Bathory

The simple thrash project that revived black metal became history when Quorthon's first two albums took over the reigns to extreme from Slayer, Sodom, and Venom. Later music is more mass-produced speedmetal.

Bathory
Black Mark

1984
Production: Dissolved sound of a buried garage.

Review: A blistering halo of noise accompanies atmospheric riffing in a Venom/Slayer hybrid style which develops melodic complexity while maintaining continuity within the framework of constant driving tempo with few fills or variations, wrapping the core of this virus in an aesthetic of chaos coming into focus before vanishing. The voice of Quorthon carries the essential melody of each song, and changes with the riffs to indicate structural alteration. Guitars seethe at raw intensity of dynamic noise, hissing and screaming through speed riffs and powerful tone-centric drives which use power chords as the basis for phrases emphasizing fundamental differences in harmonic relevance of notes to a central structure.

Tracklist:

1. Storm of Damnation (Intro) (3:07)
2. Hades (2:45)
3. Reaper (2:44)
4. Necromansy (3:41)
5. Sacrifice (3:17)
6. In Conspiracy With Satan (2:29)
7. Armageddon (2:32)
8. Raise the Dead (3:42)
9. War (2:15)
10. Outro (0:23)
Length: 26:57

the first album from bathory in 1984 was a watershed for both black metal and its predecessor death metal
Copyright © 1984 Black Mark

In this, the music brings forth its lineage of Venom in circular riff/chorus structures centered around a tone and a rhythmic motion to note progressions shaped for its return and emphasis, countering that tendency with a Slayeresque expansion of riff through transition and layers of textural and arrangement inflections mapping the growth of basic components of theme. The tendency inherited from rock to use advancing cyclic structures of verse increments concluding in a transition to the next segment of song allows melodic continuity through reference and implication, providing a labyrinthine but clear navigation. Guitar solos and offset structural insertions serve where in future albums narrative will expand.

Rising from the midst of this bulk are tendrils of delicate melody leaning toward statements in the classical style which summarize the developments in phrasing so far and resolve to a fusion, fission or restatement of major theme. These moments of enlightenment occur as product of the rudimentary power chord riffing building atmosphere to a point; for this reason this album like most of the Bathory works diverges from a mainstream view of music by using dynamic consistency to serve goals of dramatic revelation to the piece. In this raw poetry the fusion of the lowest and highest in popular music dove underground with a chaotic and powerful album.

The Return...
Black Mark

1985
Production: Raw basement studio.

Review: Jagged instantiation of elemental conflict in racing powerchord riffs fuels the antagonism Bathory channel through phrases varied over nearly unceasing mechanistic percussion, providing a basis for music with both less conventional structure and more melodic coherence than previous efforts in extreme music. Churning relentlessness of rhythm changing emphasis and shape within consistent tempo drives music forward, while the combination of riff ambience and vocal texture creates a space for recombinance.

Tracklist:

1. Revelation of Doom (3:27)
2. Total Destruction (3:51)
3. Born for Burning (5:14)
4. The Wind of Mayhem (3:13)
5. Bestial Lust (2:42)
6. Possessed (2:42)
7. The Rite of Darkness (2:06)
8. Reap of Evil (3:29)
9. Son of the Damned (2:48)
10. Sadist (3:00)
11. The Return of the Darkness and Evil (3:49)
12. Outro (0:26)
Length: 36:49

the return of darkness and evil from bathory started new interest in the black metal genre circa 1985 on black mark records
Copyright © 1985 Black Mark

Roaring into life with abrupt and explosive changes, beginnings and fades, the elemental music here composed of standard form power chords implies layers in its structural abuttments to open phrase cycles of verse and chorus in the minimalist, angular hardcore style that Venom adapted but applied less artfully. Slayer-inspired tremelo riffing and notions of song structure conforming only to the poetic expressions of theme shape to each song, placed into the linear confines of atmospheric blast drumming, forms the bulk of the work while moments of revelation that present change or conclusion to each song capture the heavy metal ideal of epic reduction and closure.

