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One of the best albums of all time - 100%

dismember_marcin, March 24th, 2013

People sometimes ask in the interviews about the top ten (or five he!) of metal albums of all time. And usually the questioned musician would say “oh, it is impossible to say just ten, if there are so, so many amazing albums”. I totally agree with it, it is just impossible to name just few LPs, if metal history is 30 years old or more and during this period there were thousands of albums released and among them there are so many absolutely astonishing LPs... But if I was about to make such impossible list, then I am sure that I know at least five LPs, which would just have to be there… sometimes more due to the memories, which I have about them than the actual musical value (which is still brilliant, anyway!). One of such LPs would definitely be Bathory’s third opus “Under the Sign of Black Mark”. I do realize that most people would like either “Bathory” or “Hammerheart” or “Blood Fire Death” LPs more, and sure, they are also fantastic, but for me “Under the Sign of Black Mark” is the most thrilling and perfectly composed and arranged piece of Quorthon’s music. It was also my first encounter with his music and that happened I think back in 1993, maybe 1994. At that time I knew only very few black metal bands – Beherit and Blasphemy, which I didn’t like at all, and Darkthrone (“Under the Funeral Moon”) and Burzum (“Hvis Lyset Tar Oss”), which I liked way more, mainly due to that incredibly dark and ghoulish atmosphere of these albums (I wasn’t so much into their raw production at that time)… And then someone taped me “Under the Sign of Black Mark”… well, I have been hooked by this album immediately, even if I was more into death metal at that time. But there was something truly unique about Bathory’s third album, what I liked so much. Later on, around 1997-98, when I had a two piece black metal project with my friend, we started to play three or four songs of this LP, so much influence it had on us. The feeling when playing them was amazing. So, not only “Under the Sign of Black Mark” is just amazing musically, but also it gives me a lot of good memories. This is why I consider it to be one of my top ten albums of all times, even if I don’t know if making such list is possible at all.

Composition wise “Under the Sign of Black Mark” is pure perfection; an album, which delivers a collection of astonishing, quite often almost catchy, but devastatingly dark and eerie songs. But that’s not all; even the order of tracks, how they’ve been putted together, seems to be carefully thought through, so the album starts with a pure destruction of “Massacre”, then goes through such classics of atmospheric, epic black metal as “Woman of Dark Desires” or “Enter the Eternal Fire”, to finish with such gloomy songs as”13 Candles” and “Of Doom”. When listening to “Under the Sign of Black Mark” I must admit that the production of this album is definitely my favourite one from all three albums, which Bathory has released so far. Both previous LPs were much rawer and almost primitive in many ways, while “Under the Sign of Black Mark” is much heavier and aggressive, but also open for those atmospheric parts, which this LP is filled with. I mean no way would “Bathory” – with the sound it has - be able to have such song as “Call from the Grave” and make it sound so powerful, but dark and eerie, with its fantastic, melodic guitar solos and all the stuff like keyboards in another songs. More so, I must also say that while the guitar sound is just excellent for my taste here, also Quorthon’s voice is just fantastic. OK, it always was, really, especially on “The Return…”, but his voice on “Under the Sign of Black Mark” is even rougher and more powerful, at the same time it’s quite understandable and with some brilliant arrangements. Really, when I listen to “Under the Sign of Black Mark” I just cannot think of ANYTHING, what would be done wrong. From start to finish this LP is perfect. Pure masterpiece…

It’s also just impossible to pick up two or three songs from “Under the Sign of Black Mark” and call them standout tracks. Each song is brilliant, each offers something truly exceptional and each has perfect arrangements, riffs, vocals… “Massacre” opens this album and is fast as fuckin hell, very brutal, uncompromising black metal song and then “Woman of Dark Desires” and “Call from the Grave” are more epic and atmospheric, with fuckin hooks all the way through. Once you’ll hear it, you’ll remember those riffs until the end of your miserable life, trust me! And then “Equimanthorn” will strike again with faster, viciously powerful riffing... and that awesome chorus part… you just wanna fuckin scream “Equimanthorn!!!!!!!!!!!!”! And this is how side A finish and when you’ll hear it, you may understand what I meant when I wrote that the order of track is not accidental here!

And I would think that it couldn’t get any better than side A, but that is until “Enter the Eternal Fire” opens side B… and man, isn’t it one of the best black metal anthems of all times??!! The riffing in it is just mighty and the atmosphere… well, it is gloomy, sinister and the whole effect is even deeper with the bells tolling. The impression is just huge, more so because the structure of this song is quite simple, I mean it is basically based on one main riff, where Quorthon just toys with it, changing the tempos or whatever… Well, you don’t need much to compose a masterpiece. “13 Candles” is another truly exceptional song, one with similar sort of riffing as the one from “Enter the…” or “Call from the Grave”, which doesn’t mean it is exactly the same, only structure wise it also is pretty simple, with basically just one or two riffs, similar tempo and that infectious catchiness. And in case if you don’t have enough then “Of Doom” will massacre you with probably the most insane, vicious, mayhemic, fast and uncompromising riffing from the whole LP. I really, really like this song a lot!

While finishing this review and paying a tribute to Quorthon and his third album, I must also point out how brilliant and fast this composer was evolving and progressing. I mean just listen to “Bathory” and then “Under the Sign of Black Mark”. The difference is big, but from the other hand this third LP still has some traces of Bathory’s old style. More so, I must also notice that the debut was nothing more or less but a Venom / Motorhead influenced black ‘n’ roll sort of stuff, but just take a listen, which way did Cronos and Venom go and how the Bathory style was developing. Isn’t it one of the examples of “the student becomes the master” thing? For me Bathory was always way better than Venom and such LPs as “Under the Sign of Black Mark” only proves me right. I’ve been listening to it for almost 20 years now and still I feel thrills like it was my first time, it just doesn’t get boring. This definitely is one of my top ten metal albums of all time and one, which just must be in everyone’s collection, best on vinyl, if you ask me!
Standout tracks: ALL OF THEM!!!
Final rate: 100 / 100

