gods" but still this goes in for his black metal trilogy. Note: Look up "The Return...." and "Under the Sign of the Black Mark." These albums keep true to the black metal sound of things and are too amazing and beyond extreme. Overall, I dedicate this review to all listeners and especially to Quorthon who passed away 2004. R.I.P. See you in Valhalla. P.S. isn't that goat on the front cover just absolutely cute or what? But yeah I demand you all to buy this album or download it somewhere and listen to it. One cannot be a Bathory fan, collector, or even a true black metal fan without listening to and or having possession of this record. Overall, this is one of the best things I have ever listened to in my entire life. Rock out and hail to true black metal my friends. And get this record now.
This album is downright essential for all black metal fans, and highly recommended for the rest of metal kind. Sure, I can talk about the historical importance of this album and how it helped shape the extreme metal scenes rising at the time. I can mention how nearly every person credited with forming the genre of black metal can be seen in one picture or another with this album cover on their t-shirt. But does that matter as much as the fact that this album fucking kills? No. Rocking riffs is all this album is and the strained neck will be your badge for surviving its wrath.
The thing with this album, that makes it so perplexing is how simple it is. Every song only has like one riff, with like one lead break of squealing rapid notes with muffled drums and bass and angry rough screech over top of it. Every song follows basically this same formula. But each song is memorable, and every song gets stuck in your head, and every song makes you thrash. And that is the magic of this album. It's simplicity is what makes it so effective. If I ever want a quick metal shit fit on a walk or whatever, this album offers me 8 tracks they'll do just that. It's quick, to the point, and awesome.
The only real flaw with this album, and I'm not the first to realize it, is the intro track, Storm of Damnation, goes on for too long. Admittedly, the first listen I listened to the whole thing in eager anticipation for the metal blitzing to follow, but the effectiveness of the intro wears off RAPIDLY. Really, the track should've been shortened to like 30 to 60 seconds, and the album should've been an e.p. In a perfect world we would've got the awesome tracks left off the album for one reason or another like Witchcraft or Satan my Master. But what can we do?
But after the intro, it's 23 minutes of metal bliss. No weak tracks. No weak riffs. Just turn up your speakers and have fun. Hades is probably my favourite, as the main riff skitters through my ears forcing my arm to raise and do the sign of the horns, and my head to bang. Reaper picks things up with a classic speed metal riff that would make Venom feel like chumps. Necromansy is one of the real highlights of this album, with the riff that would be tweaked into the one on Burzum's War, and lyrics about as evil as you can get for that time or any. Heil satanic majesty! The groove and speed of this song makes it one of the most infectious, get stuck in your head kind of songs in all of Bathory's distinguished repertoire. No wonder Varg Vikernes took it for his own.
Sacrifice has some real groove to it and keeps the speed assault going. MOTHER OF CHRIIIIISSSST! In Conspiracy With Satan is probably the weakest song on here, and that's saying something, because it is still an awesome track. It has some sweet lead breaks, but the main riff is probably the least memorable on here. But the title was always funny to me. I'm in cahoots with SATAN! Armageddon has some dark lyrics to match its ferocity. It truly is the sound of 'gashing the virgins flesh'. Raise the Dead is the slower track of the album, and it stands as one of the high points of the album. The underlying bass groove is downright infectious. Ending with a sudden gong smash, fading right into the ending song, War.
War is just what you want in an ending song. Really fast, singing about lightning and earthquakes amidst a grand battlefield, and an easy to scream along with chorus. The outro is naught nut a few seconds of wind and a thud thud of the drums, telling you that you have survived. This album is one I will never tire of, and one that really should be in your collection. If it was more complete, and with a shorter intro, I'd easily give it the coveted three digits. But It's quick passing, even with a three minute track of whistling reverb with some bell chimes, leaves me wanting a little more. But still essential.
For taking some of that old school speed metal and making that much rawer and violent, Bathory's historical debut gets a 93 out of 100, or a five out of five.
Raise the Dead
To calculate the actual sum of influence perpetuated by the 1984 Bathory debut might prove inestimable to even the keenest of logisticians, because it's seething tendrils pervade numerous niches of the metal spectrum even today. I can't tell you how many bands I hear annually, via promos or research, that would be entirely content if the whole of their careers amounted to little more than an aesthetic tribute to THIS very album. To exist as nothing other than a shadow of the late Quorthon. Is Bathory the first proper 'black metal' record as far as the fundamental principles we equate to the genre today, disregarding the titular ownership via Venom? I do believe that a strong case could be made for such, at least as good a case as for any other particular work.
Of course, when I was young, and first experienced the Swedes' music, it was considered thrash or speed/thrash metal of a darker pallor than some of the popular Bay Area sounds. People had yet to kick around the 'black metal' tag as a proper sub-genre, and other favored progenitors like Destruction, Sodom and Kreator were clearly performing at a similar, vicious viscosity to Bathory's scathing inauguration. And yet the iconic, minimalistic cover, the classicist font of the logo and the repulsive timbre of Quorthon's youthful snarling best represent, at the very least, the birth of European black metal in its filthier format. That's not to say that Bathory was wholly unique even for its day. Clearly there are parallels to Slayer's rapid, hellish origins ("Hades" reminds me of "Black Magic") and a grimy punk rocking glaze redolent of the more extreme NWOBHM related acts like Motörhead, Tank and Venom. The Satanic/occult focus of the lyrics was also also not news by this time, as it featured prominently for several of the aforementioned acts. However, the fact that this was arriving from a non-German or American act was indisputably eye awakening.