Consistent dynamic exists mainly for listenability and not omnipotently, varying at key moments to lower intensities for the purpose of building new continuities of tone and rhythm from which theme can arise, changing with segments of song to sequence mood to another cadence of human motion. Much as Possessed bury melody within ascendant grinding riff conflict, Bathory carefully inlay melodic lead riffing of deconstructed variants of the shifting motif. Howled vocals in the black metal rasp are dramatic and alter presence in music with rhythm and timbre, while it is the lyrical voice of guitar changing in riffs that advances the story of each song.

Inspired by the Beatles, Quorthon at first made music in the style of Venom and Slayer but here branched into his own style, putting nihilistic riffing into grander song structure that approaches post-rock complexity and often achieves it. The result is a foundation of black metal that surpassed original influences and generated an aesthetic basis that much of modern black metal (Havohej, Darkthrone, Immortal, Burzum) embraced with vigor.

Under the Sign of the Black Mark
Black Mark

1986
Production: Garage sounds overextended to provide an atmosphere of primitive savagery.

Review: Blastmaster Quorthon brings his third album by ultra-primitive black metal band Bathory into the spotlight by curving his style toward that of conventional rock, with more catchy and conclusive choruses and slightly more technique and style.

The metal-stamper percussion works as an effective offset by sustaining the same furious ranting pace without cessation for phrase endings or anything except major structural changes, allowing the guitar to introduce numerous smaller textural riffs and variations along the same major tempo, driving high-intensity discharge behind the strobing guitar.

Tracklist:

1. Nocturnal Obeisance
2. Massacre
3. Woman of dark desires
4. Call from the grave
5. Equimanthorn
6. Enter the Eternal Fire
7. Chariots of fire
8. 13 Candles of doom


Copyright © 1986 Black Mark

Atmospheric in its intent, guitar uses simple chords for composition of deliberately straightforward and aggressive riffs, with chorus riffs following the vocal track and all other riffs building direction by shadowing the consistent rhythm of the terminator-style drum machine. Solos break out of the music, mockingly disguised as utter randomness but following the harmonies of each song's major theme.

The stretched and eroded voice of Quorthon hisses from a distant height to the music, chanting the psalms of lyrical evil created for our aesthetic sustenance as listeners. The combined tribute to and parody of previous generations of metal invokes the emphasis on impurity prevalent throughout this work.

Where this differs from previous Bathory is in the evolution of tempo beyond the direct influence of Venom and Slayer, the primary progenitors of this style; here something closer to, ahem, Motorhead can be heard with recursing and counterpoint rhythms underlying simple, almost ambient riffs that emphasize resonance over harmonic motion.

In this classic evolution the future of black metal reveals itself, and the ambition of increasing complexity is tempered only by the rising tide of melodrama threatening to swamp all taste with dogmatically obvious songwriting.

Blood, Fire, Death
Black Mark

1987
Production: Spacious, vivid although soft.

Review: In a genre that had inspired motion beyond the linear and reactive, Bathory made an epic statement of the spirit enmeshed in the ideology and symbols of the genre, rendering from Norse mythology a series of views into concepts of death and ultimate destruction. With a passion and sense of melodic poetry to songwriting unmatched by almost all bands, this Swedish act rendered a resurgent and vital journey through the subconscious to Jungian self-assertion.

Opening with a classically-derived intro and brief allusive overture encompassing broad conceptual associations the album moves quickly into a style of riffing that hybridizes the fast flutterstrum of Slayer and more emphatic single-stroke arrangements to create a style that explodes with the dynamicism of majestic heavy metal and sinuously unveils its inner workings with the reptilian consciousness of raw and urgent, alienated, isolated black metal. Vocals are a hoarse shout giving credit to both the hissing howl of earlier Bathory works and the more ambitious vocal work on albums to follow.