The greatest black metal album of all time - 98%

TrooperEd, January 30th, 2012

I usually detest the concept of putting the first athlete/band/album of it’s kind as the best of it's kind. Just because you’re the first doesn’t mean you’re the best. But in the case of Bathory, I have to make an exception. It is still the greatest Black Metal album of all time. Yes of course there has been brilliant work in the field done since then, Storm of The Light’s Bane, Sons of Northern Darkness, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, In The Nightside Eclipse and Under A Funeral Moon are all very worthy of the title of classic black metal. Yet none of those albums do what this one does for me. This album was to black metal what Run DMC’s Raising Hell was to hip hop. It wasn’t necessarily the first of it’s kind, as plenty of artists before were laying down the ground work (Venom, Mercyful Fate and Celtic Frost w/black metal, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, The Treacherous Three and Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick for hip hop), but it was the first objectively and unequivocally great black metal album, giving it an identity, a voice, an a guitar tone uglier than a naked, feces covered Rosie O Donnell. But the most innovative feature UTSOTBM gave to black metal is its variety. Despite the change in sound on this Blood Fire Death, there are more separate song ideas here than there were there.

After an absolutely bleak and terrifying intro that drops you into a black canyon you sense a dark unseen force circling you waiting for the right moment to strike, a brief moment of silence to lure you into a false sense of security and then...

MAAAAASSSSACRRRRRRREEEE! An absolutely vicious, blackened speed metal song that bowls you over that’s already faster than anything on Reign In Blood. Woman of Dark Desires again follows the Dark Angel ideology of “don’t slow it down, just switch it up.” It’s still fast, but it’s still super heavy. It’s something of an anthem for black metal fans both figuratively and literally as it features an excellent call to arms chorus. Then comes the solo, which is violent melodic bliss. This was the first Bathory album I’d ever heard, and while I had some reservations about the sound, one of the things that immediately disarmed me was the lead guitar work. As bizarre as this may sound, Quorthon was the Eric Clapton of extreme metal. His solos weren’t that shreddy, but the feel was off the charts.

Call From The Grave slows things down to an arena rock groove, all it needs is a Z-grade music video of Bathory playing in Louisiana Superdome playing to 70,000 demons from the first five layers from hell. After that, Equimanthorn has an intro resembling Jaws before bringing proceedings back to full speed before switching to one of the grooviest metal breakdowns ever (groove with class, mind you). The screaming of the songs title near the end puts the big red cherry on top, and that leads us into the album’s finest moment, Enter The Eternal Fire. This is the sound of the earth opening up and hell breaking loose to a marching rhythm. The backbone of the song is a simple riff that is just good enough to repeat over and over again, while still keeping the listener at full attention. That is no small feat. Even Sabbath would be criticized for letting a riff ride for too long.

Chariots of Fire is more fast black metal that the genre would become known for, 13 Candles is midpaced headbanging greatness so drenched in so much Satanism Anton La Vey cums so hard he poops a little. And the whole thing is capped off with ...Of Doom...the fastest song on the album which practically matches Burning Of Sodom (Dark Angel) in speed! Everything about this song is fast, especially the vocals. I’m surprised Quorthon’s tongue didn’t yell “fuck this!” and jump out of his mouth running away screaming. The album fades out, which I usually detest but the song ends on such a high level of intensity it doesn’t matter.

It is solely because of this album that I had to respect black metal. Is it any wonder that the likes of Darkthrone, Mayhem, Burzum chose to kick off the second wave by completely ripping it off? Could you blame them?

Recommended tracks:
Enter The Eternal Fire
13 Candles
Woman of Dark Desires
Call From The Grave

No paragon of virtue, but of filth - 98%

autothrall, January 17th, 2012

By the time Bathory's third full-length rolled around, thrash metal had produced a number of hallmarks in extremity which more than contested the Swedes' claim upon that end of the spectrum. Reign in Blood and Darkness Descends not only benefited from unforeseen levels of intensity and musicianship, but they were also incredibly volatile and pissed off to the point that they made almost anything outside of the German Big Three seem like turtles racing hares. That said, Under the Sign of the Black Mark was STILL a paradigm of aggression and evil, not through any sense of instrumental flatulence or compositional brilliance, but for the lack of all these things: the crass and compelling stench of darkness, filth and pestilence which permeates every lick played upon the album.

You wouldn't want Bathory (1984) or The Return... (1985) to hang about your local chapel or attend a family dinner, but when their successor arrived, it felt like every door and window in the village must have been shut tight and barred off, offerings of rams' blood smeared upon their wooden faces to ward off the evil that had strolled in upon a foul wind. This album is really that good, and in my opinion its pacing and structure placed the band firmly upon the pedestal from which Quorthon would never, and has never been shaken, despite the divisive evolutions that Bathory would endure in future years. Contextually, through my own perspective, I have long gone either way on the earlier albums in terms of their exact classification. They were thrash metal. Dirty Satanic speed metal. Death metal. Black metal. In retrospect, that latter category has since officially become 'a thing' of some importance, but one might still place them in all of these spheres at once and get no argument from me.

But Under the Sign of the Black Mark, at least for my humble self, feels like the point at which the levee broke on the top shelf of the Abyss, and all the damned and damning souls erupted through the crust, screaming in Bradbury-unison 'something wicked this way comes'. THIS is black metal, at its purest, borne on the nuclear zephyrs of thrash and speed and dawning into its own abominable, leering presence alongside another, more underground Scandinavian threat: Mayhem's Deathcrush. Bathory had to this point already been destined for immortality due to the spiteful, unapologetic atmosphere of The Return... and the vicious charisma of the self-titled debut, but Under the Sign of the Black Mark combines the two into a rapine rush of simple and effective buzzsaw riffing momentum, blazing fallen angel leads that cut the heavens with sighs of inevitable vengeance, and a rasped vocal so grimy and eternal as it barks through its acrobatic patterns that it feels as if Dead and Mille Petrozza found some arcane ritual through which to spiritually copulate in Hell and produce a slavering, ravenous offspring.

