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The Beginning...... - 86%

TrooperEd, July 15th, 2017

One tends to notice that of the early Bathory records, the self titled and Under The Sign of the Black Mark get the most praise. This one gets suspiciously ignored. Usually the complaints are lauded at the production. I certainly hope these aren’t the same people that love Transilvanian Hunger and Filosofem for their minimalism, because minimalism is sort of a point for black metal. Yes the production and the guitar sound is a little odd, but that doesn’t stop it from being a great record. You could almost argue that this is the first true black metal album because while the ideas aren’t as streamlined as on Black Mark, most of the Venom tendencies are gone, and the fast sections are played faster than Slayer would ever hope to do, even in 1985! Songwriting wise, it’s has a tad more variety than the first album, but it’s not the plethora of different ideas as on Black Mark. In fact that’s pretty much this album in a nutshell, better than the first album, but not quite as good as the one that came after it.

There are definitely some moments on here that can be considered thrash. Born For Burning seems more like it belongs on Show No Mercy or Infernal Overkill than Worship Him. But that's A-Ok because Show No Mercy fucking owns. Who said thrash tendencies were a bad thing? There's the thrash break in Sadist, which is a rev up the mosh-pit moment if I've ever heard one. Bestial Lust is kinda thrashy but with more of a speed metal feel to it, almost like something that Exodus would have written for Bonded By Blood Rite of Darkness/Reap of Evil (yes its one song dammit) is certainly the most dynamic track which certainly feature thrash moments both fast and slow, just behold the practically triple time transition into the songs second half, followed by the breakdown that is so minimalist yet so heavy the musicians themselves seemed to forget where the time was. Then of course, there is the album's finest moment, the title track, which just rips face, flesh and bone with that intro riff. Plus who could forget that anthem like chorus? Anyone who felt traditional song-structures had no place in black metal is a fucking idiot, and this is exhibit A.

Of course, the lead guitar is excellent. It is simple, yet fierce. It is shredding, yet melodic. Virtuosity will always have a place in metal, but sometimes its better to do what is necessary. Quorthon's lead guitar style can best be described as imagining Eric Clapton was born a decade or so later in Sweden and had a penchant for virgin sacrifices. At times there seems like there are only maybe 3 or 4 notes total in his solos but he utilizes them very effectively. Inversely, it seems as though Stefan Larsson and Andreas can barely meet the necessary competency for their instruments. Yet, the struggling rhythm section fits the album perfectly. This is what truly gives this album its black mark. Especially during the fast songs like Total Destruction; such an effort to gel yet not quite establishes an off-center feel which will make first time, as well as veteran listeners extremely uneasy. Of course this approach would be perfected on Pleasure To Kill but now I'm just discussing measly semantics.

If there is a flaw here its that the intro, Revelation of Doom just goes on for too long, similar to the previous album's intro track. There's establishing atmosphere and then there's overcooking the chicken to the point where its dryer than a scorpion's cunt. Although at least this time it's more dynamic, relying on feedback and tortured screams and not just the same blustery day loop on repeat. Quorthon would hit the sweet spot with Nocturnal Obeisance, under a minute, which sets up the vicious scare perfectly.

The Return (of the Darkness & Evil) is one of two albums I would recommend newcomers to Bathory and black metal purchase first. While the debut has an infamous reputation, there was still a low rent Venom feel that it never completely shook off. But this? This is where black metal gained the blueprint which everyone afterwards would follow.

Recommended tracks:
The Return of The Darkness & Evil
Born For Burning
Rite of Darkness/Reap of Evil