Bathory was not an easy find for me at first. I combed the local import record stores with decent metal sections on a near weekly basis for such gems, squandering my paper route money on whatever was readily available rather than paying double for special orders. If they ever had the damn thing in stock, it was always gone before I arrived. I had to settle for a dub off a friend's cassette for years, and in fact I had purchased hard copies of Bathory's later efforts like Under the Sign of the Black Mark and Blood Fire Death before finally landing my grubby mitts on it (ironically, the only two albums in Quorthon's entire lexicon that I favor over this). Bathory was not a highly visible band in my neck of the woods. You heard mention in interviews or magazines, you saw a few of your favorite metal musicians wearing the T-shirt in photo ops. Metalians in my high school were busy sporting erections for Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, and most had very little attention span or funds to explore the thrash genre much deeper. If you encountered a guy or gal with a Testament or Nuclear Assault t-shirt other than yourself, you were blown over by the prospect of a kindred spirit. Meet your new best friend.
Funny, then, that of any of the 'second tier' of speed and thrash in the 80s, Bathory has left one of the most enduring and massive legacies. Few metal bands can match their aesthetic imprint count for count, and even some of the 'big' names owe Quorthon a beer in Hell. For example, you could lie to yourself and then try to convince me that Burzum's "War" was not a spiritual rehash of the track "Necromansy" (not Bathory's "War"). The riffing pattern is very similar. Or that Witchery's explosive black/thrash cut "The Reaper" was not an atavistic nod to this previous Swedish "Reaper", which has a decidedly familiar chorus. And what of the vocals in general? Cronos might have had a crude and carnal mean streak coursing through his pipes, and Schmier a more pinched and nasal wrath on Sentence of Death, but Quorthon's biting vitriol is like a musical Genghis Khan, its seed spread through countless tens of thousands corpse painted progeny who only rarely rival the fiber of their ancestor.
As far as its production qualities, Bathory was far from a highlight for '84. Glossier 'mainstream' efforts like Powerslave, Metal Heart, Defenders of the Faith or even Ride the Lightning proved that metal had come a long way from the toiletry of its demo years. And yet, Quorthon and Boss wrung out a primal and methodic sound here that too transcend into aesthetic immortality. Not as messy, raw and reductive as Venom's Black Metal, perhaps, but equally sinister. Stefan Larsson's drums have a thinner, backing tone that never intercedes over the concentrated acid of the guitars or the wretching diatribes of the front man, played largely in a punk rock fashion with loads of tinny cymbal crashes (though the supporting bass drums are noticeably thick). The bass of Rickard Bergman isn't dowsed in a load of bold distortion, but instead threads moodily below Quorthon's rhythms and leads; only rarely breaking away from the guitar progression, but where it does ("In Conspiracy with Satan", for one) it creates a warmer, morbidly glorious atmosphere.
But most importantly, Quorthon showed himself a relatively accomplished guitarist early on, and some of my favorite moments on this debut are when his frivolous leads tear off the rhythms in the bridge of a "Sacrifice" or the rocking "Raise the Dead". There is some degree of amateurish sloppiness in a few of the solos, or the riffing in general, but in general you'll be too hypnotized by the sheer cruelty and velocity. The song structures are relatively primal here, rarely featuring more than 2-3 riff variations, but none lack for a thriving infernal energy, and the brevity of the tracks average around 3 minutes never allows the listener's interest to wane. In fact, alongside Slayer's Reign in Blood, this is one of the best short playing thrash albums of the 80s, in and out faster than a desperate drunken tango with a prostitute. Slam, bam, thank you ma'am, the cash is on the dresser and I'll try not to trip on the sticky jeans around my ankles while I fly down the stairs. 27 minutes of sinful pleasure beget a lifetime of damnation.
It's not perfect. Personally, I find that the windswept, distant chanting and tolling of the "Storm of Damnation" intro could have been clipped in half to better swell the anticipatory momentum for the first metal track, "Hades". The outro could have been snipped entirely. A few of the later cuts like "War" and "Armageddon" never really hit me with an ace riff like the rest, though they are no less despotic and relentless than their neighbors. The lyrics are all appreciably extreme for the time, but some of them seem better ordered and paced than others, and certainly they provided fuel for a great number of faux Satanists and provided ample fuel for the genre's Christian right-wing antagonists. I always got the feeling that Quorthon was just doing the whole 'evil' thing for show, and that he never really had his heart in it, a notion that was enforced by Bathory's later switch almost exclusively to Norse/Viking themes. But, that said, who the hell WASN'T doing it for show? Maybe King Diamond and Cronos were serious about it at some point, but Tom Araya's a bleeding Christian.
You don't get a chance every day to formally review something that has left such an enormous impression upon such a huge chapter of your life in entertainment, and Bathory is clearly one of the cornerstones. Rolled out of the very depths of the abyss for your amusement. A ripping rout, unapologetic in its backlash towards the mainstream of heavy metal that was making headway at the time of its arrival. Some bands burned churches to make a name for themselves, but some, like this one, just burned your fucking ears off.
A lot of people tend to cite Venom as the first black metal band, but the fact is they only coined the term. Music-wise they were pretty much just early thrash metal. Bathory were the first band to truly play the black metal sound.
This album is packed with heavy riffs, skillful solos, blazing drumwork and tortured raspy shrieks. The distorted speed metal riffs have Motörhead-esque tinge to them. They're reasonably fast and heavy, while going into a slower pace at parts, such as in Necromansy. The solos are played in quite a similar way to "Fast" Eddie Clarke (of Motörhead fame if you live under a rock and don't know who Eddie Clarke is). While there's a fair bit of shred going on, it doesn't get to the point where Quorthon was relying on his solos being stupidly fast rather than actually well played. The bass provides a backing rumble, but beyond that it does very little. The drums are well played to suit various parts of the music, unlike later black metal works that would just be non-stop blast beats.
Quorthon was possibly the first vocalist to employ that raspy black metal style. He sounds genuinely tortured and in pain, like all through recording his entire body was in agony. Obviously at the time a vocalist of this sort would be quite frightening. I can't imagine how many people were scared shitless when they read the lyrics and heard the vocals. Speaking of the lyrics, they're incredibly haunting and often set a picture. Two good examples are War and Raise The Dead.
