BATHORY: BATHORY (1984)
1) Storm Of Damnation; 2) Hades; 3) Reaper; 4) Necromansy; 5) Sacrifice; 6) In Conspiracy With Satan; 7) Armageddon; 8) Raise The Dead; 9) War; 10) Outro.
Whatever you think of the whole «black metal» schtick, it has to be acknowledged that, for an 18-year old, Bathory is quite a stunning achievement. There is one thing I am not sure of, and that is the whole «lo-fi» approach. On one hand, it is quite consistent with the general ideology of this band that their output should sound as if it were recorded inside a tightly packed garbage can. On the other hand, even the Devil himself probably likes to ride in style, rather than appear in the image of Freddy Krueger, the only guy who would have probably found the production standards of Bathory completely to the liking of his charred guts.
Which is too bad, because this record, even sharing as it does most of the clichés associated with «extreme» musical genres, is genuinely innovative (for its time) and impressive (for ours). The music is basically a cross between Venom and Slayer, with the grinning hellish carnival attitude of the former set to the thrash metal punch of the latter. Venom serve as the primary inspiration: not only is the goat picture on the front sleeve conceived as a tribute to the front cover of Black Metal, but even several of the songs share the same titles (ʽSacrificeʼ, ʽRaise The Deadʼ). But the music is faster, angrier, «punkier» than Venom ever got, and clearly reflects the influence of the thrash scene — as far as Bathory's opinion is concerned, the Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride fast and hard, and the music has to reflect that fact.
Most importantly, though, the music reflects the unquestionable talents of Thomas Börje Forsberg, usually known by the name of Quorthon, who, by the tender age of 18 years, had not only mastered the high level of guitar technique required to qualify for «metal master», but also developed a taste for complex and interesting riffage. Sure, it takes time and patience to rip through the awful production barrier (the whole album was slap-dashed together in a garage, converted to a recording studio), but after a couple of listens — which go by fairly fast, as the entire album clocks in at a very wise 26:52 — the riffs come through, and they are all similar, but different enough to distinguish one part of this twenty-six minute suite of death and destruction from another. Which is all that is required of them; the rest consists of a sworn dedication to kick ass at top speed (only ʽRaise The Deadʼ slows the tempo down a little bit, probably because the dead are not accustomed to rise as quickly as the Four Horsemen are accustomed to ride).
Quorthon's vocals, at this point, are strictly locked in the «evil scream» mode — a bit less laughable than typical «growling» vocals, just as his lyrics are a bit less laughable than the average black metal lyric, especially considering that they come from the mind of an 18-year old Swedish guy. (Well, they are laughable, but for the most part, the words are strung together without offending style or grammar). Just how serious the guy was exactly is hard to tell — as far as I know, nobody ever caught Quorthon in the act of burning down a church or feasting on the flesh of freshly baptised Christian babies, but, of course, stuff like "The lies of Christ will lose / The ways of Hell I choose / I drink the floating blood / Defy the fury of God" (ʽIn Conspiracy With Satanʼ) shows character — and helps build plenty of it.
Anyway, even though I cannot, for the life of me, award an explicit thumbs up to anything with this kind of production (if cleverly constructed riffs are your main forté, I can find no acceptable excuse to insult these riffs with cheap equipment), and, besides, Bathory would move on to much higher ground in the future, this self-titled debut is a fairly amusing listen — could even be one for open-minded Christians, who are not above a smirk or two at a caricaturesque, but professional musical depiction of the Antichrist. Rumour has it that Quorthon expressed surprise and distress when, upon the release of the album, the band started receiving blood-written letters and dead animals in the mail — then again, it only means that he managed to get into character all too well. (But a funny trivia bit: apparently, Quorthon's father was the head of a Swedish record label, and helped the kid out with recording and distribution during the early days of his career. So either we have to conclude that the band was a completely phony act from the beginning, or they got pretty liberal record label heads out there in Sweden).
Check "Bathory" (MP3) on Amazon