Tracklist:

1. Odens Ride Over Nordland (3:00)
2. A fine Day To Die (8:36)
3. The Golden Walls Of Heaven (5:23)
4. Pace 'till Death (3:40)
5. Holocaust (3:26)
6. For All Those Who Died (4:57)
7. Dies Irae (5:12)
8. Blood Fire Death (10:30)
9. Outro (0:59)
Length: 45:45

bathory blood, fire, death was an epic black metal album released in 1987 by black mark records in sweden
Copyright © 1987 Black Mark

Songs are unique, in structure and in the essential juncture of melody and rhythm that forms their evolving core, and each holds attention through distinctive mechanism and in an honest artistic sense, states a theme which is symbolically linked to eventiture or conception and then naturally expands and destroys it as if events were playing out in a reality accepting the presuppositions of Viking allusion. Instrumentalism is precise and while sometimes rock-influenced, blends threads of ideal with a concentration of effort on melody and blasting raw riffs that exceed the study of motion and impact found on the second work from this band.

Violent and yet varied in dynamic to present narrative scenario unfolding as a series of visions with associated perceptual emotions, these pieces bring mood to the forefront in a focus on development of story and listener immersion in the sensations and theory of that reality. Lyricism and an emergent sense of logic in noise distinguish lead guitar and vocal efforts in a fullness to these songs of mostly consistent harmonic construction.

Structuralist lead riffing furthers intensity at times of precision or directional variability in melodic continuity of phrase and complements power chord riffing varying from the simplest to extensive progressions of similar structures within a melodic structure shifting with the harmony of song. As such, this is of the older school of metal on its way to the newer, and as the end of the previous cycle does all that a warrior of apocalypse must: summarizes the past and advances it to its height as a means of reducing it and forcing a search for new space to conquer.

Influential visibly on Immortal, Burzum, Enslaved and Emperor, this album culminated the foundational work of Bathory and remains attentionable in the current time for its raw spirit and immortal melody in the assembly of storytelling. Epic and disenchanted meet in this saga of the end.

Twilight of the Gods
Black Mark

1991
Production: Well captured songs in soundtrack depth.

Review: Perhaps the lost musical companion to "Gravity's Rainbow" or the Beatles album that stayed on the shelves, "Twilight of the Gods" is an epic of heavy metal opera that transcends all scope previously addressed in rock music to present the essence of individuals in crisis in the presence time: nothing to believe in, and even our own behavior has failed - what is left? "O, all small creatures: it is the twilight of the gods!"

Tracklist:

1. Prologue/Twilight of the Gods/Epilogue (14:02)
2. Through Blood by Thunder (6:15)
3. Blood and Iron (10:25)
4. Under the Runes (6:00)
5. To Enter Your Mountain (7:37)
6. Bond of Blood (7:35)
7. Hammerheart (4:58)
Length: 56:64

bathory twilight of the gods black mark 1991
Copyright © 1991 Black Mark

Structured like a visual revelation of story, the album opens with an epic after silence and returns to that emptiness, emerging through organic sound as the whole of its recollection of how the situation got to the point reflected in the inception, chaos and the title track ("In this age of utter madness, we pretend we are in control"). From this point careful orchestration of dynamic distinguishes this release as songs utilize acoustics, a capella and lush weavings of keyboard and organic noise to present spaces in which explosive conquest of space occurs through rhythm and melody.

In songwriting epic, in tactics built of melodic heavy metal dependent on internal harmony for resonance, these indulgently operatic works present emotion through vocals, in the style of rock music, and like more progressive rock works use changes in verse to indicate lyrical changes in singing cueing imminent change. Forerunners of the Nordic black metal stomp beat and rowing rhythm can be heard, as well as careful use of introductory and interlude material for conceptual balance, a technique which has appeared on modern metal albums. Further the concepts and language used on this release are now familiar thanks to their absorption by Burzum, Graveland, Immortal, Darkthrone and others.

Although not as much metal as heavy metal/rock, this highly intelligent and philosophically erudite work of the end of human history expresses the alienation and dying hope expectable from such an age, and channeling through art its emotion expressed a stage on which others would build with the opposite reaction: we must fight back.

Blood on Ice
Black Mark

1996

Production: A resurrected recreation from old Bathory tapes, this representation is clear but slightly greyed in tone.

Review: Epic masterpiece metal from the seventies grows older and becomes this strange Viking punk fusion, a metal that uses mellow dark punk riffs under a overbearing story of quest and battle. The earlier Bathory albums that inspired a genre following had a similar basic structure interpreted more rigorously and aggressively with a power chord bludgeon searing grind overload, but here this stuff is more - well, normal rock - and with that handicap it makes good, even though it retains the fundamentally ludicrous and performance-art-oriented nature of black metal.