The production is quite raw, but not the point where everything blurs together into an unlistenable wall of noise. Every instrument can be heard and heard clearly, minus the bass which could've been a bit louder. Other than that, an absolutely flawless album and the very first true black metal release. Get this album now!
This album is truly mind blowing. This was probably the most brutal album of all time when it was released as well as the birth of true black metal. The speed, the intensity, the anger, the blasphemy...it's all here. This is where the planets aligned. This is the shit, quite frankly!
The vocals are absolutely raw, evil shrieks. Quorthon sounds fantastic on every track. These were unheard of vocals back in 84 and I imagine it scared people shitless. It literally sounds like demons have just been belched out of hell and are running wild in the streets, mutilating people. This is pure evil. Many people have tried to copy this vocal style, but have failed. This is truly one of a kind, and it sounds great. The riffs are incredible as well. They are blazingly fast and angry. They don't get boring, aren't repetitive, and they don't suffer from the buzzing of many other early black metal albums. The solos are just as good, if not better. Fast as hell and in your face, Quorthon shows how truly great of a musician he is. The bass isn't exactly prominent, but it has some interesting parts and doesn't just hide behind the riffs the whole time which a lot of great albums have suffered from. The drums aren't exactly full of complex parts. They're basically just pounding fast and loud on the snare and the crash symbol, but they sound great. I just love hearing him crushing the snare. The musicianship isn't exactly as good as it was to come. Some may even call it sloppy. But it was innovative, it was unique, and it was evil.
This is the album that started black metal. You may think it was Venom or Hellhammer, but this is true black metal. Shrieks, fast and sloppy playing, crappy sound quality, and songs about possession and Satan. This is one of my favorite albums ever. It influenced a whole genre and is still fast and evil to this day. Buy it at all costs.
Every legend begins with truth, as someone once said, and every metal legend has humble beginnings. But in the case of the iconic black metal forefathers known as Bathory, humility is nowhere to be found, save perhaps the rawness of the production. By any standards of either the 1st wave of black metal or the rawest of thrash metal that was running parallel to it circa 1983-84, this brief LP is about as extreme of a listen as there was to be heard and saw the newborn black style moving away from its NWOBHM roots towards something even darker and more menacing. It tends to resemble a thrash album more than what is considered black metal today, but this short debut is arguably where the true sound that typifies the latter genre as it exists today began.
Though many insist on making comparisons to Venom’s early works, this is pretty far removed from what they had done up to this point, and definitely lends credence to front man Quorthon’s assertions that Bathory’s music wasn’t directly impacted by them. The riff work is the first glaring example of the departure, as it shares more in common with the more aggressive and guitar oriented work of early Slayer and Metallica. “Sacrifice” and “Hades” in particular draws heavily from the same Motorhead meets Diamond Head riffing style that Dave Mustaine was privy to when he put together classics that showed up on the first Metallica LP such as “Phantom Lord” and “Metal Militia”. It should also be noted that Quorthon’s garbled and shrill goblin speak on all of these songs was unheard of at the time, essentially taking maybe an element of Lemmy Kilmister’s raspy vocal style and distorting it further into the intelligible but anti-melodic and inhuman mutterings that are found here.
For all of the stylistically revolutionary things going on here, it is equally important to note the utter simplicity of this blackened beast. Most of these songs consist of 3 or 4 riffs played in a fairly formulaic and repetitious fashion, and most guitar solos that occur tend to ramble about the pentatonic scale in short bursts, almost like a simpler take on Kerry King’s flashy yet brief shred fests in the midst of a wall of perpetual speed. Likewise, the average duration of each song is well under the 3 mark, almost like a simpler and slower take on “Reign In Blood” about 2 years before, exuding about the same level of darkness and malevolence in each speed drum beat and crunchy power chord. Even on slower non-speed oriented works like “Necromansy” and “Raise The Dead”, both of which definitely carry a good level of Black Sabbath influence alongside the faster NWOBHM characteristics, a small number of differing riffs and a non-epic approach to song structure contrast this with Metallica’s longwinded works at this time.
There isn’t really much to complain about here save that it consists of less than 24 minutes of actual music and even by 1984’s standards this is an extremely roughly produced album. When you contrast it with the pristine and almost overly clean finished product that was “Ride The Lightning”, it’s understandable that many newly indoctrinated Metal fans whose understanding of thrash metal is limited to the Big 4 would have a hard time accepting this, but this rivals just about everything that was out in 1984 under the thrash banner in terms of quality and I’d argue surpasses them all in terms of aggression. It lacks the theatrical elements of other early members of the 1st wave of black metal such as Venom and Mercyful Fate, and the formula present here was further improved upon on the two albums that Quorthon and company put out soon after, but its place in history was solidified the minute the first hard copy was circulated.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on January 4, 2009.
We go back to the year 1981. Venom welcomes us to hell with their debut album. Since that album the extreme metal scene and lifestyle have never been the same. Of course this would lead, later on in the early 90s, to the radicalization of this new philosophy with the glorification of the individual in heroic scenarios filled with anti-social themes. 1982 an appropriate name for this kind of music was found; "Black Metal", as the titles of Venom's 82' release suggests. The name also fits the music very well, it's Slayer infused into fast and dirty rock'n'roll with harsh vocals and blasphemous lyrics. One formula that has prevailed so many times, but ceased to in the mid 90s. For some reason the individualistic energy that appeared soon put itself out and suffocated into a docile state, later degenerating into order instead of chaos and depression instead of strength.
