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Not more than a year after Bathory temporarily hung it up, Black Mark decided why not have 1 collection of great songs in a jumbled order when there can be 2 for twice the buying price. While the economics of this decision become a bit more bizarre given the customer demographic being played to, it does present that label with another opportunity to provide the black masses with yet another helping of rarities to sate the otherwise insatiable appetite for more after the party was apparently over (curse you, accursed 90s). But the question is does the cuisine measure up to the sensibilities of the patrons?
While sequels generally tend not to measure up to their predecessors, this is one of those occasional exceptions where the rule doesn’t apply. Yes, what occurs here is the same mishmash of blackened thrash madness from the first 3 albums with an equally proportional representation from the Viking era, to the point where the goal seemed to be an interchangeable selection of songs in terms of pacing and style. But the overall song selection here is just a little bit stronger (particularly with the inclusion of the massive title song from “Twilight Of The Gods” closing things off and the near equally riveting Manowar inspired “One Rode To Asa Bay” near the beginning), and the extra offerings are just a little bit sweeter to the refined, thrash metal pallet.
As was the case before, the extras represent the earlier incarnation of Bathory that is largely responsible for what was starting to come out of Norway at this time like an avalanche through the lands of fimbulwinter. The lead off song “The Return Of The Darkness And Evil” in its original Scandinavian Metal Attack form, along with the previously unheard “Die In Fire” march out Quorthon’s early influences ala Motorhead, churning out a longer and darker version of “Overkill” in the former, and a similarly blues heavy speed metal number in the latter. The other odd song out “Burnin’ Leather” may seem a rehash of 1983 Metallica or Judas Priest, but the musical result sounds like it was born during the “Under The Sign Of The Black Mark” sessions, being possessed of the same grim guitar crunch and massive drum backdrop that paved the way for “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”.
The verdict here is mostly the same as was the case with part 1, save the fact that the song selection is a bit more coherent, though the same can’t be said for how the songs are ordered and the overall coherence of putting the “Hammerheart” and “Twilight Of The Gods” material in with the earlier stuff. While these would still have been inferior to a simple, singular release of all the rarities on a single album, both of these would have been better from a playability standpoint had the Viking and black metal stuff been put on separate releases. Still, given that these are obviously aimed at the rabid followers that tend to make up the vast majority of Bathory’s fan base, the advice is to buy cheap.