THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL
February 1985
The Occulta / Okkulta session

 

          By now - end of 1984 and early 1985 - Quorthon would conduct fanzine interviews at the rate of ten per month. And through these fanzines BATHORY became aware of the array of other bands in Europe and elsewhere, all doing virtually the same thing as BATHORY apparently. They learned the names of the other bands in the underground scene, but was not yet familiar with the sound and style of each and every one of these acts.

- I know it might be hard for people to believe, particularly those who might have been around in the early 80's, but at the time we weren't aware of the other underground acts at all, or the underground scene. Just take into consideration the fact that when we formed BATHORY, the only metal that I actualy knew and would listen to was Motörhead, early Black Sabbath and an occasional Saxon album. Other than that I would listen to the Hardrock that I had grown up listening to like early KISS, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin.

- And had we known anything about the scene out there and its culture, there would probably have been tons of BATHORY cassettes circulating just as there were tons of tapes of other bands in circulation. But despite the array of bootleg BATHORY "demo's" out there on ebay and elsewhere today, we never ever made as much as a single tape for tape trading, demo or what have you. None of those so called BATHORY demo's out there today are genuine.

Satan Preaching in Hell...it was this sort of biblical illustrations and woodcuts
that was first thought of as a great cover for not only THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL
album but for the aborted NECRONOMCON / MALEFICARUM EP as well.

- I had just heard a Venom album at the Tyfon office shortly after the release of our debut. And through the fanzines we now got to learn a bit more about such acts as Hellhammer, Possessed, Kreator, Destruction (no Frank, sorry, I was never a fan) and Sodom. I also remember some other bands or at least hearing some tracks by bands like Demon Eyes, Raven, Blaspheme and Vulcain (which, by the way, I though good enough to actually listen to over and over again for half a year or so) plus Canadian band Exciter, which - if I remember correctl - meant a lot in terms of the sound we tried to achieve when recording THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL.

- I got to hear a complete Slayer album around this time as well, but can not remember what I thought of it other than I seem to recall being annoyed by the high pitch vocals and dual guitar solos. I believe a bassplaying friend of mine brought the Metallica debut along as well in December, but I was impressed only by the pure Marshall sound they had achieved.

- I also remember around this time I heard the Anthrax debut album, thinking to myself "-Intense musicians". But though great at playing, I felt they lacked something. There was a vast difference in feel between American and European bands in those days, not more or less good or anything like that, just different. That difference is still very noticeable to this day I think.

- But realy, you were so much into your own thing at the time, you had very narrow horizons. For instance I couldn't stand Celtic Frost and Kreator at all and thought I hated them immensely. And the fanzines took great pleasure in passing that infromation on and on idefenately. I even remember once or twice pouring crap on Voi Vod even though I had actually never heard even one complete Voi Vod track. In 1999 or 2000 some time, somebody in Ontario anonymously sent me a bunch of recent Voi Vod CD's. So I had a listen to all of them and had to confess to myself how fucking great and truly original that was. So that was a revelation seventeen years too late.

- Getting to know about all these other bands at that time had at least one noticeable effect on our second album that I can see clearly today. To realize all of a sudden that there were at least a dozen other bands out there in very much the same vein as BATHORY, had the effect we began to think in new lanes about the next album. Compared to how we had approached our first album in a very innocent fashion, our second album would be written and recorded with a plan. With all these other acts poping up at the same time, we all of a sudden realized that we had to profile ourselves. We couldn't just go in there and blast off like we had that summer while recording the debut.

- So after hearing a couple of tracks by most of those other bands at a local record store, I decided we ought to try to go in a direction none of these other acts seemed to go. That's how a lot of the material that I wrote for our second album became not as much over-the-top fast or noisy, as had been the case with a lot of stuff recorded for the first album. Rather than speed for the sake of speed and brittle noise, we would now go for more heavyness and a darker atmosphere.

- To me, our first album had been all and all out Death Oi-punk, but with dark lyrics. This time we wanted more than just picking up from the Motörhead and GBH backyard. I think we succeeded in our effort to show some evolution from the debut six months earlier. THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL would proove to have a very different atmosphere and beat than for instance the stuff that Kreator, Destruction or Possessed produced at the same time. While it was really a session intended to create a EP for Christmas, I believe our NECRONOMICON / MALEFICARUM project acted as a first attempt to figure out if this desicion to go heavier and darker was a good desicion or not.