So much for the small history lesson. Tomas Forsberg, better known under his scenic name of "Quorthon", was merely 18 years old at the time the first "Bathory" album was released. But do not get fooled by the age of the band members, for listening to this release, one can really imagine the raw energy that was running through their veins at that time. Energy that this new generation of extreme music is somehow lacking. On this release we have pure chaos that pushes you forward into a juvenile world of mysticism and provocative satanic imagery. The same problems the youth had back then, we have today; the question to wether one is an important part of this world or not and if society really is what it pretends to be. The nihilistic attitude on this album is not only an imagery to promote the band, but also an important part of the music. Every aspect of this album is a reflection of the band members' thoughts and minds. One must not be a psychologist to realize the fact that this album simply put, has more balls than say 95% of what is being produced in the music industry today. With only a set of crude guitars and some amps, a decent drum kit these younglings have managed to overwhelm the animalistic instincts that mankind possesses. The guitar work here is much in vein of old-Venom material, but with a more obscure tone to it. Slightly monotonous guitar riffing accompanied by compatible homogeneous bass lines and rather catchy melodies are repeated in every song, which create a straightforward but also very effective sound pattern. Most songs on this release have short chaotic soli that resemble Slayer on occasions. The tempo on each song is an average 200 bpm or so, so it's pretty mid tempo. Quorthon's vocal duties on this are truly great. They may not be the typical guttural screaming black metal offers some 10 years later, but it's still a damn good rasp coming out of this guy's throat.
The opener "Storm of Damnation", an intro, embraces the album together with its counterpart "Outro". Directly after the intro, a set of fast paced drums and sagging guitar riffs capture the listener's attention, carrying him forth into a twisted world of determined eagerness and negative emotions. Grasping one by the leg, this album shows you, instead of telling you. It speaks to its listener, encouraging him to feel the most empathy possible with the music. Technically, this album may not appear outstanding, but it remains impressive. Being only less than half an hour in its length, this album really makes up for its intensity. You will be amazed as this album never gets boring and will stay in your cd player or playlist for a long time spinning again and again on almost endless repeat. Every track on this album has its own character and pulls you down its own dark path, each with its own personal set of blasphemy, such as death, satanic rituals and the apocalypse.
"I swear the oath of blood
and tear the virgin's flesh
I gash the wounds of heaven
and ride the wings of death"
This lyrical extraction of "Armageddon" pretty much sums up the feeling on this album and gives a decent impression of what awaits you if you have not already heard this masterpiece. Shut the door and turn up the volume, for this is what our hell sounds like. For fans of Venom, Slayer and Hellhammer, this is a must.
It took me a while to decide if I would start reviewing Bathory albums as well. I’m not a black metal boy. I’m an old school thrasher who also loves Bathory. And since the majority of Bathory reviews here are written by black metal fans I restrained myself at first. But who cares. I’ll do it anyway. from my perspective obviously.
I have to get something out of my system though. This debut has become a classic mostly out of sheer coincidence and shortcomings than a very ‘intelligent’ approach. What do I mean by that? Simply said, in essence this album does nothing more than worship Venom, Black Sabbath and of course Motorhead. The vocals are different because Quorthon simply couldn’t do any better. It could have been a bad album because of this. A forgotten piece of music. However, this did not happen!
Point is, firstly, that a few years later the huge influence of this Bathory album (and the next 4) on both the black and viking metal scenes became undisputed and more than obvious. And secondly, the songs on this album are simply very good and because of the characteristic vocals, lyrics and atmosphere the result turned out very different from contemporary artists.
As said the main musical influences here are Motorhead and Venom in terms of aggression, speed and some rock ‘n roll based fast metal riffs. Bathory took the image of Venom but made it slightly darker in a Black Sabbeth kind of way and furthermore, more obscure and ‘underground’. The band didn’t play live, not many band pictures were around. So the band remained a mystical ‘obscurity’. Something which suited their music very well.
The album was punkier than Motorhead yet less sloppy than Venom. It had more darkness from Black Sabbath and was far less theatrical than Venom. The album is simple, straight forward and short. The message is clear and therefor more convincing. Most of the songs are fast and furious. The best ones being the catchier ones. But come to think of it, they’re all very catchy, riffwise and choruswise.
Of the slower tracks “Raise the Dead” is the better one. It uses a dark form of old school heavy metal riffing and the catchy vocal lines and pounding simple drums are a perfect finishing touch.
Well, when I first heard this album, the term ‘black’ meant nothing to me. Black was a colour of certain band members in Gothic Slam and Hirax, nothing more, nothing less. This music was dark! The darkest rock and roll ever made. I still refuse to use the term black metal for this album. Screeching vocals and lyrics about Satan don’t make an album black metal.
The album cover. Another highlight really. And once again born out of short comings. Photocopies and handmade cut out stuff formed the goat which to this day is the ultimate and enduring Bathory image!
Quite an album. A classic even
I remember the day Quorthon died. It was a complete out of the blue thing. Few days after, a metal magazine in Italy published a quite old interview by the mighty composer with lots of even older journalists’ questions during the 1984-1988 period. A part from the various curiosities about the recording process of the albums and other things, in an answer he talked about his main musical influences at the time of his homonym debut album. At the time in Sweden it was so difficult to find something metal because of the insufficient distribution. The heaviest things they could listen to at the time were the Iron Maiden but one day he discovered Venom and Motorhead and his life changed.
Shocked by such violent groups (for the period, of course), he began to practice the instruments with two friends. They wanted to take to the extreme that genre that was already brutal. They wanted to play DEATH METAL. Yes, that is what he said in the interview. Death metal. Not black. And the history begins here. They were very young but in a short period they had few tracks to put out in an album. It was 1984. The Bay Area thrash metal was unknown to them and the Swedish death metal period was quite far, so here we can really understand how they were ahead in mentality. I can consider him a sort of a genius for the intuition and the creativity.
The owner of the Black Mark production (we don’t know yet if he’s his father or not) gave them the possibility to record and the result was epochal for the growing death/black metal scene. In 1984 it was so hard to find someone who played so fast, brutal and black metal in the whole world. Anyway, don’t believe to find a pure form of black metal here because it’s a genre, like the others, that evolved through different bands and albums. Here we can find a sort of Venom on speed with the Motorhead dirty sound and attitude. The vocals by Quorthon are truly evil and they can be seen as an exasperation of Cronos ones. After the intro, hell’s unleashed by never ending sessions of up tempo with various stop and go.
