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Honesty compels me to say this is my least favorite Bathory album from the eighties. And the reason solely lies in the performance. I wouldn’t know if there are new re-mastered versions of this album around on which the performance was digitally set straight. My my old eighties version sounds like crap. And I find this to be a real bummer.
Because, as said, some compositions here are marvellous! This album balances between the evil materpiece “Under The Sign” and their rocking straight forward debut. I know the background of the album. The circumstances under which it was recorded, 3 months after the infamous “Necronomicon/Maleficarum” sessions, the fact that during the recordings they had to fire bassplayer Andreas 'Adde' Johansson due to drug abuse. But still that can be no excuse for the performance here.
I don’t know wether Quorthon was too hasty and couldn’t get his farter parts played straight over the raging drums or the drums were just too sloppily played anyway. Eitherway, the interaction between drums and guitar seems lost on all fast sections of the album. They’re all over the place.
Now if I take the song “The Return of the Darkness and Evil” it would be the most obvious example. I’ve known and played the ‘original’ version from the Scandinavian Metal Attack album hundreds of times. Hell, I ever covered that version! But the version on this album is twice as fast, killing the drive and rhythm of the original riffs and vocal lines. And secondly, not played very tightly.
But if I listen closely as well to the rest of the songs, I can hear the hidden qualities of the compositions. There are some marvellous riffs and vocal lines and ‘on paper’ these songs are simply great. The album will forever give me mixed feelings. It could have been so much better.