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This CD is one of my alltime favorites of black metal, no ways around it.
It is everything I love about the genre, it is evil, raw, angry, uncaring and original. This would be Gorgoroth's magnum opus as they have yet to top this one. It managed to not only easily surpass Antichrist in musicianship and brutality but it even passes Pentagram in the same aspect. Everyone is on top of their game here. Pest would never sound any more evil or vicious as he does here, his performance on" Revelation Of Doom" and" Blood Stains the Circle" are blood curdling, especially on "Blood Stains the Circle", he sounds as if he is slowly going insane the longer the song goes on. Pest shows just how powerful and diverse of a vocalist he is on" Profetens Upenbaring" where he mixes his evil snarls and screams with an operatic sounding clean voice.
Infernus is the star of the show as usual, yet again he is playing both Bass and Electric guitar and he exceeds on both. He truly plays some Heaven shattering riffs that just oozes of morbid perfection. His riffs are hauntingly evil but very pleasing to hear at the same time. The best thing about the riffs though are the style they are composed in, they add a bit of complexity to the songs instead of being completely straight forward. To be honest, his bass is nothing special here. It isn't bad but when you actually do hear it it's usually just following the guitar. Not really an issue though because you rarely hear it. He also wrote all the music here so it's no surprise it's as good as it is.
Grim may not have been around long, but nobody can deny how great of a drummer he was. His drumming adds so much more brutality to the music. He opens the record with his ferocious pounding and furious double bass on "Revelation Of Doom" his drumming is very intense and merciless on the ears. I mean that in a good way too. Although he isn't playing in a technical or diverse manner, he drums his heart out and really makes the songs have more ferocity than usual. I don't think "Revelation of Doom" would have been the same without him.
The production is freaking awesome. It sounds so grim and cold, having them play their instruments with better production just simply would not work. It is easier to take them seriously with the raw and vitrolic production that this CD has. Grim's drums sound really bad, but again, it is perfect in its badness due to the kid of music we are dealing with.
The only reason I do not give it a perfect score is because of the pointless track "Postludium". It disrupts the flow of the CD and seems very out of place.
This is one hell of a CD (No pun intended) and I rank it up there as one of the greatest Metal albums you can purchase along with "Pentagram"
Although it may sound silly; this is the epitome of a Gorgoroth album. Here me out: when one thinks of Gorgoroth, they think of pure chaotic evil and satanic hatred, and that is what all 33 minutes of Under The Sign of Hell offers. Each song is well crafted and diverse, thanks to excellent song writing from Gorgoroth mastermind, Infernus, and exceptional performances from the bands finest line up.
1997 was a fine year for black metal with lots of great bands releasing solid albums, but I must say Gorgoroth wins the gold medal. The album opens up with the sound of Infernus readying his axe for battle, some miscellaneous guitar sounds seep through the speakers, and then Revelation of Doom explodes into a relentless blizzard of furious riffs and blastbeats. Before you have time to fully comprehend the aggression of Grim’s unholy snare, Pest rages in, preaching blasphemy in one of the most evil vocal performances of musical history. The unyielding onslaught continues into Krig, although the riff is a bit more catchy and the short length of the song makes it real fast neck-splitter, however the third track, Funeral Procession is a nice contrast to the frenzied beginning of this album. The brilliant melodic riff is somewhat reminiscent of Dissection’s sound from the ‘90s and the bizarre moaning partway through creates an eerie, mysterious atmosphere.
Each member excels beyond expectation. This record showcases Infernus’ best song writing and many of his most memorable riffs. Grim’s drumming is truly astonishing and even though he would take his life two years after the release of Under The Sign Of Hell, his performance on the album is enough to immortalize his name as one of the finest drummers in the Norwegian black metal scene. In addition to these two demons, Pest offers some of the sickest, most hateful, and downright evil vocals, well, ever. Revelation of Doom shows him in his most violent state but he also performs perfect clean vocals in the vein of Storm or early Vintersorg on the track Profetens Åpenbaring (a personal favourite). This sort of addition is uncommon in most pure black metal albums, but is another way that this album achieves diversity. His desperate wailings in the latter half of Blood Stains the Circle are most disturbing and you can even make out some of the lyrics on the catchy closer, When The Devil is Calling.