First, the decision to shorten the traditional intro piece was wise. Unlike "Revelation of Doom" or "Storm of Damnation", it arrives and departs swiftly with all its howling, scathing, and swelling ambiance, to the extent that I never felt myself thinking 'please get on with it' like the first two albums. And it morphs flawlessly into, "Massacre", one of the fraction of the tracks here that reflect the debut's sense for shoveling 2-3 burning guitar progressions at the audience and letting them stick like napalm. Simple, fast paced chords shift in serpentine cohesion while a louder, more disruptive, distorted bass tone (played by Quorthon) barrels below. The new drummer, Paul Lundberg is even more strenuous than his predecessor, and his performance here was a benchmark for the black metal genre as a whole. Unfeeling, callous mechanical human blast work with tunneling double bass, Lundberg makes it sound easy. All too easy. So maybe his technique wasn't on par with a Gene Hoglan, Bobby Jarzombek or Dave Lombardo: that's not the point of this, but to bludgeon you repeatedly like a burlap sack of bloodied coins.

What I find most amazing in listening back to the album is how the guitars actually somehow take a back seat to the louder vocals and drums, but the patterns are deadly, powerful and hypnotic enough that they catch your ear anyway. This was actually a process vaulted forward into the more glorious atmosphere of Blood Fire Death, but not many bands could make it work. The neck breaking, ominous grooves of "Equimanthorn", the chugging and oblique "Woman of Dark Desires", and the dire rocking fortitude of "13 Candles" are not fashioned from the most prevalent riffing sequences in the band's career, yet they forcefully carve their well deserved niches into the darker reaches of your mind with a haunting, hostile certainty. Speaking of Blood Fire Death, there's an even more prominent presage in the form of "Enter the Eternal Fire", a track that experiments with a grander, 7 minute structure and a lot of those flowing, Viking associated rhythms and hammer-drums that dominate their aesthetics in the near future. "Of Doom" is another of the many worth mentioning; the break and flow of the guitars here a tangible precursor to the sound that Emperor would master on their classic In the Nightside Eclipse in the ensuing decade.

The only, and I mean ONLY reasons that I can justify to give Under the Sign of the Black Mark a less than perfect score are simply that I found a teensy handful of the riffs (less than I can count on one hand) to be less engaging than the remainder, and the closing :25 outro as useless as the two that were on the first couple albums. Minor mars upon a near flawless countenance, but present nonetheless. That said, let them not dissuade anyone who has somehow evaded this album's infernal grasp to immediately correct that mistake, because Under the Sign is one of the most indomitable works of classic black metal, and hands down one of the greatest Scandinavian extreme metal works of the 80s. Period. No contest, with the exception of its next youngest sibling, an album I prefer due for its ability to transport me to a place I'd rather be. Whatever. Apples and oranges. Pikes and pitchforks. Own this, or suffer the consequences of your own, miserable, tasteless purgatory.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

The first of Quorthon's lasting marks on metal. - 100%

hells_unicorn, June 23rd, 2011

Amongst the influential offerings of black metal’s obscure and somewhat contested 2nd wave, where the lines between extreme thrash and proto-black metal are about as hazy as can be, there is a single album that arguably sums up the style that has since been stylized and varied from most of the lands touched by the 4 winds. Sure, Venom’s first and second offerings may have laid the lyrical groundwork for most of the scene, and Hellhammer/Celtic Frost brought a good deal into the musical and vocal equation, but the full fledged, signature atmosphere and character of black metal was fully ushered in by Quorthon and company with the release of their 3rd full length work of dark wizardry, “Under The Sign Of The Black Mark”.

While the debut was still largely an exercise in early speed/thrash with a strong helping of aggressive punk rock with a low-fi production, and “The Return…” was defined by a thin drum sound and an overtly muddy guitar sound that was closer to an early death/thrash sound than a blackened one, this album has all of the principle characteristics that have since been standardized by early 90s Mayhem, Gorgoroth and Immortal. The crunchy, fuzz driven guitar sound meshed with a crisp yet distant accompanying instruments creates an atmosphere well in line with the grim and frostbitten meets witches in the forest character of “Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism”, and the garbled goblin character of Quorthon’s vocal assault has since been imitated almost to a fault by Pest and Abbath.

But the real defining point of this album that sets it apart from Bathory’s previous albums is a heightened sense of theatrics and atmospheric density. Naturally this is not something comparable to the wildly deep ponderings of early Emperor, but the beginnings of that same esoteric blend of rich keyboard sounds and blurring guitar lines rears its head on a couple of songs. The more auspicious example is “Woman Of Dark Desires”, which consists of a battering ram of dark power chords and bombastic drum sounds, but makes a little time for a gloomy church organ section that drones in a similar fashion to a handful of songs on “In The Nightside Eclipse”.

The other song that shows some leanings towards a consonant yet still pitch black sound also happens to be Bathory’s first flirtation with a more epic sound in “Enter The Eternal Fire”, featuring a droning church bell sound and some synthesized voicing to accompany a more mid-tempo offering. The riff work and implicit melodic content definitely points towards the further developments towards the proto-Viking sound of “Blood, Fire, Death”, but the atmosphere is still perfectly within the same model as what would become Gorgoroth’s early sound. Perhaps the best analogy to more recent bands dealing with the hybrid of Viking and black metal themes would be the first couple of Suidakra albums, though naturally Quorthon’s fuzz driven guitar sound is much more comparable to the 90s Norwegian sound.

Nevertheless, this is an album that is only moderately layered with ambient elements and is still mostly a good old fashioned act in unfettered aggression. Shorter bursts of blazing speed such as “Massacre” and “Chariots Of Fire” definitely capture the violent character of primitive barbarians painting valley’s with each other’s blood or attributing mythical explanations to their violent world. The riffs blur, the drums cook, the solos are shredded and choppy, and the total delivery is as cold and destructive as a punishing arctic storm. But the true shining moment of pure extreme thrashing belligerence is “Of Doom”, which is riff happy and fast enough to put both Slayer and Sodom on notice.

