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Confounded song choices, excellent extras (part 1) - 80%

hells_unicorn, January 25th, 2012

Usually a greatest hits compilation is something that a band gets after they’ve either broken up, or otherwise gone on an extensive hiatus. In one sense, this makes sense since it serves the dual function of keeping the band alive in terms of releases and keeps the money flowing in to the labels that supported the bands (though simple reissues with bonus tracks would accomplish this much better). Considering that Bathory was thought to be over by the time the “Jubileum” series started coming out, the early 90s were the ideal time for this to occur, and thankfully Quorthon had a few surprises that didn’t make it onto these compilations to make them worth getting, though they are dispersed in such a fashion that they do the minimal job in counteracting what is otherwise a standard best of release.

The first part of this 3 part release series highlights all of the places gone from the band’s inception until 1991, and therein lays the problem. While putting together a compilation spanning several albums is generally the preferred route, here Black Mark decided to jumble together some very incompatible songs, no doubt leading to confusion for anyone not familiar with the band. All of the bonus material is stuff from the band’s blackened thrash days, save the opening instrumental “Rider At The Gate Of Dawn”, which sounds like it could have been the intro to “Hammerheart” with all the orchestrated pomp and sounds akin to warriors charging. Coupling this with the mostly Viking oriented material on “Blood Fir e Death” and a handful of songs from the two later albums that show the Manowar influences something fierce, the entire thing comes off as a bit schizophrenic.

However, from a quality standpoint, every individual song on here is an absolute gem and the bonus material doesn’t fall short from blending in with the rest. The song brought in from the Scandinavian Metal Attack compilation “Sacrifice” sounds like a blackened reinterpretation of Motorhead’s “Iron Fist”, speeding at a fast yet intelligible tempo with a rock oriented riff set that lends credence to Quorthon’s claim of being more influenced by Lemmy and company than by Venom. “Crawl To Your Cross” reeks of a nasty blackened thrash character with a slightly crisper edge that would have perfectly fit on “Blood Fire Death”, but was written after and ultimately not used. And the raw, under-produced bruiser “You Don’t Move Me (I Don’t Give A Fuck)” brings on a more punk edge to Quorthon’s early speed metal approach, and sounds more in line with the band’s self-titled debut, but with less intelligible ravings that somewhat resemble his vocal approach on “Requiem”.

My usual tendency is to judge a compilation solely on the bonus material since I’ve always ended up procuring the entire discographies of any bands I encounter. But on this particular one it is necessary to also look at both the individual strength of the previously released material, and also the compatibility factor from all the eras of a band in congress. In this respect, “Jubileum I” comes up a bit short in this regard, as does the one that followed since it took the same basic approach, but it is still an essential pickup for completists, which most of Bathory’s audience tends to fall under, and it fairs well just as a compilation in itself. Definitely try to shop for a low price or seek these songs individually for download where possible, but it is definitely worth it no matter which way you go about it.