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Friday, July 5, 2013

Bathory: The Return...

THE RETURN... (1985)

1) Revelation Of Doom / Total Destruction; 2) Born For Burning; 3) The Wind Of Mayhem; 4) Bestial Lust; 5) Possessed; 6) The Rite Of Darkness / Reap Of Evil; 7) Son Of The Damned; 8) Sadist; 9) The Return Of The Dark­ness And Evil; 10) Outro.

It would be unwise to expect a sophomore album, titled Return, to be seriously different from its predecessor. There are a few changes, though. First, the production is a little better: Quorthon's guitars no longer sound like the echo of a drilling machine three miles away — they actually sound like real guitars, if still a little farther away from the mike than would be recommendable. Second, as impossible as it sounds, the album is even more «consistent» than its predecessor — everything, apart from the dark-weathered «satanic-ambient» intro, is brutally fast (Bathory, at the very least, slowed down for ʽRaise The Deadʼ).

Unfortunately, the consistency and dedication also means that musically, this is a step down: second time around, it is clear that brutality, «darkness and evil» are far more important for Quorthon than musicality. Most of the riffs are now interchangeable — based on rather standard chord sequences, typical for hardcore and thrash artists. Quorthon's solos are, in fact, more com­mendable than the riffs: he does not indulge in them on every track (an interesting link between Bathory and the hardcore punk attitude here, rather than their metal brethren), but when he does, they are not so much empty technical feats of finger-flashing as a device to heat up the atmos­phere: he plays fast, but (as I suppose) relatively simple flurries of «angry» licks, sometimes with heavy echo effects, that have virtually no dynamics of their own (start in one place, go visit ano­ther, finally end up in a third one or where you started out, that sort of thing), but all rather sound like the musical equivalent of flashing lightning to the rhythm section's roaring thunder.

Quorthon's vocals are also clearer in the mix now, and incorporate more growling than they used to, even if it is still hardly possible to describe them as classic «growling» — more like «hoarse screeching» on the part of the protagonist whose larynx has just been shredded by the lances of all the Four Horsemen, and now Lucifer in person is doing a little tap dance on the bloody bits. Bad news — still not scary at all, Mr. Forsberg. Consistent, though.

Individual songs are hardly worth commenting upon, particularly since I have no favourite riffs on here, and vocal «melodies» are non-existent in the first place. Recurrent listens do show that the album has various influences — for instance, ʽBorn For Burningʼ is based on a very familiar «New Wave of Heavy Metal» kind of pattern, with a riff that would sound perfectly in place on a Judas Priest album. On the other hand, the basic pattern of ʽRite Of Darknessʼ is much more simple and straightforward, and with a slight tonality change most likely would have become a Ramones number. Some reviewers have, in fact, noted that, at the time, Bathory were really much more about the atmosphere than the technical accuracy and complexity normally demanded of metal bands — in fact, the limited time they had for their studio sessions leads to occasional mis­takes on the part of the rhythm section, something that would be unbelievable for a «true» metal band. But, of course, the atmosphere itself, with its carnivalesque Satanism, has nothing to do with the «hardcore» attitudes.

For some Bathory fans, The Return... and its follow-up are the quintessential Bathory albums, and I understand this: the take-no-prisoners, show-no-mercy approach is demonstrated here with 100% efficiency, if that is what you want from your grotesque genre of black metal. A compact, quickly passing thirty-six minutes of speed, thrash, and Dr. Evil riding on the coattails of The Horned One. But, of course, if you are just an innocent by-passer with a bit of curiosity to spare, any one of these songs will do for a brief taster — try the title track, for instance.

Check "The Return..." (CD) on Amazon
Check "The Return..." (MP3) on Amazon

1 comment:

  1. The rhythm section has improved but the songwriting declined. The result is just boring.