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Simply brilliant... - 90%

Valleys_Of_Hades, December 1st, 2005

“My goal was to mix the speed of Motörhead with the dark atmosphere of Black Sabbath” - Quorthon

When it all comes down to it, that’s basically what this album comes off as; a dark and brutal mix of Motörhead and Black Sabbath, with of course, a ting of early punk as well for added aggression. Wait, wasn't that Venom‘s goal as well? Over the past two decades, the comparisons between Bathory and Venom have been countless, leaving Metal fans scratching their heads and contrasting between the two bands endlessly. Sure, Venom may have started it all, but what Bathory did with the release of their first album is simply pure blasphemy taken beyond what Venom or any other extreme Metal band had done with their music! If you’ve heard this album, let me ask you a question; does this release honestly sound over 20 years old? Because it is!

I mean, regardless if Quorthon decides to admit if his musical influences were taken from Venom or not, the music on Bathory’s first LP isn’t exactly the same as Venom’s first two albums. Yes, it sounds very punk-ish at times and the early Motörhead influences are all too clear. The lyrics though, are far more blasphemous than anything Venom had ever put out, which made it seem like Quorthon was trying to outdo Venom in terms of extremity. Even the music was a bit more extreme than Welcome To Hell or Black Metal. I mean, if you’ve heard the first two Venom LPs and thought that the production sucked, then stay away from this album. You know what? I did some Darkthrone reviews just yesterday and stated that nothing was more raw or minimal as their early albums. But now that I think about, this album really changes my mind. I would say that the production to Bathory’s first album is low-fi, but that statement would be false! Why? Because there IS NO production, that’s why.

So what exactly does this record sound like? Is it fast? Is it heavy? Well, not to say that there weren’t faster bands out there at the time, because there sure as hell were, but…did they sound this evil? Hell no! Yes, the punk, Motörhead and especially the Venom influences shine greatly, but Bathory adds such a twist to it all, that only Quorthon himself has been able to top such an evil sounding album, which of course, would be done the following year in 1985 with the release of The Return… . Now, as far as the heaviness goes, well…I wouldn’t call this album heavy. Harsh? Yes. Fast? Yes. Evil? Yes. Brutal? To a point, but yes. Heavy? No. The sound is so paper thin that the bass can barely be deciphered at all. The drums are by far the lowest in the mix amongst all of the other instruments. The guitars are searing, loud and, well, pretty fucking thin if you ask me. Is it a plus for this record though? You bet! The ultra thin sound may reduce the thrash essence of this release, but it only adds to the dark and evil aura of the album. Alright, let’s get on with the song by song review now.

1. Storm Of Damnation - Unlike most album intros, this one is really pretty damn cool. Hence its name, it sounds like a storm from the depths of Hades itself. Swirling winds, evil howls and all of that good, evil stuff. Now, on with the first song…

2. Hades - If a places like Hades really existed, this is what it should sound like down there. Pure fucking evil. The song itself is simplistic and minimal, lacking in the thrash quality that Venom had only because the drums are so damn low in the mix. I know that Bathory had a bassist at the time, but the bass is barely audible to the listener’s ear. Turn to bass-boost up on your stereo and you just may be able to hear it. This album basically serves as the blue-print for Darkthrone’s album, Under A Funeral Moon. And yes, that album was good, raw and unholy black metal in the true sense of the term, but when compared to this, it’s nothing but stranded holy nun in the cold forests of Norway. Bathory rules all extreme Metal acts, plain and simple!

3. Reaper - Now when I think of extreme Metal, THIS is the kind of shit that comes to mind. Forget all of this grim and necro stuff, save that when you’re feeling more mellow. This track is another assault of Black/Death Metal fury with a hideous vibe of evil and anger. Just listen to that god damn chorus. “I’m the reeeeeaaaaaaaaaperrr!! Coming to take you!!”. Quorthon sounds like the Grim Reaper himself!

4. Necromancy - There is far more groove added to this track, but the unholy vibe is still there. This song also has the best lyric on the whole entire album; “I gather up the forces of darkness to bring damnation, lust and war. Gather all of Heaven’s virgin’s to bend before our horny Lord”. And no, the word “lord” in the lyrics isn’t referring to the man upstairs. I think you know damn well who it’s referring to…

5. Sacrifice - Hey, doesn’t Venom have a song called Sacrifice on their Black Metal LP? Anyway, this is the exact same song that Bathory recorded for the Scandinavian Metal Attack compilation in 1983, except the album version sounds far more evil. It’s not just a reminisce of Motörhead like the first version was. This, in my opinion, is the far better version because it’s simply more evil. Nothing more, nothing less.

6. In Conspriacy With Satan - Alright Quorthon, the Venom influence is far too obvious by now that it’s almost a proven fact that you were inspired by Venom. On Venom’s Welcome To Hell LP, there is a song called In League With Satan. Coincidence? I mean, both songs have brutal, extreme and controversial lyrics, but Bathory’s version is the true winner. Oh yeah, and not that anyone cares or anything, but I have this denim vest with Bathory goat head and logo on the back and underneath it reads “In Conspiracy With Satan” in Old English letters. And no, it’s not for the shock value either, and that’s all I’m saying about it…

7. Armageddon - There’s some nice riffing going on here. Aside from that, this song manages to keep the brutal pace up of all the other previous songs on the album. It’s appropriately titled Armageddon and could easily serve as the soundtrack to the end of the world. Nevertheless, a song like this is bound to get that head banging.

8. Raise The Dead - Yes…Venom does have a song as well called Raise The Dead on their Black Metal album. I swear, Quorthon, if you’re going to lie, at least make the coincidences appear to be believable in the least sense. Anyway, this track is the slowest one the album by far. It begins with some bell chimes and then leads into a slow, mid-paced, swinging rhythm while staying away from the doom territory. The reason for this is because the riffs are all played open so there is a lack the “thickness” to them. So no, there’s no crunch to them either, but the dark and evil atmosphere that this song creates makes up for all that anyway. The chorus kills too. Quorthon growls/chants “Raise the dead!” repeatedly, which only adds to the horror of the atmosphere. Seriously, a song like this could be used for a good, classic horror movie. A zombie movie in particular, hence the song title.

9. War - The last track on the album is an all-out, Death Metal assault on the listener. Everything heard here is minimal, fast paced and chaotic. The chorus only repeats the word “WAR!” over and over. And just listen to that crazy guitar solo…wow!

Many bands have tried to mimic this style, yet fail to deliver the evil that Bathory first created. Even the early 90s albums from Darkthrone are holy compared to this!! There are no lyrics about forests, elves, mysterious icy landscapes, cold winters or strict ideology here. These lyrics are all about blasphemy, Satan, evil, blood, hell, raping and sacrificing virgins and summoning the powers of darkness and evil. Sure, the later Death and Black Metal bands of the 90s may have sounded more brutal musically, but no band has ever been as evil as Bathory, and that includes bands like Sarcofago, Deicide, Darkthrone, and even Bathory’s 80s peers of extreme Metal like Sepultura, Slayer, Hellhammer and Onslaught. I do enjoy listening to all of the aforementioned bands, but no one comes close to the evilness of Bathory with the exception of one band in the mid to early 80s…Mercyful Fate. The thing is though, they weren’t the same style of Metal. They were just as evil and blasphemous, but they were an entirely different style of Metal. Both bands though, can be considered Black Metal, and indeed were back in the 80s.