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Class 6(66)

Bathory: Bathory

17/04/12  ||  Sokaris

Introduction

It’s not a bold claim to consider Thomas Börje Forsberg (better known as Quorthon) the single most important individual in black metal. It’s not controversial to view him as a godfather of the second wave movement, when black metal fully became its own sound. Before Scandinavia was known as a hotbed for extreme heavy metal he was laying down the blueprints for black metal. He formed Bathory as the first (and still by far the best) one-man low budget metal studio band, constantly evolving until a new, almost equally pioneering style emerged. Quorthon is the godfather of both Viking metal and the pioneering force that bridges first and second wave black metal, pushing the genre towards something beyond just the evil side of thrash and never looking back.

Songwriting

8. Straightforward, to the point and smart. If you only know Bathory by reputation you might be surprised just how catchy and energetic a lot of it. In a nutshell this is Venom pushed to the next extreme, even rawer and more chaotic. Quorthon denied being influenced by the British trio, probably one of the least believable claims in metal considering many of the song titles and the raucous choruses. It’s either a case of mutual Motorhead influence or Quorthon fucking with us. Tangents aside, the songwriting isn’t fancy or pretty and it doesn’t need to be. It should be noted that no matter how dark and sinister the atmosphere is there are still deep hooks in each song, dragging the listener along for one hell of a ride.

Production

9. This is a strange thing to rate as from a technical standpoint the production is quite poor. One can dig up what amounts to recording horror stories about the circumstances Quorthon was forced into just make the record happen. The sound is murky, raw and particularly lo-fi. However, for what the band is doing that’s perfect. The guitars are scorched and mean sounding, the bass rumbles behind it and the drums boom with a reverb we seem to have lost somewhere in the 1980s. Quorthon’s hissing voice slithers throughout, sizzling the upper frequencies. My only complaint is that the solos seem to drown out the rhythm guitar a bit when they come in.

Guitars

8. Deliciously heavy, evil guitaring all around. Fast strumming thrash riffs, power chords and the occasional noisy solo. Simple and it gets the job done. Quorthon would prove himself a genius at doing a lot with relatively basic elements. Nothing technical (obviously) but very well-played with a great tone and a hell of a lot of conviction.

Vocals

9. I’m a huge fan of Bathory’s early shrieked vocals and I’m sure I’m not alone. Quorthon is really screaming his ass off, putting a ton of force and feeling into his voice. Despite that he retains excellent control and has as much charisma as any thrash shouter. Full of attitude and grit, most of the Norwegian legions he influenced years after still didn’t do blackened vocals as well as he did.

Bass

5. Though Bathory didn’t go as all-out trebly as a lot of later black metal acts there’s really nothing to speak of regarding bass. Its lack of presence doesn’t hurt the music, nothing feels as though it’s missing but there’s not really anything to praise or damn.

Drums

6. Appropriate but a little underwhelming. Good energy and power even if the drum lines themselves are nothing special. Everything’s played straight but competently without any dramatic pattern changes throughout. Anything overly elaborate probably wouldn’t fit but I wouldn’t be against a fill here and there. The tone compliments the rest of the proceedings well.

Lyrics

9. Surprisingly extremely well done. Grammar mistakes pop up occasionally but they give the lyrics more charm and personality than they detract. Very poetic, very mysterious writings on basic occult themes. The lines flow well together and Quorthon’s retains a very strict rhyming scheme that suits the music like a black leather glove.

Cover art

7. Keeping with the theme of scraping together basic elements and joining them into something greater is the iconic Bathory goat. Reportedly cobbled together from disparate elements of comic book creatures and unleashed upon the metal public Frankenstein-style. I think the goat could probably take the monster in a fight though. I bet those red pupils shoot fucking fire; though he looks a little cross-eyed so his aim might suck.

Logo

7. All-caps gothic typeface before everyone and their grim-ass grandma did it to death. It looks cool and I’ve always been a fan of how much prominence is given to the band name at the top of the album covers.

Booklet

5. My copy is a later reissue featuring just basic text inside (with a smaller picture of the goat) and a giant tacky ad on the backside of the booklet telling me to buy more Bathory shit from Black Mark. I will put up with those annoying little flyers that Century Media put in their releases over using actual booklet space to shill.

Overall and ending rant

A flawed masterpiece or do the flaws make it the masterpiece it is? There’s no objective way to rate the overall sonic impact of an album even if you do evaluate all of the individual elements that compose it. Sometimes the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts. Anyway, philosophic bullshit aside, this is indispensable if you’re into either the first wave of black metal (the more Satanic side of mid-80s metal) or the Norwegian-led movement later on. Darkness, energy, conviction and ambition all seethe from this album’s blackened core. If you want raw and real, you want Bathory.

8,5

  • Information
  • Released: 1984
  • Label: Black Mark
  • Website: www.bathory.nu/
  • Quorthon: vocals, guitars
  • Rickard “Ribban” Bergman: bass
  • Stefan Larsson: drums
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Storm of Damnation
  • 02. Hades
  • 03. Reaper
  • 04. Necromansy
  • 05. Sacrifice
  • 06. In Conspirasy With Satan
  • 07. Armageddon
  • 08. Raise the Dead
  • 09. War
  • 10. Outro