Bathory’s self-titled debut was a triumph, thrusting the band onto
the worldwide stage. The band decided to up the ante and move into
grimmer territory, stepping further into the darkness. Although a
pioneering effort and crucial to Bathory’s development, “The Return”…
suffers from a few rhythmic hiccups and tends to be overshadowed by the
albums that bookend it. That being said, there is still plenty of worth
in this record and is essential to the Bathory fan.
7. Quorthon challenges himself more, spreading his songwriting wings
a bit and trying out a few twists here and there that probably wouldn’t
have appeared last time around. There’s more of a focus on an evil and
stark atmosphere, especially evident in some of the album’s slower
moments. The trade-off is less catchy material compared to the debut. A
few more hooks as sharp as songs like “Sacrifice” or “War” could’ve
brought this album ahead of its predecessor.
8. Higher budget but not necessarily better. A nice thick guitar
tone (with a more audible low-end, I swear I can even hear a bassist in
there) and sharper vocals are a plus but the drums have an uneven,
overly-reverbed sound that occasionally smothers some of the other
8. Another showcase of great riffing courtesy of Quorthon. More
dynamic playing with darker moments, better soloing and just an overall
nastier tone to the overall approach of the guitarwork on display.
Everything is less obviously thrashy and more unique to the band’s
style. Some of the loose-sounding strumming retains its place on the
more mid-paced tracks while low tremolo-picking starts to introduce
itself into the Bathory riff repertoire.
8. A little too in the background in spots, sometimes a bit overly
processed-sounding. More vocal presence and a warmer sound would’ve
done wonders. Regardless, Quorthon delivers another stellar performance
and some of the vocal effects are well done. The man really howls and
showcases some downright nasty screams.
6. The bass is felt much more this time around, giving the guitar a
solid booming low-end. It’s audible enough to make its presence felt
without ever muddying up the mix or rounding off the tone too much.
Appropriate enough as its used more to be felt rather than carry any
kind of melodies or stray from the guitars for the most part. It’s
worth noting there are a couple of deviations that add a small sense of
unpredictability (see “The Return of the Darkness of Evil”).
4. One step forward, two steps back in this department. On one hand
the playing is more diverse with tempo-changes, fills and more
interesting cymbal work in parts. On the other, there are a lot of
sloppy sections during the thrashier beats where the tempo undulates
ever so slightly. The result is disarming and saps the momentum out of
the faster sections. This combined with the overly reverbed snare cause
a sort of disorienting effect occasionally.
8. The words don’t flow quite as well as on the debut as we see an
abandonment of the strict rhyming scheme Bathory used early on. There’s
a bit more of a free aspect to a lot of it, more abstract and dark
qualities, keeping in line with the general direction of growth in the
music. Topics range from general evil, violence and darkness for the
most part with the exception of “Bestial Lust (Bitch).” It seems to be a
sort of tongue-in-cheek recount of exaggerated lust-filled tales
perfectly serving as the narrative to the album’s thrashiest number.
7. Minimalist shot of the night sky as the moon reveals itself. The
photograph is lo-fi yet powerful, a notion that suits Bathory well.
6. Old English font, at the very top and stretching all the way across the top; this is a Bathory album all right.
7. Another reissue with that ridiculous Black Mark ad. Basic lyrics
with a medieval woodcut (shit, were they first on that too?) but the
coolest part is the reverse. Rather than a typical tracklisting we get a
sort epic apocalyptic poem with the songtitles capitalized throughout.
If you’re looking for what song you’re on it doesn’t really help
(combined with Black Mark screwing up the way the tracks are divided on
pretty much all of these reissues) but it sets the right mood for what
the band are doing on this album.
I find this album to be a slight step below all of the other classic
Bathory releases (everything up to and including Twilight of the Gods)
but it’s still a strong release. It was an absolutely essential step
for Bathory to take and despite my occasional criticism it is a quality
listen and should be on your shelves. Some growing pains and the
occasionally shoddy drumwork keep the record from perfection but the
songs still shine through.