A lot has been said about this album, and the majority opinion is one of lavish praise, and frankly there are few albums out there that are equally worthy of it. Considering the lack of advanced studio toys that were readily available to other, less threatening version of metal, this is an accomplishment that is even more significant that the genre defining efforts of earlier figures. It’s an album that was equally as ahead of its time as “Deathcrush”, though far superior in quality and more indicative of the dark, occult oriented sound that Mayhem themselves would adopt during the formative years of the early 90s. In other words, this is an album where innovation lays not merely in shock value, but in how well said shocking themes are perfectly packaged into a timeless piece of work that functions equally as art and entertainment. Essential to any and all who can stomach music on the side of the metal spectrum where melodies are not carried in the vocal lines.

Not just classic, it’s excellent as well! - 97%

morbert, August 14th, 2008

And it even sounds extreme and vile 21 years later. Quite a remarkable achievement. A lot of modern black metal albums sound either too polished or just aweful. “Under the Sign of the Black Mark ” is still a transparent but loud motherf**ker. And to think Quorthon also used a battery powered amplifier for this. An experiment gone well I must say.

The shortcomings of their previous record “…the Return” have gone. This album is very tight (tight enough would be a more appropriate description) and dynamic. Changes in paces are all over the place but the album remains powerful the full length.

Once again the intro is overlong for me so I always skip to the first song “Massacre”. Brutal and not even close anymore to their early days punkrock nor even thrash metal. Fast, furious, brutal, satanic. Best fast song here however is “Equimanthorn”. A simple intro riff played through two different amplifiers before all hell breaks loose without, and I stress without, losing catchiness. If Hell were to exist, this song would be played on parties every single night! I would have been a cover band though since, being a Metal God, Quorthon has obviously gone to heaven (or Valhalla perhaps).

Obviously a few mid- or slow paced songs are here as well. Most notible would be “Enter the Eternal Fire” which already sounds more than a lot like the epic pounding metal Quorthon would started to play on Hammerheart (and of course two earlier tracks on Blood, Fire Death) and what most of us years later would start calling Viking Metal. Now slow paced pounding songs with dark riffs like these had been written before by numerous metal bands since Black Sabbath came around but once again it’s the extra amount of eerieness and Quorthons typical screeching vocals that made songs like these sound so much more evil when Bathory played them.

The viking theme wasn’t exactly new of course. And of course in this period of their career Bathory only made some hidden references to it (the Jewelled Bridge etc). Manowar had done some before and even Yngwie Malmsteen (check out “I Am a Viking” on the superb ‘Marching Out’ album) but honestly with this dark music the violent and mystical atmosphere surrounding viking came more to life on Bathory albums. Quorthon managed to find a style of metal which suited the lyrical contents in the best possible way.

I always chuckle a bit when I hear terms like ‘Blackened’. For me, Blackened is a Metallica song. But I understand the point. It’s a retrospective historical term which I, consequently, never use since I grew up with albums like these and not those terms. But yes, one could call this ‘blackened thrash’. The riffs are far from mainstream thrash even though they touch the style once in a while and as far as the vocals go, well, if I try I can make a comparisson the the early days of Kreator and Sodom.

Now “Under The Sign” is not an album I would play during summer when it’s 30 degrees celcius out there but otherwise..you can wake me up for this one!

Of Doom and Riffs… - 98%

Acrobat, June 17th, 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’... 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 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 terms 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 your anal virginity. 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 are.

Changed maybe two things...

Where The Epic Black Metal Was Born - 92%

CHRISTI_NS_ANITY8, April 16th, 2008

The improvement shown in The Return…. album was evident to anyone. If the first album was still a bit influenced by Venom and Motorhead, the following one was quite different in terms of song writing and production. Quorthon grew in skills and abilities in playing instruments and the whole album seemed a bit more mature, even if it was always devastating and truly evil. Well, the technique was not excellent because they didn’t need that, but the changes were near. Some of the compositions were a bit more epic and slow and in this Under The Sign Of The Black mark we have the natural continuation.

The first assault, “Massacre” is an up tempo song with lots of brutal sounds and obscure vocals. It could fit perfectly in The Return…. album. The production is raw, especially in the drums sound that, with its power, almost deletes the guitars sound. Anyways it’s always quite audible but not that powerful and this also contributes in creating a gloomier, primordial atmosphere. It seems like they are playing in a cavern. With the following “Woman Of Dark Desires” the new influences come directly in the riffage and mostly during the epic refrain.

“Call from The Grave” shows epic/dark guitars riffs and a new sense of “melody” for a band like Bathory. This is completely new. The song is mostly mid paced with a ritualistic tempo and truly extreme vocals. The solo here is fantastic and sounds like a horn for the long notes. This is one of the very first example of epic black metal. This march can be seen as a big influence for funeral black metal too, concerning the down tempos and the really sick air we can breathe.

“Equimanthorn” shows no will to slow down a bit, being completely on up tempo with an evil riffage and the chainsaw bass distortion in the first line. The vocals are always raspy and brutal, showing no mercy or signs of change. Here the solo is more shredded and fast, in old thrash metal style. But with the majestic “Enter The Eternal Fire” we can find again the new influences, here even in a higher dosage if compared to the other songs. The epic-distorted riff are perfectly balanced with arpeggios and even some Viking chorus on the back ground. This song features a longer length and perfect epic parts. This is truly innovative.

After that great, glorious song, one of the best from Quorthon, it’s time for “Chariots Of Fire” to destroy our ears with a brutal black/thrash riffs orgy, supported with almost blast beats tempos and apocalyptic feeling. This is where you can really notice how Bathory were important for the future generation of blacksters and, most of all, for one of the most important groups in this genre: Immortal. “13 Candles” is another slow march in the obscurity with again some epic passages, like in the riffs or the chorus! This is a perfect balanced song between innovation and tradition.

The hyper fast “Of Doom…” puts an end to this milestone for the black metal genre, that was already showing some new characteristics and innovations in a sound that was still brutal and raw, but also evocative and extraordinary. Another masterpiece for Bathory.

pioneering black metal - 85%

odradek, January 16th, 2007

Buried beneath the buzzy, lo-fi production of Under the Sign of the Black Mark is some well crafted music. The songs vary quite a bit in tempo, but generally share a common structure: a driving, energetic base laid by the rhythm section, embellished by the occasional guitar lead (furious tremolo picking while the left hand meanders capriciously about the fretboard) and, most importantly, Quorthon's tremendous vocal performance. Quorthon's raspy delivery is pleasantly abrasive and yet the lyrics are clearly understandable.

