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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...