They were not technical at all but I don’t care at all when you have the heart, the mind and inspiration. Each song is a pure black jewel. The guitars are fast in the riffage and the solo on “The Reaper” is total thrash style. “Necromansy” is a bit doom with a malignant guitars work and satanic lyrics. They took this kind of lyrics exactly for their groups-influences but Quorthon, after few years, said that they were totally ridiculous and childish. To return to the music, each song is quite simple, made of catchy verses and refrains in pure dirty hard rock style. “Sacrifice” is again total speed with a massive death/thrash metal main riff and a more melodic, excellent guitars solo.
The tempos are always in Venom style, especially in the drummer’s way of playing but here they are faster. The Venom worshipper-praise-homage title song like “In Conspiracy With Satan” is a clear proof of how much they loved that group. Anyway, in general, all the titles are in that direction, giving new inspiration for the future generations of black metal composers. In “Raise The Dead” you can hear more or less the same sound style of several mid paced Venom songs while the last “War” is something unbelievable for malevolence and speed.
Here Bathory yet were a very young band but they, I don’t know if voluntary or not, invented something new in the whole world showing to everybody how extreme metal was evolving, making other groups follow them on the damned path to the real black metal.
Bathory’s early albums are revered as landmarks of the dark side of metal, paving the way for the Scandinavian black metal explosion and, later, mellowing out and adding some folk touches to pioneer so-called ‘Viking metal.’ The first three albums all followed a very similar style before Quorthon’s artistic vision expanded to epic frontiers, preferring the claustrophobic atmosphere of a dank and echoing tomb. Although this isn’t black metal in the modern sense of the term, owing far more to the grittier side of British heavy metal such as Motörhead and particularly the Satanic band Venom (though the late Quorthon denied having heard them previously), the dingy production, snarling voice and thunderous drums create a distinctly blackened and hopeless atmosphere that encourages intrigue and morbid fascination to overshadow the relatively primitive musicianship.
The original title for this release was to be the exuberant ‘Pentagrammaton,’ until several people with either dyslexia or a short attention span mis-read it as ‘Pentagon.’ Bathory’s name is taken from the Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory, also a popular subject in the lyrics of Cradle of Filth, who drank the blood of around seven hundred virgins over the course of a few years in order to remain eternally youthful. The man behind the band is the late Quorthon, whose real name is the subject of some debate even on his tombstone, and for these early releases a drummer and bass player form part of the band, in the form of Stefan Larsson and Rickard Bergman here, in the years before Quorthon took full control of the performances himself.
He isn’t the greatest guitarist in the world by any means, occasionally seemingly recycling Motörhead riffs and playing simplistic guitar solos, and his snarling vocals aren’t the most riveting, but his skill lies in the enthusiasm and genuine unsettling atmosphere of evil that’s created. Bathory’s self-titled debut set the competitively low standard that many modern bands struggle to attain by downgrading their accidentally-hi-tech equipment or trying to forget how to play. None of the songs on ‘Bathory’ are complex beyond a mere speed change, and none get anywhere near the four minute mark, relying on speed and violent aggression, with a little focus on catchiness, where Quorthon’s later compositions favoured a more thoughtful pace and eloquent tone. If Bathory’s discography does indeed show a process of maturity, at least until the mid-nineties when things went into a bit of a mid-life crisis, 1984’s ‘Bathory’ is without a doubt the most juvenile, but far more convincing than any of the more recent shouty, angsty bands that dominate the kids’ rock charts.
The introductory track, like all Bathory intros to come, is far too long-winded, but perhaps necessary for ‘method listeners,’ if such a thing exists (I’m pretty sure it does, as I’ve been one on occasion) to allow their trivial and quite happy life to slip away and be replaced with a more solemn and depressing demeanour, to prepare them for the twenty five or so minutes that follows. The sound of a slowed-down Big Ben is mixed with muffled wind sound effects and what may or may not be voices , or just more wind. It’s all quite unsettling and understated, setting a more authentically creepy mood than some of the other kitsch horror film inspired songs I’ve written about recently. The first real song scratches its way into existence as the sound effects fade out, and the style soon becomes standard fare: a roaring guitar accompanied by blasting drums, both sounding distant and muffled at the far end of the crypt, while Quorthon snarls and rasps in-between playing riffs. The style is very reminiscent of Venom’s archetypal song ‘Black Metal,’ released a few years earlier, but given a significant kick and replacing the stupid rock-n-roll lyrics with a descriptive scene-setting of Hades. There’s not enough in this song to really make it stand out with the exception that it comes first, but it defines Bathory’s early sound.
‘The Reaper’ returns to perhaps my favourite subject matter in the whole of heavy metal, that of the inimitable Grim Reaper. The lyrics, written in the first person, don’t do a disservice to Death, and one of the most incredibly cool moments of the album comes when Quorthon yells ‘I’m coming to take you!’ and breaks into a guitar solo. Nice! The vocals are more legible this time than in the last song, and oddly the vocals and guitars both sound a lot like Dave Mustaine of American thrash band Megadeth, even though their first album wouldn’t be released for another year. Eerie. ‘Necromansy’ manages to be the most satisfying song thus far, taking a slightly slower pace that allows for more emphasis on heavy riffs and an admittedly catchy drum beat. Quorthon’s vocals sound oddly further back in the mix here, which actually sound pretty good, though this does mean that the band has to rely on a crashing of cymbals to add emphasis in the chorus, which comes out sounding rather less than excellent in the tinny production. The guitar solo sounds more fitting on this one, playing alongside the other instruments rather than doing its own thing, and the song benefits from being a little longer than average in this regard.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for ‘Sacrifice,’ which feels drawn out and repetitive in the middle of the album, sounding a lot like the first song and even more reminiscent of Venom’s ‘Black Metal’ than that was. ‘In Conspiracy With Satan,’ despite the great title, also suffers from being a little uninteresting after time, and the vocal growls are almost impossible to discern this time. As I said earlier, the album doesn’t try to impress with its technical ability, but this middle section disappoints me by being too predictable and samey, lacking the driving enthusiasm of the faster songs and the enjoyable pace of the ever-so-slightly-slower ones. The remainder of the album is a lot more rewarding and even a little varied, with the immortal ‘Armageddon’ epitomising Bathory’s aggression and seeming to beckon an apocalypse with the impressive sonic scape at the end, filled with distant wailing guitars. The bass even gets a miniature solo spot, which is always nice to hear especially as it’s relegated to covering Quorthon’s back the rest of the time, and although the main guitar riff could easily be found on a Motörhead album, it works perfectly. The only issue is that the relentless pounding of the drums has significantly lost its impact at this point in the album, meaning that this song would work better standing alone or separated from similar-sounding pieces on a compilation, which is how I first came across it spliced between slower Bathory pieces on the excellent posthumous collection ‘In Memory of Quorthon.’