The real magic of this album is the syncopated interplay between the vocals and the rhythm section, which generates an intensity none of Bathory's contemporaries in the late 1980s could rival. Unfortunately Bathory themselves would drift away from this formula in subsequent releases, as they began to forsake rhythmic complexity in favor of a more epic sound; and to my ears, none of their later albums ever managed to recapture the energy of this album. But this album itself remains a masterpiece, and arguably spawned an entire genre of music.

Without this nothing would have followed - 98%

Taliesin, September 1st, 2006

This is the final part of Bathory's "satanic trilogy" after this they would do Blood Fire Death which is kind of an in between album, mainly moving into the nihilism of warfare, and the ability to transcend it to create a meaning for existence. The first three Bathory albums though in essence defined all black metal that would follow (at least in Norway), listen to the intro that turns into "Massacre" and tell me that it doesn't remind you of Darkthrone's Kathaarian Life Code. Bathory moved into a field more extreme then almost anyone else, even Slayer. By using the Motorhead idea of everything louder then everything else Quorthon created a harsh listening experience that really rubs raw your whole soul. The drums bash away in a minimalistic style that creates something almost ritualistic, never letting up they blast away with a harsh tone that if in the right stereo actually hurts, the guitar tone is bone dry and all trebble, blasting wave after wave of hatred and contempt. "Woman of Dark Desires" is even more harsh, with a drum sound that is so loud so insane, and all by accident on here, or so Quorthon says. That combined with the guitars which seem to move in an ambient sense, only several notes at a time, making me think of Ildjarn, then in the chorus there is a little more distinction, but also on this song keyboards are added that are way ahead of their time, this is repeated throughout the whole album, The kind of keyboards Countess would attempt to replicate, somehow adding a dark sinister horror movie atmosphere to the proceedings.

Quorthon's voice is possessed on here, demonic screams with a perfect tone, want to know what Dead was trying to do, it's all right here. This album is harsh and unrelenting even with the slower songs like "Call From the Grave" and "Enter the Eternal Fire" which even though slower and more atmospheric, are just as harsh as any of the faster songs. Of course one knows that Darkthrone and Mayhem both stole riffs from this album, but in an attempt to match the fury and intensity of the blasphemy and darkness that is contained on here, and of course since they were also original in their own ways, they managed to transcend the stamp of copy cat bands.

If you are thinking of picking this up just remember, though it is in many ways well produced, it is as harsh as putting your hand into an open flame, with metal stamper drums that hit hard and evil vocals of hatred, guitars that buzz with an intent to kill and a bass that is quite loud, but also quite distorted. Everything on here is designed to basically rip the flesh from your body and then rejoice in the misery of those actions. Combined with the dark occultic atmosphere, everything on here is what black metal wishes it could be, and of course very often bands suceed, but it's also good to listen to the originators, and not just the bands to follow.

This is like all Bathory an essential purchase, sure Quorthon was never fond of it, but it is effective in creating a demonic atmosphere, if hell existed this is what it would sound like. Cold, morbid and unrelenting.

Lots of great riffs. - 80%

caspian, August 29th, 2006

Okay, so I'm not exactly the biggest BM fan, so why would I review Bathory? A friend of mine insisted that I get this album, and after putting it off for ages, I gave in and bought it. Needless to say I'm glad I bought it. This album is full of great riffs and solos, unique and effective production and powerful vocals.

There's a ton of great riffing in this albums. While a lot of the tunes go through at light speed, particularly the brutal Equimanthron and Massacre, some songs are slowed down to great effect. Enter the Eternal FIre is a massive epic full of great mid-tempo riffs, before breaking into a quite nice bit of melodic respite. It's an awesome track, probably the best track here. Very effective use of synth on that track too. 13 Candles is another mid tempo beast that is very effective and super heavy. Or course, a lot of the fast tunes are good as well, with plenty of great tremelo picked riffs coming at you. While some of the faster tunes will sound similar on the first few listens, repeated listenings will reveal plenty of differences in the tunes.

One thing that's common in Black Metal, or at least in my perception of Black Metal is the production (or lack of it). The production in this album is pretty freaking cool, I thought. The guitars are slightly reverbed, and the drums are very loud. The vocals are buried in the mix, but the high pitched screams come out really nicely. This album is a great example of how unusual production can work very well in some cases, as the screaming and the guitars sound very sinister buried in the mix. The screaming is great too.. It's pretty evil, fairly harsh, but it complements the music perfectly and it's fairly comprehensible.

I don't like super depressing black metal. But I do like Black Metal that rocks, that's full of great riffs, that is heavy and has interesting and appropriate production. Maybe you're someone who normally doesn't like this kind of music. Well, give this album a chance. Chances are you'll be headbanging along to it before too long.

Perhaps Black Metal's Finest Hour - 95%

brocashelm, April 18th, 2006

Bathory’s first two records both blasted really imbalanced sound jobs, too much treble on the first, and a massive sonic wall of black sludge on the second. But with UTSOTBM (as it will hence be called) the problems were rectified, and thus this is the first Bathory album where you can clearly make out all the subtleties of the band’s now well-established black metal noise. This is a good thing, because the thunderous drumming and Quorthon’s impassioned rasp gather much more force than ever before.


But what makes this yet another great chapter in Bathory’s inverted bible is the songs themselves which are almost uniformly among their best, and indeed some of the best ever in Black Metal. Period. “Massacre” is the perfect hi-speed adrenaline rush to begin matters, and when you compare this cut to later, similar ditties from later BM warlords such as Immortal the influence is so thick you can smell it. “Woman of Dark Desires” on the opposite hand, moves slowly and celebrates the vampiric mistress who unknowingly lent her name to the band, Elizabeth Bathory. “Call From the Grave” is another moody piece (note a snatch of Chopin’s “Marche Funebre” in the instrumental section) whilst “Equimanthorn” balances thrash with mid-tempo pounding, as well as giving Marduk one of their album titles with its lyrics (“Even the Heavens Shall Burn When We Are Gathered”).


