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Sweden for the most part has always had a healthy metal scene, even from the get-go. In the 80's, alongside Candlemass and may be Artch, there was one band that literally blew the standards away as far as what could come from the land of frost; Bathory. First album? Classic. Can't even mention the genre of black metal without mentioning that or the follow-up to this album "Under The Sign of The Black Mark," but that's another review yet to write and discuss. If their first album was about setting the standards as far as how well one could make Venom seem like a joke (gotta remember at the time this was released, Venom was still believed to be actual Satanists...), and if their third album really set the freezing winds blowing from the north a good handful of years before the fires warmed things up in Norway...then "The Return" was nothing but an expression of lo-fi black metal EVIL, and actually the first of it's kind too. Before Sarcofago, before Darkthrone, before Beherit, before Xasthur-worshiping Myspace bedroom bands and ecological hipsters made it more acceptable...Bathory's second album was the first in capturing the "necro" sound and blackened heart of black metal.
"The Return" is really the best example of a band progressing; more specifically mainman Quorthon really pushing himself with trying to basically out-do Venom at their own game; and then some. He did it. Remember how Venom use to print the lyrics/poems on the backs of their first 3 lps? Well Quorthon pulled a rabbit out of his hat and did as such: "We wanted people to just read out "The Return..." – as in a second album or a follow-up – and then flip the album over to look for a tracking list. Not finding one, what they got was this apocalyptic poem with the song titles woven into it. Only after listening through the album to the end would you get the full title of the album; The Return of the Darkness and Evil" Quorthon. So in other words "U mad? Problem?"(actually, I think this applies more to Venom than Bathory, seeing how Quorthon managed to pull a second leg of damn good albums compared to enom's only first 3 which I even consider listening to) This must have fucked with metalheads of ancient yore making them scratch their noggins like monkeys.
There's not much of a difference between this one and the classic self-titled outside of....it's more extreme? It's more evil? More atmospheric? More of everything. I know for years I couldn't listen to this because it sounds raw as fuck compared to the 1rst and 3rd Bathory albums. Even to this day, the sound production is something only a few bands from the could actually mimic. I mean....a certain postal worker with a niche for everything 'primitive' knew how to fucking do it and carried on their legacy for an entire new generation in the 90's. Watain even managed to capture the 'aura' of early Bathory. Nifelheim dragged it through the ice of it's wintery domain. Even The Crown knew the infernal darkness of what it was and paid tribute to it most of it's underrated career. It essentially is like watching an old Hammer Horror movie, grainy, rusty, bleak, and atmospheric. It sounds like it was recorded in a cave and damn it...I cannot get enough of it. Even the song structures, it has hints of NWOBHM, Hardcore Punk, but Quorthon went for broke and added this infernal ambiance that really gave a new meaning. So many great songs; "Total Destruction," "Born For Burning," "The Return," "Possessed," etc. Something beyond hypnotic about those cuts.
This is one of those hypnotizing albums that you can listen to all day long and not get bored with. So YES this is a must own.The fucking album cover alone should make you want to listen to it. And still after listening to this about 5673920298484576349237385795789.7856345763756384 times, I still want to scream at the top of my lungs "IT'S THE RETURN OF DARKNESS AND EVIL, IT'S THE RETURN OF FIRE AND PAIN!"