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1986 was a year of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, but somewhere else at that time, far in the North of the European continent, in Sweden, the freezing winds and Northern darkness has brought something maybe not as radioactive and lethal as that nuclear force, which the Eastern wind was bringing from the Ukrainian territory back then, but surely equally destructive… Bathory has finally spawned their second LP, “The Return…”!!! It was only a year after the release of Bathory’s highly acclaimed self titled debut LP, but from the first listen one can notice a development in Quorthon’s music. While the first LP was more or less Venom and Motorhead worship (although I have no idea whether Quorthon was actually ever influenced by Venom or not), but played in more evil and faster way, then “The Return…” came out as even more obscure, more malevolent, vicious and evil record. When I listen to “The Return…” I can clearly see, where the Norwegian sound of black metal mainly came from. I mean the riffing, as well as the harsh, raw, shrieking vocals and utterly dark and raw production of this second album of Bathory must have been the main source of influence for the whole early 90’s generation of Norwegian bands, including Darkthrone, Satyricon, Hades, Burzum, etc. That itself is enough proof I guess for importance of “The Return…” and surely if anyone wants to know where the sound of the second wave of black metal come from, he must go back to the real roots of it and this album is an obvious choice.
I don’t think that “The Return…” is yet a perfect record (such definitely is “Under the Sign of Black Mark”, in my opinion, an utter black metal masterpiece). There are few parts where I can say that the level of brilliance is not exactly there on the top, but only slightly, as all in all this album nails me down to the floor right from its very beginning, which is a creepy intro, “Revelation of Doom”, up to its final and also definite finest moment, which is “The Return of the Darkness and Evil”. That sole song is enough reason to get this album, as in my opinion it belongs to the most memorable and finest, most important tracks in the history of metal music. I sincerely can say that I love this track; its simple, but effective riffs and structures and obviously every time I listen to it I just must scream the lyrics from the chorus part. This is what I call cult. Another song which stands above the rest is “Born for Burning”. Think what you want, but for me this is essential early Bathory and definitely this particular track holds some of the best riffs and ideas Quorthon had in that early period of Bathory's existence. Again, a very memorable, catchy as fuck chorus and again a very morbid and obscure atmosphere. Phenomenal stuff!
But honestly I could mention almost the entire track list here and each of these songs is great. Take “Total Destruction” for instance – a barbaric, violent, and totally aggressive demonstration of what Bathory was all about. And “Bestial Lust (Bitch)” is a clear continuation of the style from the first record, again with the strong resemblance to some Venom all the way through. I can assume that some of you may feel slightly pushed away by the primitiveness of songs like “Possessed”…this one, maybe my least favourite song from the whole LP, has almost troglodytic riffing and the whole structure of this track is as simple as it can only be, but it doesn’t really matter as the atmosphere, which Bathory managed to create here, is one of a kind. And if one’s a bit bored by this song, then maybe “The Rite of Darkness” and “Son of the Damned” will make you feel better? Also, I must say that I really like what Quorthon’s vocals are like on “The Return…”. They’re very harsh, raw, and utterly morbid, the kind of singing that fits the obscure music perfectly. Total destruction it is!
Standout tracks: “The Return of the Darkness and Evil”, “Born for Burning”, “Total Destruction”.
Final rate: 89/100