without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
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!