My favourite song on the album is the comparatively epic ‘Raise the Dead,’ returning to the tolls of Big Ben (though not an exact sample as that would make it at least fifteen o’clock due to the number of chimes), and fading into a quiet heartbeat. This is a far cry from Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon,’ where the heartbeat builds anticipation of a pleasant, dreamy guitar intro coming along any second now, and more along the lines of hearing footsteps approach your room in an empty house. When the song starts, it’s clear that things have mellowed out slightly, even more than ‘Necromansy,’ and it’s clear that the emphasis is going to be on enjoyment more than violence as Quorthon yells ‘dust to dust’ before the verse begins. Everything about this song is early Bathory at its best, slowing down a little to create an even better atmosphere and to allow the vocals to be understood and the guitar solo really enjoyed. After a gong crash ends the song abruptly, the downbeat finale ‘War’ brings things right back to speed, abandoning the progression of the previous song in favour of Quorthon’s fast comfort zone, and why not? The guitar makes some cool mistakes that I’m glad weren’t rectified in the studio, and the song is pretty simple, just yelling about war. The track-list boasts an ‘Outro’ at track ten which is in many ways the adverse of the introduction, doing the same thing but only lasting for twenty seconds.
Bathory’s debut is far from the most impressive example of Quorthon’s artistry, but it made a significant impact on its 1984 release. At only twenty-seven minutes it should seem far too short, but somehow doesn’t, and even if this was only the first side of an LP I think a significant break would be called for before playing the reverse. This raw, dirty and wicked style, which is arguably called black metal, would be continued over the next two albums and perfected in ‘Under the Sign of the Black Mark,’ balancing the aggression and sheer catchiness present in this album into Bathory staples such as ‘Woman of Dark Desires.’ Nevertheless, it was the fourth album, ‘Blood Fire Death,’ where Quorthon really started getting interesting, perhaps looking back over his works and noticing the higher quality of slower songs such as ‘Raise the Dead’ in order to craft yet another significant sub-genre...
Well folks, it started here; partially. I won't even bother discussing the reputation of this album, as I'm only here to discuss the music in its content.
Clearly, this was recorded in one of the smallest studios on the face of the earth. The shredding, trebly guitars sound like they're being played through age-old practice amps, bass is distant, and the drumming is some of the most straight-forward, simple drumming you'll ever hear. (You won't hear a single hi-hat; only the bass drum, snare, and ride cymbal are used. How's that for "kvlt," fuckers?!) This LP's production is dirty, grimy, lo-fi, and raw; just like the production of nearly all black metal albums to follow suit. Quorthon sounds like an evil Lemmy here, and you won't find a trace of clean vocals. Bathory are one of the only bands, partially due to the time of its release, to channel pure juvenile aggression into a type of music that truly comes off as evil when it's done right.
Quorthon's songwriting chops definitely weren't at the "Twilight of the Gods" level, which I'm grateful for in irony. (Can you imagine a 10-minute "Armageddon"? Fucking crazy.) You'll only find a total of about 3 or 4 riffs each song; thank God that they're good ones. The riffs here are highly reminiscent of Motorhead, but with a pushed degree of speed and aggression. Solos are composed mainly of tremolo picking and tapping, but it works perfectly within the bold, evil context of the music. All of the songs follow a rigid structure of: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, chorus, end. There's some variation here and there, but you won't find a song here that comes anywhere close to 4 minutes. Bathory's blitzkrieg attack is in, out, and leaves a trail of destruction so vast that it helped forge a genre.
And of course, the lyrics. With classic song titles like "In Conspiracy of Satan" and "Necromansy," how the hell can you go wrong? The lines of the chorus in every song will pretty much force you to raise the horns and shout along, especially on the ripping opener "Hades" and "Sacrifice." (Admit it. You sing along to it just like I do, you bastard.) By no means are the lyrics intelligent, poetic, or mature; but with music so raw, primitive, and dirty, that's not what you should expect.
Pure classic. That's all that needs to be said. Get out the bullet belts, beer, and have a good old time with true classic underground metal.
Though many do dismiss this album when compared to later Bathory albums (and that is understandable) I think that this is often a little misguided, as though you can hear some Motorhead moments on here, Bathory, unlike Venom, created metal that feels evil and above all feels black from beginning to end.
Opening with the ominous bells (Big Ben slowed down in fact) with a number of other sound effects, one is drawn into a dark world of shadows and flickering candles, I visualize a sorcerer working his dark magick as a storm brews around him. This Luciferian power that seemed to possess Bathory is quite strong even here on the intro (which is though a little long). When three minutes later Hades starts we are put into dark atmospheric black metal, Quorthon's vocals are just as hateful and grim as ever, even from this early date he sounds like a demon from hell. Now of course this song is more old school and almost punky then most, but it still works. Unlike Darkthrone who has become more punky but without the malefic spirit (i.e. become more like Venom then Bathory) Bathory's style on here is very evil and the spirit is manevelent to normal human boundaries. And yes even in this song we given a slightly epic breakdown, which makes one think of what Bathory would end up with.
