Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Into the Void: Bathory

Bathory - Bathory (Oct, 1984)

When I said that black metal had a recognizable and distinct sound, I meant it. And Bathory absolutely has that sound. It's interesting to me that all the band that I've covered so far have been trios, and Bathory is another one. Quorthon, the mastermind behind the band, was the only one who adopted a stage name, though. Compared to In The Sign of Evil, Bathory sounds sharper, nastier, and, frankly, more evil. You wouldn't think that boosting the treble the guitars could make that huge of a difference, but it does.The riffing is fast and frenetic; you can definitely hear thrash sounds in there. Quothorn uses a lot of rapid hammer-on/pull-off techniques (just listen to the opening riff of "Hades") that give the music an almost out-of-control feeling, but still with simplicity. The solos are simple but fast.

The other tremendous difference between Bathory and everything that came before it is Quothon's snarled lyrical delivery. There's nothing particularly original about the lyrics at this point (bands had been spewing occultism for years at this point), but the nearly-indistinguishable howling sounds absolutely evil. Frankly, I think this is the weakest that Quothon's lyrics ever were, but I find it interesting how similar some of the songs are to Venom's Black Metal. Both albums have songs called "Raise the Dead" and "Sacrifice," although Bathory's "Raise the Dead" is more similar to Venom's "Buried Alive" in lyrical content. But the fact remains that for the overall "feeling of evil," Bathory beats Venom hands down.

The drums are, frankly, simple. This is the only place where Sodom sounds more ahead of the curve than Bathory. Stefan Larsson uses a lot of basic rock beats, including a lot of "skank beats" (basically a low-tempo blast beat), so you can hear where things will start to head in the future. Yet the way the drums are recorded is more important than what they actually play. The cymbals have a lot of airy reverb, the kick is mixed low, and the snare just sounds messy and splattery. To me, it sounds like a rickety drum kit played in somebody's garage (which is actually exactly what it was). Compare this to the drum sound on Van Halen's 1984, Maiden's Powerslave, or 'Tallica's Ride the Lightning (all of which also came out in 1984) and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about. Even In the Sign of Evil, with all its sloppiness, had a more traditionally miked and mastered drum sound. The "necro sound" started here with Bathory.

Final Judgment: 6/10 - This album is original and great, and a first in so many ways. I can't see rating it higher than this, though, because they have a long way left to climb.

No comments:

Post a Comment