- It's a great and important step to make going from your first album to your second album. You spend your entire life rehersing and preparing for your debut. Any first album is just like saying this is us and this is where we come from, but a follow-up release is always the first step made in any direction from there. So with the second album we knew we wanted to do something very different from the debut, in order to show some sort of evolution. And to offer a very different feel and atmopshere from what all the other acts previously mentioned had to offer.

Before the days of computers and image software, composite images were
produced by method of scissors & glue to make exciting pictures for the fanzines.
This is an early example of this type of photomontage produced in the spring of 1985.
The original shot derives from the second photosession in February 1984.
© bathory.nu

          So in mid February 1985 - probably on the 10th - Quorthon entered the Elektra Studio in Stockholm together with part-time drummer Stefan Larsson and newly recruited short-time bassplayer Andreas "Adde" Johansson, to record the second album. Rickard Bergman reclined to participate already at an early stage. Johan Elvén was still serving in the Royal Swedish Navy and was therefore not available for this session.

Working title for this second album was REVELATION OF DOOM. But as things turned out, for purely estetic reasons the title "The Return of the Darkness and Evil" - already familiar through the release of SCANDINAVIAN METAL ATTACK - was then thought of as a much better title. And this not just for that reason, this title was deemed a much more suitable title for a follow-up album.

- Also, we had completely forgotten all about "The Return of the Darkness and Evil" when recording the first album, and so wanted to record that again for the follow-up. Hence that title was perfect for the album as well. And when we decided to record an intro to open the new album - just like "Storm of Damnation" had opened the first album - I thought of it as poetic justice to name the intro "Revelation of Doom". It wasn't the last time a working title for an album would be discarted only to be adopted by the intro.

Quorthon photographed by Stefan while recording the hysterical
shouting for the intro "Storm of Damnation" in February 1985.
©bathory.nu

          The Elektra Studio was chosen simply because the band had been there before, while recording "Sacrifice" and "The Return of the Darkness and Evil" for the SCANDINAVIAN METAL ATTACK compilation album thirteen months previously. This time the band would have modern 24-track equipment to work with and an array of effects, compared to the very primitive conditions and 8-track equipment that Heavenshore had to offer.

- Sadly, I remember virtually nothing from this session. I was actually drunk most of the time. It didn't take much Vodka to get us three 18 and 19 years old shit kids drunk enough to mainly sway and giggle through the entire session.

- I do remember the atmosphere and the environment of the place, though. Red leather couches and professional soundproof padding all over the place. There was a grand piano and a Hammond organ in the corner of that huge recording room. The floor was all expensive wood of some sort and some band had apparently driven some screwdrivers through it the week before. And looking the way we did, I could sense we had some pretty suspicious eyes upon us throughout the entire session.

Quorthon photographed by Stefan while swinging his Ibanez Destroyer for a snap in the Elektra studio
during the recording of the THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL album in February 1985.
©bathory.nu

The expensive floor would not only survive the recording of THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL, it would even be caught on tape as Quorthon - before blasting off with "Possessed" - counted the rest of the band in by vigorously slamming the heels of his black leather cowboy boots against that exspensive wood.

But though the floor would survive, the line-up would not. Halfway through the recording, bassplayer Andreas would be sacked with Quorthon resuming the role of bass player for the remainder of the session.

- I caught him chewing speed one evening, and although alcohol was all fine with me - hell, I even smoked back in those days - I couldn't stand drugs. It could also have been any of those pills I later learned he would take for his anguish and anxiety. I knew he had been going in and out of a mental ward for youngsters for a year or two. He was a troubled soul but a good bass player. He would connect two effect pedals - I seem to recall it was a Rotosound pedal and a first generation tubescreamer of some brand - creating this unique bass sound that I had never heard before. It was like a creature from hell growling. But he was weird and a had those really scary eyes, oozing bad vibes most of the time.