Every song on here is a classic, some more then others of course, but each one is excellent. One thing though many think Bathory was ripping off Venom, this is due to the similar song-titles, and similar sound, but, even though Venom came first, Quorthon was not originally into the metal scene and was not even aware of Venom until after the release of this album for people kept comparing Bathory to Venom. I believe this is true, because many other bands (like Slayer, Sodom, etc.) would often use similar song titles, and the general feeling of Motorhead and Exploited meeting Black Sabbath was going around everywhere at this time, and given that, even though Quorthon states he was more influenced by Oi! punk at this time then metal (and I think punk musicians did the drums and bass) what he ended up creating was something beyond most metal and all punk, something inspired by a power much more demonic and evocative.
The production does suffer, but it is actually better then the one on The Return.. as it is clearer. However all Bathory has great use of production for atmosphere, and this is no different, even if it wasn't on purpose the sound creates a dark, dank ancient atmosphere, and the lyrics having the sorcerous feeling only highten this. Which by the way was one thing Bathory always had over Venom and many other metal bands, the lyrics really do as Quorthon said, they paint pictures with words, creating dark visions of war, necromantic charms, sacrifices upon pagan altars to satan, etc. It really is quite powerful, and there is a reason why black metal fans, no matter if pagan or satanic or nihilistic will almost always cite early Bathory as being one of the best, that is because it is, and it still holds up, none of this has aged, it still has the same necromantic power it always has had.
So in closing, if you like black metal and have not heard this or the other old Bathory albums then you cannot really consider yourself a real black metal fan. Bathory is the beginning of everything and you must listen to these albums. This one is in particular as important as any of the others, for it helped to create the type of sound and feeling bands like Darkthrone and Countess would go for. Ancient, warlike, spectral, demonic black metal, that even if it has some Motorhead moments never loses the evil atmosphere.
“My goal was to mix the speed of Motörhead with the dark atmosphere of Black Sabbath” - Quorthon
When it all comes down to it, that’s basically what this album comes off as; a dark and brutal mix of Motörhead and Black Sabbath, with of course, a ting of early punk as well for added aggression. Wait, wasn't that Venom‘s goal as well? Over the past two decades, the comparisons between Bathory and Venom have been countless, leaving Metal fans scratching their heads and contrasting between the two bands endlessly. Sure, Venom may have started it all, but what Bathory did with the release of their first album is simply pure blasphemy taken beyond what Venom or any other extreme Metal band had done with their music! If you’ve heard this album, let me ask you a question; does this release honestly sound over 20 years old? Because it is!
I mean, regardless if Quorthon decides to admit if his musical influences were taken from Venom or not, the music on Bathory’s first LP isn’t exactly the same as Venom’s first two albums. Yes, it sounds very punk-ish at times and the early Motörhead influences are all too clear. The lyrics though, are far more blasphemous than anything Venom had ever put out, which made it seem like Quorthon was trying to outdo Venom in terms of extremity. Even the music was a bit more extreme than Welcome To Hell or Black Metal. I mean, if you’ve heard the first two Venom LPs and thought that the production sucked, then stay away from this album. You know what? I did some Darkthrone reviews just yesterday and stated that nothing was more raw or minimal as their early albums. But now that I think about, this album really changes my mind. I would say that the production to Bathory’s first album is low-fi, but that statement would be false! Why? Because there IS NO production, that’s why.
So what exactly does this record sound like? Is it fast? Is it heavy? Well, not to say that there weren’t faster bands out there at the time, because there sure as hell were, but…did they sound this evil? Hell no! Yes, the punk, Motörhead and especially the Venom influences shine greatly, but Bathory adds such a twist to it all, that only Quorthon himself has been able to top such an evil sounding album, which of course, would be done the following year in 1985 with the release of The Return… . Now, as far as the heaviness goes, well…I wouldn’t call this album heavy. Harsh? Yes. Fast? Yes. Evil? Yes. Brutal? To a point, but yes. Heavy? No. The sound is so paper thin that the bass can barely be deciphered at all. The drums are by far the lowest in the mix amongst all of the other instruments. The guitars are searing, loud and, well, pretty fucking thin if you ask me. Is it a plus for this record though? You bet! The ultra thin sound may reduce the thrash essence of this release, but it only adds to the dark and evil aura of the album. Alright, let’s get on with the song by song review now.
1. Storm Of Damnation - Unlike most album intros, this one is really pretty damn cool. Hence its name, it sounds like a storm from the depths of Hades itself. Swirling winds, evil howls and all of that good, evil stuff. Now, on with the first song…
2. Hades - If a places like Hades really existed, this is what it should sound like down there. Pure fucking evil. The song itself is simplistic and minimal, lacking in the thrash quality that Venom had only because the drums are so damn low in the mix. I know that Bathory had a bassist at the time, but the bass is barely audible to the listener’s ear. Turn to bass-boost up on your stereo and you just may be able to hear it. This album basically serves as the blue-print for Darkthrone’s album, Under A Funeral Moon. And yes, that album was good, raw and unholy black metal in the true sense of the term, but when compared to this, it’s nothing but stranded holy nun in the cold forests of Norway. Bathory rules all extreme Metal acts, plain and simple!
3. Reaper - Now when I think of extreme Metal, THIS is the kind of shit that comes to mind. Forget all of this grim and necro stuff, save that when you’re feeling more mellow. This track is another assault of Black/Death Metal fury with a hideous vibe of evil and anger. Just listen to that god damn chorus. “I’m the reeeeeaaaaaaaaaperrr!! Coming to take you!!”. Quorthon sounds like the Grim Reaper himself!