The real towering inferno of this album, however, is the eight or so minutes of “Enter the Eternal Fire”, which is simply one of the greatest BM songs ever. Evoking hellish torment at it’s finest, it boasts some of Quorthon’s best writing and vocals yet, while remaining a resonant song, brutal delivery and all.


For my money, UTSOTBM is perhaps Bathory’s most accomplished work, and easily outmatches scores of competition within BM’s annals. Changes would be on the horizon for Bathory’s music, but in 1987, a good 3-4 years before the global BM charge would really dominate, there was only one worthy of the appellation black metal. And the gathered masses deliver their chant: “Venom is dead, Bathory is king… long live Quorthon and his cursed offspring!” Well maybe not, but it sounds cool….

Three in a row! Quorthon's the man! - 97%

Valleys_Of_Hades, December 2nd, 2005

“Certainly in this country as far as power, speed, brutality and utter noise is concerned, nothing in Sweden even came close for about a decade” - Quorthon

Indeed, that quote form Bathory’s main man is VERY TRUE considering how fast, loud and raucous this album is, especially for the time that it was released. Okay, so The Return… may have consisted of some SLIGHT punk influences (Bestial Lust) and a few occasional rockish riffs that were present on the first album (Born For Burning), but this album here, Under The Sign Of The Black Mark, completely eliminates every element that caused Metal heads to cry out “Venom clones!” to Bathory, and instead, broke the boundaries of everything that was once considered extreme Metal in the 80s. There are songs on here that make Kreator, Slayer and Dark Angel seem like little girls! Not to say that those bands weren’t lethal and/or brutal for their time, because in 1986, all of the aforementioned groups released three of the greatest, most lethal albums to ever grace the ears of man kind; Pleasure To Kill, Reign In Blood and Darkness Descends. Were they giving Bathory a run for the money? Perhapse so, but just as songs like Massacre and Chariots Of Fire destroy anything that was previously known as thrash, black and speed Metal, Under The Sign Of The Black Mark is also the album that foreshadowed the heavier, far more epic direction that Bathory would soon take. Call From The Grave and Enter The Eternal Fire a perfect examples of that change in direction.


Under The Sign Of The Black Mark surpassed the doomed heaviness of Celtic Frost’s To Mega Therion, the speed of Sodom’s Obsessed By Cruelty, and the brutality of Kreator’s Pleasure To Kill and Slayer’s Reign In Blood. It was overall more unique as well. Most of the lyrics weren’t about summoning the powers of Hell, sadistic death, torture, destruction and all of that other good stuff that Bathory, as well as all of the other aforementioned bands, used to write about in their lyrics. Instead, the lyrics on Under The Sign Of The Black Mark were about historical battles (Massacre), Norse mythology (Equimanthorn), nuclear war (Chariots of Fire), the afterlife (Call From The Grave, Enter The Eternal Fire), the Bathory fan base (…Of Doom), Elizabeth Bathory herself (Woman Of Dark Desires), and even one more song based around Satan and the occult (13 Candles).

Also, unlike the previous two Bathory records, this album also consists of more variety musically speaking. From fast, neck snapping mega-thrashers (Massacre, Equimanthorn, …Of Doom), to mid paced approaches (Woman Of Dark Desires, 13 Candles), and all the way to the slower, epic numbers (Call From The Grave and Enter The Eternal Fire), Under The Sign Of The Black Mark is a mile stone in the history of Metal music. Actually, that was quite an understatement there but anyway, let’s get on with the song by song descriptions…


1. Nocturnal Obeisance (Intro) - If there is one flaw with this album it would be the intro. Why? Well compared to Storm Of Damnation or Revelation Of Doom, this one is basically nothing. Just a few random echoes and wind effects. Aside from that, I also have a problem with the title. I know that it’s in Latin, but in English, it translates to Nighttime Obesity…WHY?! I have no fucking clue.

2. Massacre - What an appropriate title for such a brutal track. The lyrics here are based on the battle of Little Big Horn, yet are ultimately indecipherable when considering the speed that Quorthon sings/growls at. Musically, the song is blazing fast, heavy, brutal as all hell, and at the time, made bands like Kreator and Slayer seem like nothing more than traditional rock! So both lyrically and musically, this song is BRUTAL, in all caps, in the true sense of the word.

“I remember virtually stealing the entire base for that track from Saxon's "Machine Gun". Their "Wheels of Steel" and "Denim and Leather" albums are highly underrated I think” - Quorthon discussing the base technique used for the following track…

3. Woman Of Dark Desires - Finally, a song written about the dark and lovely Countess that all extreme Metal fans tend to adore. Hey, it all started with the Venom track Countess Bathory from 1982. Then a band that’s actually called BATHORY comes into the scene, yet waits a few years before actually writing a song about the woman whom they named the band after in the first place. Here we have it, a song about Elizabeth Bathory herself. Amongst all of the other songs that Bathory has done, this one is a bit more traditionally structured, consisting of that verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-verse-chorus format. There are also some gothic, church organ keyboards included in here as well, which only adds to the darkened atmosphere of the song. The chorus itself is catchy as fuck. Yeah, try getting that one out of your head!

4. Call From The Grave - This song begins with some strange noises, something that sounds like a man gasping for air on the edge of his life. Pretty soon though, the thick, swinging drum beats come thundering in which are backed up by ultra heavy, mid-paced riffs that simply crush in all their might. Quorthon sounds like he’s in total pain on this song, which only adds to the affect and atmosphere of what the song is really about. Is there an afterlife? Or does your soul just stay in your grave? The lyrics of the song are from the perspective of a dead soul who is trapped in his own grave and unable to escape, calling to God for help but no one hears his pleas. By the way, the guitar solo on this tune is by far the best one on the album. It isn’t fast nor is it extreme in any sense, but shit…the tone and harmonics that this solo is played at just simply SLAY! Possibly one of the best solos that I have ever heard!