- Today it all sounds like utter stupidity, though. I mean, bass players for an act like BATHORY weren't exactly growing on trees in those days. But I basically told him to either leave for the day and come back straight, or quite simply fuck off. He had a choice. But he didn't come back. So I guess he made a choice.

          Though based on the same dark and evil theme that had made up the first album, the vast majority of the material on THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL evidentally had a more refined gloomy feel to it. The sound this time around was very much different and the atmosphere much more an intergral part of the dark theme. It is apperant that more than just the average neo-Satanic litterature, horror movie or a selection of those medieval wood cuts made up the inspirational base.

- I must have made some sort of a mental journey through the human imagination, religion and all our collective image of the darkness and evil as such. Those medieval wood cuts and the books on satanism read did a lot for the atmosphere of that second album. But I would also wander across graveyards and visit churches for inspiration while writing for THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL.

- The serial killer theme to be found on THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL, i.e. "Possessed", "Reap of Evil" and "Son of the Damned", was partly a result of endless nights of watching all those realy cheap Hollywood chainsaw and masked menace kind of movies on video, and partly finding so many referrences in litterature made to statistic links between modern satanists and serial killers.

- And while studying the atrocities of Christianity throughout the centuries, I stumbled upon the inquisition, which resulted in another track on THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL: "Born for Burning", dedicated to the memory of a Dutch woman - Marrigje Ariens - burned at the stake as a witch in Schoonhoven in 1591.

Quorthon in a private shot, seated at the very spot in Schoonhoven The Netherlands
where in 1591 alledgly a woman named Marrigje Ariens was burned at the stake as a witch.
©bathory.nu

          But there were themes other than the Satanic, inquisition or serial killer themes to be found on THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL too. "Total Destruction" for instance, is a first attempt to write about the prospects and horrors of nuclear war. But possibly the only self-lived track on any BATHORY album was "Bestial Lust", with the added post-fix (Bitch) for fun.

- That is a true story actually. There was this one rock club we'd visit occasionaly. And every once in a while I would end up with some biscuit in the ladies room for a game of backgammon. When I realized how night after night - before walking off to the ladies room with my playmate for the moment - I would be asked by the lady in question if I was in a band, and how much faster I would be dragged into that ladies room if I told her I was, all the more appearant it became to me that I would get to play a hell of a lot more backgammon if I made it plain right from the outset that I was in a band.

- So the honor the inumerable hot chicks that got a taste of creme de la Quorthon, we decided to feature a track on this second album dedicated to their services. Having already decided to call our fans the BATHORY Hordes, it was only natural to dub these ladies the BATHORY Whores...

Quorthon photographed by stefan at the Elektra studio towards the end of
recording THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL album in February 1985.
©bathory.nu

          The sound on THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL is notably different from the sound of the first album. The size of the Elektra studio, and the much more professional equipment, was significancant in making the follow-up sound so very different from its predessecor. That plus the very vivid demand of Quorthon for the album to sound like it had been "...recorded in hell itself...". The 10 tracks on THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL - not counting the intro and the outro - were all drenched soaking wet in a dark and evil atmosphere. But the albums full title would not be printed on the cover.

- We wanted people to just read out "The return..." - as in a second album or a follow-up - and then flip the album over to look for a tracking list. Not finding one, what they got was this apocalyptic poem with the song titles woven into it. Only after listening through the album to the end would you get the full title of the album; THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL.

- Actually we even though of opening the album with a voice reading this poem out during the "Revelation of Doom" noise. But we never achieved a voice cool enough for the poem, no matter how many strange effects we added to the voice. And since we had allready decided on opening the album with "Total Destruction", we felt the poem out of place since it sounded like an introduction to the track "The Return of The Darkness and Evil". And it really should have been read out just before "The Return of The Darkness and Evil", but by then the whole album would have been played through and it seemed a little late presenting the album with a poem at the end of the record. So we dropped the whole idea.

The poem that would act as a tracking list. Once again using liberal amounts of those
rubb-on Old English font letters the band wanted no traditional tracking list but a poem
to give the album cover artwork a sort of a biblical or medival touch.
©bathory.nu

          For the album cover, the band had originally thought of using any one of the medieval wood cuts originally intended as a cover for the aborted NECRONOMICON / MALEFICARUM EP. But feeling this was a step back, the band searched for something new. They had allready agred on something simple yet symbolically powerful.

