on 26 January 2003
This album represents the culmination of Bathory's early period before Quorthon began to move away from satanic black metal to the nordic style. The pounding riffs and grunted vocals of "Bathory" and "The Return of the Darkness and Evil" are refined and blended with eerie atmospheric effects (the fingernails scraping a coffin lid on the intro of "Call From the Grave" being a prime example). If you love extreme thrash metal then do yourself a favour and get this. My only complaint is about the occasional lapses in the re mastering of the CD version, but the original wasn't exactly a "hi fi extravaganza"!
on 17 June 2008
This is evil, most of those that followed are just as much of a masquerade as toddlers on Halloween. Recorded on the eve of May Day,Walpurgis Night, a Cloven Hoofed beast pressed play on a tape player possessed by the spirit of Vlad Þepeº, whilst Quorthon grizzled and gnarled his way through an unholy onslaught of riffs. Duc de Richleau and Rex can't save you now, they're stuck in traffic and didn't take the tube because they harbour xenophobic sentiments, your Satanic baptism is about to occur and the soundtrack is `Under the Sign of the Black Mark' and Satan records the first note!
Rather than conjuring the cold and wintry images that most black metal does, `Under the Sign of the Black Mark' has the listener feeling immensely hot, sweat breaking on their brow, as if they had consumed all of The Star of India's famously colon emptying Vindaloo. And like some beaten wife, you come back for more and more of this same hellish punishment under the same premise that;
"He loves me! He didn't mean to hurt me! Oh officer please!". Oh but on the contrary, `Under the Sign of the Black Mark' wishes to imprison your soul, not in the abode of mist but behind the Gates of Gehenna. Now, Quorthon didn't wish to this upon his listeners, indeed, he was much more content with spawning legions of "I AM ZE VIKING!" bands. So like some Devil sick of sin, he abandoned the left hand path. But if anything, this merely heightens the sense of unbridled evil of `Under the Sign of the Black Mark', as it acts as the final word in evil from one of Satan's merriest of men. Others succeeded in capturing some of the feeling of evil after `Under the Sign of the Black Mark', but they, fearing some sort of damnation or perhaps in search of wafers, still attended church on Sunday.
With the 230 volts of electricity in the mains unable to harness such unequivocal evil, Quorthon decided that a leaky, battery powered amplifier would be his best means of worshipping our Dark Lord. As such his tone is mainly treble and as black as hangover excrement. Unable to contact either Phil Collins or Lars Ulrich in sufficient time, Quorthon decided he would not be able to have a sufficiently evil drummer and as such simply got some fellow to go "BISH BOSH BISH BOSH" at varying tempos (often when he wasn't supposed to be varying the tempos at all).
Unable to decide which tempo conveyed true evil best, tempos here range from quick-fire lightning fast blasts to even more oppressive grinding work outs. `Massacre' set the standard for all blackened thrash that followed and is seldom passed in turns of menace and ferocity. Except by `Of Doom...', which features a riff so foul it forces you into the foetal position, then has you praying that the Angel of Death will only take your first born son instead of own life. However, no album so rich with iniquity would be complete without a love song. `Woman of Dark Desires' is a compelling ode to Hungary's own Elizabeth Báthory, complete with a screech along refrain and the kookiest Organ solo the Phantom of the Opera never played. `Enter the Eternal Fire' is perhaps the ultimate black metal song ever, sure it's a shameless re-write of Manowar's `Bridge of Death' but metal only sounds this menacing every once in a black moon (I don't mean menacing in the "oh, the singer sounds like he wants a fight" sense either). Those eerie bells give the whole song an amazing schlock and a haunting quality.
`Under the Sign of the Black Mark' isn't an album I can listen to every day, it's simply too much. But on those certain windy and cloudless nights, when the moon doth glow and Stonehenge is illuminated in a eerie twilight...I'll deafen the banshee wails with Quorthon's masterwork and remind myself that this really does expose the second wave as the corpse painted and blackened pansies they really are.
on 15 October 2003
This is one of the best black metal albums ever recorded, and the original monster that gave birth to a whole spawn of European metal bands. The production is claustrophobic and merciless, complete with real chainsaw guitars, high-pitched growls and jackhammer drums. The album was released in 1987 and it was the heaviest metal ever heard. From the total speed attack of the opener "Massacre" to the ultra-classic "Woman of dark desires", this is an absolute must-buy for extreme metal fans.
on 23 January 2003
I have owned this album since original release (on vinyl!). I have since upgraded to the remastered cd. Bathory's first two album releases(yes I also have them...on vinyl)were very heavilly venom influenced and suffered from substandard production.Under the sign... was the bands third studio release and took the raw black metal sound seen previously and gave it a refined production polish.This does not mean it is bland.The power is still there but the whole sound is crisper with much more lower end.Songs like woman of dark desires,call from the grave(with its wonderful death march guitar solo)and enter the eternal fire are riffing masterpieces.This album was the first I was aware of with the now genre standard chanting and spooky keyboards.Quarthon started it all and did it best.If black metal is your thing you will LOVE this recording.
on 20 July 2006
This contained probably the fastest material Quorthon ever produced - the speed tracks are intense but the album is balanced by a number of slower, mid-paced tracks that began exploring Bathory's more epic and heavy side (particularly with Enter the Eternal Fire). I've never especially liked one track (Woman of Dark Desires) but everything else is excellent. Quorthon's vocals are evil as hell.
Some of the riffs used on this album are incredibly heavy and the work as a whole remains a fine and exemplary piece of Black Metal art, probably something that shaped the modern scene that we've come to know today.