I was listening to Scandinavian Metal Attack, a compilation of Heavy Metal released earlier the same year that the Swedish one man band Bathory featured on, when I realized its been well over a decade since Id last dived into these classic records that influenced the shape of Black Metal to come. Venom coined the name two years earlier but Quorthorn took the cheese out of the equation, sharpening the axe of evil with an aggression, keenly influenced by Motorhead. This self titled debut pushed the pummeling sound further whilst taking the occult seriously, laying foundations for a whole new musical scene to arise, inspired by the taboos of evil.
With a brittle angular distortion guitar tone and shrieking howls, this dusky record and its simply awful audio fidelity presents an initial challenge. Much of the tone is pushed into the mid to high range with the low ranges being a muddy mess of bass resonance. All instruments have there sloppy moments with riffs falling off beat, drum strikes inconsistent and collisions of noise. Despite this the music overcomes the technical aspects, Quorthorn's throaty shouts and groans are sufficiently menacing for his evil themes of all things occult and taboo to have a sense of seriousness.
For a primitive and somewhat embryonic record the songs hold up well all these years later. The punkish riffing slogging power chords and melody interwoven picking rhythms stand on their own two feet. Without chasing the gimmicks of speed and extremity for extremities sake, Quorthorn uses his guitar to forge a genuine direction often illuminated by the shrill eruptions of lead guitar that dazzle the songs with speedy tapping arriving through a difficult to decipher whirl of low fidelity sound.
Its Intro and Outro songs make light use of thematic soundscapes to embellish the tone. I can't comment much on the origins of such integration in Metal but its almost no surprise to hear it here as many pioneering ideas have roots in Bathory. Another being the abrupt ending of tracks on two songs, something Darkthrone would get a lot of credit for later. Not all the songs are great, a couple drone with repetition but it has its moments. Many year from my last dive into this world, its clear the songwriting prevails and so its aesthetic elements fall into place given the uncomfortable topicality. The influence is obvious, the nostalgia magical but the best is yet to come!
Favorite Track: Raise The Dead