5. Equimanthorn - “I basically ripped the opening passages from the soundtrack to the "Jaws" movie writing that one” states Quorthon. And yes, you can actually tell that the intro to this song is a reminisce of the movie Jaws. So, what does Equimanthorn mean? I have no clue, but the lyrics are obviously Norse based, which foreshadows the direction the Bathory would later turn to in late 80s/early 90s with their so called Viking Metal albums. Musically though, this song sounds NOTHING like the later, Viking works of the band. The first half of the track is ultra fast Speed Metal at its best. As a matter of fact, this song is played so fucking fast, that the terms Speed Metal and Thrash Metal can NOT be used to describe such a rapid song. You’d have to hear it for yourself to believe and experience the brutal intensity of a track such as this. Quorthon spits forth the lyrics at like….500 miles per hour! Now how the FUCK does he do that?! Midway through though, the pace changes drastically, and a semi-fast, main riff carries on the rhythm as Quorthon continues to growl his lyrics of Norse mythology at a much steadier pace than before. Quorthon shouts the word “EQUIMANTHORN!” over and over at the top of his lungs up until the pace picks up all over again, leading the track’s rhythm back into its hellish pace, ending it all off with one crazy as fuck guitar solo that…you know what? I can’t even begin to describe how amazing that ending solo is. No, it’s not complexed, but if a guitar solo could be considered lethal and/or brutal, this would really be it!

6. Enter The Eternal Fire - Although the lyrics here have absolutely nothing to do with any Nordic subject, the music alone is a reminisce of what Bathory would later become when they would start to release the Viking albums. The entire song consists of mid-paced, swinging drum patters and steady riffs, much similar to the material off of the band’s Hammerheart album released in 1990. The lyrics here though are another tale of the afterlife, much like Call From The Grave. However, this one is more interesting. It’s about a guy who ends up in the fiery place known as Hell. Bathory wrote references to Satan and Hell before in their two previous albums, but the lyrics on this track are far deeper. They convey a strong anti-religious meaning since the lyrics are about a man who is sentenced to burn for all eternity just for living a life of pleasure. Now how fair is that?! Bathory has always been one to attack religion, but with this track, the message seriously gets across pretty damn well instead of the band just blabbering about Satan, death and blasphemy, which can still be good, by the way, but those kinds of lyrics tend to get old pretty fast. My favorite part of this whole song is where Quorthon begins screaming “Oh Lord! Have mercy oh lord! This can’t be! Raging flames consume my soul! THE PAIN TURNS MY MIND! OH NO THIS CAN’T BE! OH NO! OH NOOOOOOO!!”….he screams as if the pain of fire is actually consuming his body.

7. Chariots Of Fire - Once again, the album picks up the pace with a blazing fast Speed Metal song in the vein of Massacre and the first half of Equimanthorn. Much like Massacre, though, this song never changes pace. It’s constantly fast through out, almost too damn fast to head bang to. But hey, I can do it! VERY FEW people can without getting whiplashed anyway…not to brag or anything. Anyway, the guitar solo that ends this track off is another extreme, godly one. Nothing like the one at the end of Equimanthorn, but it’s still amazing.

8. 13 Candles - With this song, Bathory returns to their Satanic roots by making a song about birth of Satan’s child. You all know of the “virgin” Mary who gave birth to Christ while still being a “virgin“, right? Yeah, she sure used a good cover up, eh? Well anyway, this song must be a mockery of that story since it’s about some virgin giving birth to the son of Satan. The song itself is far more mid-paced than the previous track, yet manages to be a overall faster than Call From The Grave or Enter The Eternal Fire. The dark chants in the background add so much to the evil atmosphere as well. “Born a child of the underworld” you’ll hear the demon choir chant! Shit, if only this was put on The Return…, it would have been even better!

9. …Of Doom - Now this track has NO RELATION to the previous song. Even I thought at first that both tracks would be combined into one song hence their names. I thought it was something like 13 Candles Of Doom, but it’s really not. This track is nothing more than another rapid, fast Death Metal assault that is also a blunt tribute to Bathory’s fan base at the time. The lyrics are basically an ode to Bathory Hordes all around the world. It’s a great way to end the album off with such aggression as well.


On a side note, all of the quotes from Quorthon on this review were taken from the official Bathory site. www.bathory.se . There’s some pretty interesting stuff there to read. I only took the quotes that described the music alone.

What more can be said that hasn't been already? - 95%

Snxke, June 8th, 2004

This record is a classic. This record exists on the shelf next to such pounding metal classics such as De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, Burzum, Black Sabbath, and Killers as one of the records that shattered a mold and created a new feel in a stagnant genre.

Folks...gone but not forgotten...Bathory endure.

"Under the Sign of the Black Mark" is an undertaking of low-fi hammer-on metal that defies it's muddy production values to create a misted blood-storm of metal that few have been able to touch. Far ahead of it's time "Under the Sign..." growls, snarls and cuts it's way through increasingly intelligent lyrical topics and increasingly musical compositions that do not lose the bleak violence of the first two releases.

The hammering "Woman of Dark Desires" (always a fave of mine) and the epic "To Enter the Eternal Fire" set a standard for raw black metal that few bands have managed to dance near. The dark emotions bleed through the stark production to build a haze of despair, anger and violence that few bands could match. As a songwriter, Qouthorn updates the influential nature of his first two records on this, and gives them a compositional boost that made Bathory not only extreme, but showed their musical talents as well.

I can add little more to the legend of "Under the Sign...", it is a superior release from one of the forefathers of a movement that I have been a part of for many years. Quothorn, despite his recent loss has left with with some incredible music...if I had to pick a favorite it would be this release, as it brought black metal to a new level, allowed musicians to write with both melody and violence, and set the stage for many other bands to come.

This record the perfect third culmination of satanic black metal from Bathory...this record has inspired thousands and will continue to inspire thousands.

Bathory are legends...

Try not to get whiplashed to this... - 90%

Dethrone_Tyranny, May 6th, 2004

Man, forget the first two releases, becuase this one owns them in every way possible. The heaviness, distortion and speed have increased into something more extreme than the last two albums, and Quorthon's growls have also progressed into a more brutal tone, with screeches added in here and there. Raw, mean, evil and ugly, that's what this album is. What a fitting description...


Nocternal Obeisance - This is a pretty nice intro, and even though it could have been done better, it's pretty essential to have considering how the second track starts out...

