BATHORY - Bathory (BLACK MARK - LP 1984)
It is a damn cold morning, with snow covering everything outside. Ha, my first though, after waking up, was that it is a perfect condition to put a Norwegian record on the turntable… and my choice would normally be something like early Satyricon or Immortal or any other classic Norwegian black metal band, but once my sight laid on the collection of Bathory albums I knew that I need to start the day with something even more archaic and something what actually is the real root for the Norwegian black metal. So, Bathory and the debut album of Quorthon was my choice. Well, I hope I don’t need to remind you the whole story behind this LP and the fact that it actually is the very first real black metal LP, at least in my opinion. And I say that because honestly I always rated Bathory much higher than the early Venom outputs, including the genre calling “Black Metal” LP, which was good of corpse, with many classics included, but which is just not as perfect as any of the early Bathory releases. So, knowing the consequence of my thesis, this is MY first black metal classic release. But then again I cannot say that it is the best Bathory release, because it is not, but surely one, which contains many – the whole tracklist? – classic tunes and one, which went further in its diabolical, raw and primitive display than anyone and anything before. And it was 1984, let me remind you. I was fuckin four years old at the time, when Quorthon recorded “Bathory” hehe!
One may wonder what the hell everybody sees in an album, with so low budget, primitive, harsh and with so terribly garage production, where the songs – if you listen to them nowadays – sound so archaic and everything is just a mess? Well, but isn’t that actually a charm of such releases? Would you imagine “Bathory” with the crystal clean production and with Quorthon’s vocals not as rasp and utterly inhuman? No way it would sound as good as it does. And would this album be the same, with a colourful, stylish cover? No fuckin way!!!! “Bathory” has actually one of the simplest, but most effective and memorable front artworks in the history of metal music and it is so effective that no surprise it ended up as the theme for so many t-shirts or tattoos.
The howling wind, infernal bells and chains resound… isn’t that a classic black metal intro? “Storm of Damnation” certainly evokes an eerie, sinister atmosphere right away and sets the right mood for the whole album. And musically it is something what haven’t been heard before at that time. I can only imagine what confusion and mixed feelings it must have raised when people were listening to it in 1984. I don’t think something so utterly evil, primitive and noisy has been recorded before, maybe only Hellhammer demos were matching it and then also Sodom’s “In the Sign of Evil”, which also are for me a foundation of the black metal we know. The riffing on “Bathory” is quite specific, because it sounds like someone took rock’n’roll and heavy metal and transformed it into something way faster and more horrid; maybe took some of the Motorhead, a bit of Venom (although I don’t know if Quorthon was ever influenced by them??) and made something even more obscure… and recorded the music in the most primitive conditions, which the recording studio can provide.
To be honest I sometimes rate this album higher than the music may deserve, mainly due to its historical value, more than to the real value of the music, which “Bathory” contains. I mean there are classic songs, no doubt, but they are just not as perfect as the stuff from some of the future Bathory releases, especially the 666% perfect “Under the Sign of Black Mark” and utterly evil “The Return…”, not to mention the three classic and utterly epic Viking albums which followed the two, which I just mentioned. I like them more than “Bathory” and that is probably why my final rate is not 100, but 85; mind though that for the pure historical matter I would give it a perfect, 100, score. From the other hand I am not surprised that this may be the most influential of all Bathory releases and when you listen to “In Conspiracy With Satan” tribute to Bathory you’ll realize than “Bathory” was covered there almost entirely.
And if you still have not enough then read some of the albums lyrics, terribly simple and infantile, but wonderfully charming nowadays: “I heard the angels cry, I watched the witches fly, I saw the clouds of death, slowly blackening the sky…”, “I swear the oath of blood and tear the virgin's flesh, I gash the wounds of heaven and rides the wings of death…”.
Standout tracks: “Hades”, “Reaper”, “Sacrifice”, “In Conspiracy With Satan”, “War”, “Armageddon”, “Raise the Dead”
Final rate: 85/100