Motives depicting bleak nature sceneries or any sort of a nocturnal atmosphere were favoured. Oddly enough, all the initial ideas for the THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL cover looked more like Scandinavian Black metal album covers would look like in the late 90's. Finding no motive suitable enough to fit this idea of a simple yet effective shot, the band began to feel frustration as time was running out. Chanses were they would have to resort to using any of the old and tried woodcuts after all.

Untill one day shortly before deadline, when assistant-engineer Gunnar Silins - overhearing the request for nocturnal motives - brought a bunch of shots he had taken the previous summer of a shower of meteorites falling through the Swedish summer night sky. Meteorites were regarded as bad omen in medieval times, hence the photos were deemed interesting enough to at least be scrutinized by the band. But it would not be a shot of the shower of meteorites that the band dubbed as most interesting, but one sporting a full moon. It would be this shot that the band decided on for the cover of the new album. Simple, yet symbolically powerful indeed.

The artwork for the back of THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL
cover, depicting the poem and the heaps of blood pouring down a cliff wall.
Luckily the band had learned the lesson with the canary-yellow goat mishap,
and made damn sure to get the color gold this time around.
©bathory.nu

For the back of the cover, a few liters of blood - pig or chicken...nobody can remember which any more - would be poured down an almost vertical cliff wall in the middle of the night and photographed. For the innersleeve - well, this was half a decade before CD-booklets - the old and tried medieval woodcut intended for the NECRONOMICON / MALEFICARUM EP cover would finally come to good use. The motive - the classic anal-kiss illustration - suited the Satanic mood of the album perfectly.

The motive first thought of as a great cover for the aborted NECRONOMICON/MALEFICARUM EP,
the highly suitable "Anal kiss" woodcut would at last make it onto a BATHORY album.
It was enclosed on the innersleeve of THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL 1985 LP.
And it was of course included in the artwork for the CD's produced in the 90's.
And naturally for the 20th anniversary vinyl and CD's produced in 2003 as well.

For this second album - having learned the lesson - the band made damn sure to get the color gold and not no canary-bird yellow dye for the apocalyptic verse, album title and band logo.

          When THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL was released in May 1985, it would instantly be hailed and embraced by the plethora of fanzines in both Europe and the United States. Though plenty of fanzine interviews had been made since the release of the debut, the band was caught a bit off guard by the sudden rush of attention. And adoration.

"Total death. Real Death Metal. Well produced that will be really big news.
BATHORY should climb into the Slayer league with this one.
Not for wimps. It's hard to express how heavy this is!"
Dave Constable/Metal Forces 1985

- That all came as a complete surprise to us. I remember how during the finishing stage of recording THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL somebody from Tyfon came into the studio telling us how we'd better get those last overdubbs done and done good, because the album had just reached a pre-sales figure of 10.000 copies, which was an unheard of figure in those days for a band like BATHORY. And of course we just couldn't grasp how the hell stores and distribution partners could order an album that had not yet been completed, let alone listened to. Eventually as the sales figures passed 25.000, it was full scale BATHORYmania.

- And later when the album was finally released - actually in a hurry due to the frantic demand - we were drenched in letters from fanzines over here and overseas, all asking for interviews and what have you. And they all seemed to know BATHORY just as well as any other band. We were both surprised, flattered and excited.

- We then felt for the first time that we were really on to something here. We felt we had a sound and a style of our own, different from most other similair bands out there. And we began to think this might eventually just as well result in a handful of BATHORY records down the road and who knows what more. It was a truly strange feeling.

- Just one year before I had problems convinsing Rickard to help me out with the debut, and I had struggled to find a drummer in time before entering Heavenshore. Now we had a second album out and were looking at amazing sales figures, plus a pile of fan letters every Monday morning. We faced glorious reviews in fanzines all over the world it seemed, and youngsters as far away as Japan and South America woulod send us pictures of themselves dressed up in homemade BATHORY shirts. What a change of scene...