Massacre - Without warning, this insane tune kicks right in through your speakers like a fire ball out of Hell. No musical build-up, no melody, no catchiness...just pure insanity and brutal torment to the human ear, if cranked up loud enough. Torment in a good way, that is...

Woman Of Dark Desires - Well this tune a bit more mid-paced, and much catchier than the previous tune, particularly with the chorus. The song itself is about Elizabeth Bathory, as anyone could easily tell by the lyrics. Overall, the song is very thrashy, and Quorthon's vocal work here is just genius. Even though this song is highly brutal, there are lots of groovy guitar riffs, as well as killer solos and organ synths added in. What a masterpiece!

Call From The Grave - Very nice! I love the slow, heavy pace to this one. Quorthon sounds as if he is doing mutli-growls here, as I can hear the lead vocals and backing vocals in the background behind the music as well. It adds so much to the madness and mood of the song. Now the highlight here is the guitar solo...It's not fast, nor is it extreme, but just the way it's done and the tone that is used makes it sound fucking incredible. It is the best solo on the album.

Equimanthorn - Here we have probably the fastest track on the album, very similar to most of the material on the follow up album, Blood Fire Death. The vox is sung (growled?) insanely fast, and Quorthon screeches most of the time here. The pace shifts, from 150mph beats, to a groovy mid-paced beat in the middle of the song. The speed then continues, followed by blazing fast solo to end off the song that might also ripp your face apart.

Enter The Eternal Fire - Now this is one of Bathory's all-time best. Slow and heavy, quite similar to Call From The Grave, but the growl is a bit less harsh on this one. The main riff is catchy as fuck, though. Simplistic, but catchy. Overall, the song has an evil, epic feel to it, and contains some of the coolest lyrics ever written. I mean, it's about being cast into Hell for eternity, and proof of that is heard towards the end when Quorthon is crying out to God because he's burning in the eternal fire. That has got to be the coolest part of the song, by far

Chariots Of Fire - Very similar to Massacre, both in pace and in length. I think this song has a bit more structure to it though. Straight out brutal speed metal, like a chariot ablaze, riding through the sky with nothing to stand in its path. The solo is also worth mentioning, for even though it's short, it's one of the best on the album.

13 Candles - Mid-paced and groovy in many places, along with a catchy as fuck chorus, consisting of dark, evil chants to fit perfectly with the mood. One of the more complexed songs on the album.

...of Doom - Another brutal speed metal assualt, very similar to Massacre and Chariots, but of all these three songs, this one has the best riffage. This song was actually written for the Bathory fan-base at the time. There's much more variety and complexity to this song as well, making it the best of all the speed-oriented songs on the album.

One Of The All Time Greats! - 100%

corviderrant, January 31st, 2004

I fondly remember the time one of my first ever music trading contacts (in my tape trading days in the late 80s-early 90s) sent me a vinyl copy of this album, the first Bathory I'd ever heard. It blew me through the wall with its savage intensity from first note to last, and it still occupies a proud position in my vinyl collection these days.

This most definitely is one of the most important and influential Black Metal releases in the history of metal, and all the hallmarks that have become part of the modern BM movement are there; the blazing fast tempos, the cavernous, "necro" production values (funny how something that was born of necessity on Quorthon's part--lack of studio time and money--has become something that most "true" black metal bands slavishly copy!), the not so good yet compelling musicianship...it's all there. And his amusingly mangled English language lyrics are always a fun read, too. That guitar sound is one of the most abrasive and attention-getting I've ever heard as well.

To this day, I have a hard time picking my fave tracks on this album because it's all so damn good! But I would pick "Equimanthorn" above all for the maniacal buzzsaw guitar frenzy that it builds to after a minimalist guitar intro, and crazed ending solo, not to mention the big, noisy, crashing ending--gotta love it!!! "Enter The Eternal Fire" is another favorite of mine, and I always found it ironic how the lyrics actually ended with the protagonist crying out to God to save him from the damnation he thought he'd craved until then--a nice nod to the old Black Sabbath records. Everything else, well, it's there, it's brilliant, and that's all you need to know! If you don't have this all time classic, then what's wrong with you??? Get it and see where the second wave of Scandi black metal as well as all the US black metal weenies in this day and age got it all from whether they know (or admit) it or not. And I do mean all (tho we can't deny Venom either while we're at it)!

The ultimate manifestation of Black Fucking Metal - 100%

chaossphere, February 11th, 2003

Well what can I say? This album simply reeks of classic. The intro, "Nocturnal Obeisance" is half as long as the intro's on the first two albums, which can only be a good thing. After 90 seconds of the usual noises, "Massacre" bludgeons you over the head with a short, frenzied burst of pounding aggression and speed, with primitive riffing overlaid by frenzied vocal howls.

From there on in, the album alternates between the same violent black metal which characterised Bathory's first two albums - tracks like "Equimanthorn" and "Chariots of Fire" taking the speed and aggression that extra step further - while "Call From the Grave", "Enter the Eternal Fire" and "13 Candles" introduce an entirely new aspect: slow, crawling doom-laden atmosphere. These tracks helped define an entirely new aspect of heavy metal. Picking up where Hellhammer left off with "Triumph of Death", these three tracks defined black metal's atmospheric tendencies.

Lyrically, this was where Quorthon began to introduce the Viking them which would become much more prominent on Blood, Fire, Death. Mind you, there's still plenty of hellfire and Satan present here, but "Equimanthorn", "Massacre" and "Chariots of Fire" were the obvious turning point from comic-book inspired devil worship to Conan-inspired epicness. Of course, Quorthon's English here is still quite awful, but that merely adds to the charm.

It really doesn't get much more influential than this. From the grating, washed-out production where the guitars are thinned out to become purely a tool of ambience, to upping the ante on violence and aggression in black metal, at also introducing an entirely new approach to doom-laden pounding, Under The Sign of the Black Mark is simply THE quintessential album in the laying of black metal's modern foundations. At the same time, it's an amazing album in it's own right, without a single weak moment to be found. Along with Hammerheart, this forms a pinnacle of testament to the importance of Bathory's contribution to metal as we know it.