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Bathory’s first two records both blasted really imbalanced sound jobs, too much treble on the first, and a massive sonic wall of black sludge on the second. But with UTSOTBM (as it will hence be called) the problems were rectified, and thus this is the first Bathory album where you can clearly make out all the subtleties of the band’s now well-established black metal noise. This is a good thing, because the thunderous drumming and Quorthon’s impassioned rasp gather much more force than ever before.
But what makes this yet another great chapter in Bathory’s inverted bible is the songs themselves which are almost uniformly among their best, and indeed some of the best ever in Black Metal. Period. “Massacre” is the perfect hi-speed adrenaline rush to begin matters, and when you compare this cut to later, similar ditties from later BM warlords such as Immortal the influence is so thick you can smell it. “Woman of Dark Desires” on the opposite hand, moves slowly and celebrates the vampiric mistress who unknowingly lent her name to the band, Elizabeth Bathory. “Call From the Grave” is another moody piece (note a snatch of Chopin’s “Marche Funebre” in the instrumental section) whilst “Equimanthorn” balances thrash with mid-tempo pounding, as well as giving Marduk one of their album titles with its lyrics (“Even the Heavens Shall Burn When We Are Gathered”).
The real towering inferno of this album, however, is the eight or so minutes of “Enter the Eternal Fire”, which is simply one of the greatest BM songs ever. Evoking hellish torment at it’s finest, it boasts some of Quorthon’s best writing and vocals yet, while remaining a resonant song, brutal delivery and all.
For my money, UTSOTBM is perhaps Bathory’s most accomplished work, and easily outmatches scores of competition within BM’s annals. Changes would be on the horizon for Bathory’s music, but in 1987, a good 3-4 years before the global BM charge would really dominate, there was only one worthy of the appellation black metal. And the gathered masses deliver their chant: “Venom is dead, Bathory is king… long live Quorthon and his cursed offspring!” Well maybe not, but it sounds cool….