While Bathory’s self titled might be the most often cited and classic record, I would argue The Return….. is actually much better and more of a herald of what was to come with black metal. The s/t is a thrashy speed metal record with some black metal vocals and satanic imagery, along with sloppy playing and an aesthetic along the lines of getting drunk with some hooligans and shouting about satan for fun. In The Return…. the gloves are off, and Bathory fully embraces the satanic aspect of their sound to create one of the most evil metal records of the 80s.
While s/t had some tracks that seemed slightly less focused or didn’t have a good balance between the on and off switch, The Return…. doesn’t have a single fucking bad track on here (other than MAYBE the intro, which isn’t bad but I think the s/t did it better), and in fact multiple black thrash classics such as Total Destruction and the title track. It’s actually amazing just how far removed this sounds from the rest of the first wave of black metal, despite arguably being the fully fledged beginning of it. While the tremelo riffs are not as prominent as they would be later on, everything else about this feels as if this could’ve been made at near any point in black metal’s history, and would’ve been lauded all the same. I feel like a lot of people consider that you need to account for the historical period to truly appreciate the early work of Bathory, but again, there is no history lessen needed to jam out to Reap of Evil, the song tells you the entire history for you.
This album is so damn timeless it feels a little silly to even fully review it, I can’t imagine how anyone can listen to this album and not have all of it’s merits revealed naturally. Arguably Bathory’s best record, and easily their most underrated.