4. Necromancy - There is far more groove added to this track, but the unholy vibe is still there. This song also has the best lyric on the whole entire album; “I gather up the forces of darkness to bring damnation, lust and war. Gather all of Heaven’s virgin’s to bend before our horny Lord”. And no, the word “lord” in the lyrics isn’t referring to the man upstairs. I think you know damn well who it’s referring to…
5. Sacrifice - Hey, doesn’t Venom have a song called Sacrifice on their Black Metal LP? Anyway, this is the exact same song that Bathory recorded for the Scandinavian Metal Attack compilation in 1983, except the album version sounds far more evil. It’s not just a reminisce of Motörhead like the first version was. This, in my opinion, is the far better version because it’s simply more evil. Nothing more, nothing less.
6. In Conspriacy With Satan - Alright Quorthon, the Venom influence is far too obvious by now that it’s almost a proven fact that you were inspired by Venom. On Venom’s Welcome To Hell LP, there is a song called In League With Satan. Coincidence? I mean, both songs have brutal, extreme and controversial lyrics, but Bathory’s version is the true winner. Oh yeah, and not that anyone cares or anything, but I have this denim vest with Bathory goat head and logo on the back and underneath it reads “In Conspiracy With Satan” in Old English letters. And no, it’s not for the shock value either, and that’s all I’m saying about it…
7. Armageddon - There’s some nice riffing going on here. Aside from that, this song manages to keep the brutal pace up of all the other previous songs on the album. It’s appropriately titled Armageddon and could easily serve as the soundtrack to the end of the world. Nevertheless, a song like this is bound to get that head banging.
8. Raise The Dead - Yes…Venom does have a song as well called Raise The Dead on their Black Metal album. I swear, Quorthon, if you’re going to lie, at least make the coincidences appear to be believable in the least sense. Anyway, this track is the slowest one the album by far. It begins with some bell chimes and then leads into a slow, mid-paced, swinging rhythm while staying away from the doom territory. The reason for this is because the riffs are all played open so there is a lack the “thickness” to them. So no, there’s no crunch to them either, but the dark and evil atmosphere that this song creates makes up for all that anyway. The chorus kills too. Quorthon growls/chants “Raise the dead!” repeatedly, which only adds to the horror of the atmosphere. Seriously, a song like this could be used for a good, classic horror movie. A zombie movie in particular, hence the song title.
9. War - The last track on the album is an all-out, Death Metal assault on the listener. Everything heard here is minimal, fast paced and chaotic. The chorus only repeats the word “WAR!” over and over. And just listen to that crazy guitar solo…wow!
Many bands have tried to mimic this style, yet fail to deliver the evil that Bathory first created. Even the early 90s albums from Darkthrone are holy compared to this!! There are no lyrics about forests, elves, mysterious icy landscapes, cold winters or strict ideology here. These lyrics are all about blasphemy, Satan, evil, blood, hell, raping and sacrificing virgins and summoning the powers of darkness and evil. Sure, the later Death and Black Metal bands of the 90s may have sounded more brutal musically, but no band has ever been as evil as Bathory, and that includes bands like Sarcofago, Deicide, Darkthrone, and even Bathory’s 80s peers of extreme Metal like Sepultura, Slayer, Hellhammer and Onslaught. I do enjoy listening to all of the aforementioned bands, but no one comes close to the evilness of Bathory with the exception of one band in the mid to early 80s…Mercyful Fate. The thing is though, they weren’t the same style of Metal. They were just as evil and blasphemous, but they were an entirely different style of Metal. Both bands though, can be considered Black Metal, and indeed were back in the 80s.
Ugly and raw. That's a succint description for Bathory's first full length release. It's a bit odd to call it "full length", since it lasts a mere 27 minutes. However, that 27 minutes is put to good use. It's historical significance can't be overstated, since this is basically where black metal took off.
What we have here is basically simple thrash. Simple, repetitive guitar riffs laid over simple, repetitive drum beats. The bass can be heard, but it doesn't do anything special. The vocals are sort of distorted, but not to the extent that you hear in newer black metal bands. The production is pretty basement-quality, but that's a good thing, the rawness gives it an out-of-control, unpredictable feel.
Many of the songs sound similar upon first listen, and even after the onset of familiarity, they still don't deviate too much. Raise the Dead is the exception, being much slower than all the others. Given this, it's hard to pick out highlights, but the first four songs are all excellent, with the aforementioned Raise the Dead and War also being very good. In truth though, there aren't any weak songs. The closest thing to a weak track is the too-long intro.
In sum, if you like dirty, raw thrash, you will like Bathory's s/t. If you like long, complex, bombastic songs, you had best look elsewhere.
Some of you who followed Bathory's epic style, or even the "The Return" or "Under the Sign...", would be shocked to hear this one. Yes, the title of my review describe the style of this album accurately. And to think Quorton once mentioned in an interview that he never heard Venom before the release of this (yeah, right).
After the 3 minute intro (Storm of Damnation), we get hitted in the head with "Hades", then "Ripper", which sound much alike. The production is lousy, but don't let that you distract from the riffs and the punk-ish drumming which do their job in bringing you into total headbanging frenzy. If only Quorton had a better guitar tone for this album (Kind of like Slayer's at the time), it would have worked much better.
"Necromansy" goes along the same lines as the previous, though a bit slower. An opening riff Lemmy Kilmister would have thought off brings us to "Sacrifice"....BANG YOUR HEAD!!!! *bang* *bang* *bang*. The rest of the song sound like something out of Welcome to Hell, and you know that can't be a bad thing. We got a highlight here! Both "In Conspiracy with Satan" and "Armageddon" use fast tremolo distorted riffs, much alike modern black metal bands. "Raise the Dead" is THE midpaced song of this album, it's great choice of riffs makes it one of this album's winners. It is eerie, dark and will make you headbang at a steady pace...what more can you ask? "War" is another fast tune in the lines of "Sons of Satan" or "Witching Hour". Of course it works great too, and finishes the album on a high note.
Mind you that this isn't one of Bathory's greatest albums, but if you liked Venom's mighty black metal trilogy, you can't let this pass.