Tracklist:

1. Intro (1:45)
2. Blood on Ice (5:41)
3. Man of Iron (2:47)
4. One Eyed Old Man (4:21)
5. The Sword (4:07)
6. The Stallion (5:13)
7. The Woodwoman (6:17)
8. The Lake (6:42)
9. Gods of Thunder of Wind and of Rain (5:42)
10. The Ravens (1:09)
11. The Revenge of the Blood on Ice (9:52)
Length: 53:42

bathory blood on ice 1996 black mark
Copyright © 1996 Black Mark

Sometimes it seems absurdly happy yet the music is dark, drawn-out strumming of chords and tremello rhythms with the strident, youthful voice of Quorthon wailing his operatic vocals in disturbing counterpoint to his music. Romanticism kept barely dormant in this campfire rockish material breaks forth in the vocals and keyboards but seems overemphasizing the solid basis of the guitar riffs, which provide a strobing rhythm faintly colored with NWOBHM around which the programmed, repetitive drums and accompaniment play.

The aesthetic as a whole is troubling because of its guilelessness. Where majesty and vast motion of sound occurred on Bathory and Celtic Frost albums earlier, this work approaches directly in a simple honesty and overdemonstrated emotion similar to that of folk and Viking rock from past ages. The use of harmonies and the variations in strumming speed determine paired rhythmic and modal concepts to be later pioneered by faster black metal bands such as DarkThrone, Immortal, and Enslaved.

Like anything from a former age, there are some parts that are recognizably parameter - that is, part of membership in the genre in which the art is created - but these are held well by the more inspiring and raw, potential-laden forms of the sound Quorthon was developing. But as time passes, he still grasps the bare minimum component of his music which is the logicianís ability to structure a riff by dividing modalities into a rhythm, an ability that makes his albums always vaguely memorable if inconclusive.

Bathory - Octagon
Tracklist
1. Immaculate Pinetreeroad #930
2. Born To Die
3. Psychopath
4. Sociopath
5. Grey
6. Century
7. 33 Something
8. War Supply
9. Schizianity
10. Judgement Of Posterity
11. Deuce
Length: 39:51
Octagon (Black Mark, 1995)
After a graceful arc through primitive underground black/death metal into epic Viking metal that merged folk music and black metal, Bathory attempted to reinvent itself by merging past influences and its own successes in a series of albums that hit with blinding speed and abrasion yet felt hollow within. Unlike earlier albums, there is no binding theme expressed in imagery and music that unites these works; they are like a pamphlet of haiku poems, each finding a different insight that together reads like one of the more insightful newspaper columns from the time of the collapse of a once-vibrant culture. Clean vocals that are true to Quorthon's poor singing voice quite thin cover riffs that for the most part could have been outtakes from the second Bathory album, but here are inserted into the context of songs in speed metal structure and tempo. Unfortunately, percussion is a mechanical drum machine that fails to take advantage (sensu Godflesh) of what can be done with a deliberately ahuman machine sound; this is complemented by the speed of the work, which requires it to bang along like a rattling two-stroke. Guitars are both loud and thin, as if tracks were not doubled except in the mixing booth. These errors of production and aesthetic make it difficult to hear the power this music at times has, and have even confused the artist, as this album flags in intensity and confidence as it progresses; earlier songs hold together well but later songs have a pencilled-in and pasted-together feel which adulterates the power of these creative and often hard-hitting riffs; the ingredients were good but the concept missing, so the artist shoved everything into an adaptation of standard song format that seemed appropriate for the style of the album (see comments on production/aesthetic factors above). All of this contributes to the sensation that this album is a four-track bedroom demo that, through a diabolical clerical error, got pressed and released while the artist was in a depressed and/or drugged funk. Had Quorthon had the energy to listen to this for a couple years and then return to it, he might have shaped these excellent raw materials into a top-notch album, but for now these will always fit between the seminal Bathory work and the hard rock-influenced disasters at the conclusion of its career, as remains of the old hanging on before a total giving-up ushered in the insincerity of the new.

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