A very early review - this one for THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL - hailing
BATHORY as "...the wildest and most brutal
ever...". THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL
was the start of BATHORYmania. 666 points out of 10 says it all. Even when served in Norwegian.

          Although the follow-up second album is not talked about as often these days as the classic troika made up by the UNDER THE SIGN OF THE BLACK MARK, BLOOD FIRE DEATH and HAMMERHEART albums, THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL is nevertheless the album that started BATHORYmania and may have laid the base for today's notion of BATHORY as the fathers of Black Metal. It is firmly placed right in the middle of the list of best selling BATHORY albums and re-manufactured at almost the same rate as the imfamous top troika.

The legacy of THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL would prove itself in other areas as well. It's minimalistic cover would set a standard for nocturnal and bleak nature motives on Black Metal album covers a decade later. And it's raw and dark atmosphere is frequently referred to as one of the main sources of inspiration and influence by second and third generation Black Metal bands.

While THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL album was being shipped out to shops around the world, for the now two-piece BATHORY line-up there were still some ideas worth trying out untill a third album could be recorded...

          Saturday June the 1st 1985, Quorthon was back at Heavenshore with drummer Stefan for initially a weekend of work. The intention was to try out some ideas. With no bass player tied to the band at the time, Quorthon would again resume the role of bass player. He had already played bass on half of the material on THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL, but did not own a bass. Hence a bass had to be borrowed for this session.

- We came back to Heavenshore with half a dozen ideas that had not been completed in time for any of that to end up on THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL. It was a great feeling being back at "...our place..." again. I was never too comfortable with the Elektra studio eventhough it had all the possibilities you could possibly imagine and 24-tracks to work with. But Heavenshore was where we had recorded the debut album and the NECRONOMICON / MALEFICARUM material. To me at least, it was a bit like a second home. We could come and go as we pleased. We knew nobody else ever recorded there. And the importance of the fact that it would cost us virtually nothing to work there is a fact one should never underestimate. One day at Elektra would cost us the same amount of money we'd pay to get access to Heavenshore for a month.

- It was only two of us there this time. We had to record the guitar and drums first. I would then ad the bass a moment later. I had borrowed this bass from a friend of mine playing in a jazz band, and I looked kind of goofy playing it. I don't know what sort of bass it was but it sure as hell didn't look like Black Metal to me.

The session - if all went well - would hopefully result in a bunch of material caught on tape good enough to act as the base for a third album planned for release in the fall. The working title for this album was either OCCULTA or OKKULTA, the latter a game with words since okkult is the Swedish word for occult.

- OKKULTA looked better in print. But I recall we were actually wondering if anybody would be able to pronounce that, even though the metal bible at the time - Kerrang! - would frequently spell virtually everything with a "k".

- English was the sole language of rock and metal in those days. It wouldn't be until the mid or late 90's that bands began to write and sing in their native language, although the French have been doing that all the time haven't they?!

- The sort-of Swedish spelling - OKKULTA - would probably not have made it anyway had the session been professional and the album released in the fall as planned. Today when looking at the two different ways to spell the title, they both look and sound like Finish to me...

During this - and a second weekend - six tracks were recorded directly onto one 2-inch tape. And immediately after the completion of the session transferred onto two 15 minutes quarter-inch tapes. The titles recorded during the OCCULTA/OKKULTA session were "Black Leather Wings", "Hellfire", "Majestica Satanica", "Circle of Blood", "Wicca", "The Call from the Grave" (an early version of "Call from the Grave") and "Undead". Sadly, only the reel containing the tracks "Black Leather Wings", "Circle of Blood", "Majestica Satanica" and "Undead" has survived to this day.

Quorthon in one of only two shots that has
survived from the January 1984 photosession.
©bathory.nu

          As 1985 drew to a close, BATHORY could recline and think of it as a very good year for BATHORY. And for extreme metal, whether it was now labelled as Black, Death, Thrash, Speed or Bay-Area or whatever. The scene was very exciting. The plethora of fanzines enormous. The contact between bands and fans through fan mail had developed into a well established form of personal communication.

Next up for BATHORY was - apart from finding a suitable bass player - a new year and a third album. And to gather the BATHORY Hordes under a sign. The sign of the black mark...


©bathory.nu