Review Summary: The quintessence of darkness and evil.
The history of black metal is a dense and convoluted one. Over the initial ten years of the genre’s existence, black metal was defined by the insatiable search for extremity, encompassing all of metal’s darkest qualities and truly being the largest amalgam of the style. Where other genres were setting styles in stone, black metal hungered and enveloped more and more styles to become its own. Taking its fire from all the reaches of death metal, heavy metal, speed metal, thrash metal, doom metal and punk, black metal undoubtedly lived up to its name, both with the complete absorption of the spectrum as well as the complete absence of light.
Bathory became the ultimate embodiment of what black metal was and could be in 1985 with The Return of the Darkness and Evil
, encompassing all its forms and experiments up until that point in time. With the opening ambiance of ‘Revelation of Doom’, something stirs deep within the darkness. Wailing, thunderous guitars rise slowly and tattered moans fill the gaps. There’s a precedent being set here, an atmosphere that remains unrivalled in pure evil power. This is the experimentation of black metal realised in its ability to be present just in the aesthetics of miasmic feedback.
Throughout the album, noisy, fragmented solos rip haphazardly, almost like they were improvised tangles of dissonance that would make Trey Azagthoth blush. The drums pound away almost completely against the rhythm of the guitars, speeding up and slowing down with bass drum kicks waxing and waning in impossible to replicate beats. Quorthon slurs satanic passages in a drunken stupor. At the time there was nothing quite like it, and there has still yet to be any album that can match the style, furiosity, and atmosphere of The Return……
As black metal progressed over time, this album stood as the blueprint for what would become the second wave, as bands like Darkthrone and Burzum took many cues from Quorthon’s unique vision of speed, atmosphere and fun
. Despite the light-heartedness of the makers, there’s a heavy weight of spirituality that waits for those who wish to find it. The dynamic of the head-smashing riffs contrasts the deep kinship the listener can find with such a barbaric record. The Return……
transcends beyond the drunken search for speed and extremity and remains, to this day, the perfect expression of black metal.