One of the things that I love about this album is the natural production. It’s not raw in the sense of early Darkthrone (although it certainly isn‘t clean), but more rehearsal-like, as if you are hanging out in a gloomy garage on a dark evening, watching the band perform these songs. Despite sounding this way, it doesn’t come off as half assed and each instrument is sufficiently audible.
It seems cliché to say that black metal isn’t made like this anymore, but hey, I’m not hearing music that sounds like this nowadays. Now that Pest is back in the band and King and Gaahl are out, I have high hopes for the bands future. Hopefully the band will once again make music the priority, rather than the image. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for some true unholy black metal with unlimited replay value from the vastlands of Norway, this is pure classic.
Yeaaaah, you know the time has come to get your ass kicked. Guitars shredding outside the house, Grim pounding at the door, Pest shrieking on the roof, and the bass too busy smoking pot in the woods. Uh huh, you know damn well Gorgoroth are gonna eat you alive when they break in – and that’s what this whole album sounds like… a merciless assault on the senses (in a good way). After the lacking Antichrist and the disappearance of Hat, Pest took over vocal duties while Infernus started trying to write good riffs again. He also handles bass duties for the majority of the album, but overall it goes largely unnoticed.
Anyway, the atmosphere resembles Pentagram - you can feel the hateful energy surge through the air, and boy does it feel cold. All the while, melody lurks flawlessly, helping add layers of depth to keep you coming back for more and more. The replayability is through the roof since most of the songs are not only sinister, but overall fun to hear. This kind of contrasts the later output, which sounds malevolent but meandering.
The mood here feels raw, unrehearsed, and more natural than ever before. The distortion pierces through your flesh like chainsaws, but they’re tremolo and invariably thin (didn’t want to throw you off with that “shredding” in the first paragraph). Going along with the fast-paced frenzy is Grim, and I’m pretty sure he was the real riot instigator. This man is quite the beast on the battery, utilizing double bass fanatically on the opening track before going into a more precise correction through the rest of the album.
I’ll add that although production qualities vary throughout the album, it really only has a distinguishing effect on the drums. “Revelation Of Doom” sounds like Satan at the door, “Krig” is much of the same, “Funeral Procession” balances things out nicely, “Profetens Apenbaring” fucks with the double bass… god damn, the drums are jacked up on this entire album. It’s nice to hear different outputs, but this really was unnecessary for album progression. Thankfully, Grim’s superb style keeps drumming alive in this half hour of darkness.
Speaking of which, I feel as though the world gets emptier, colder, and more true-faced whenever I hear this album. We all know the world is fucked up, but we usually do a good job at bullshitting ourselves to cover it up. However, this album brings it back to basics and adds a pagan / folk touch to the whole thing – one that doesn’t sound cheesy, either. Infernus blazes with hypnotic riff after another, making this album trance-inducing with a negative appeal like on the cover.
The last icing on the cake is Pest, and holy shit am I glad he’s back in the band. I know Hat was a ghoul when it came to shrieking, but Pest had the mutilated scream down from the very beginning. His shrieks are extra distorted like the guitars, so it goes hand in hand with that airy / synthetic tone; this isn’t a problem since the previously mentioned attributes lend well to the music. Rarely he’ll exhale with deep, profound cleans, and they work only to a certain extent for me since they kind of sound over-the-top.
Otherwise, this album is essential for fans of Gorgoroth or fans who wish to check out Gorgoroth. I’d hint at looking at Pentagram first to grab hold of Infernus’ style if you haven’t heard it yet, but go for this the second you want more.
This album is very strange. Unlike most mediocre albums, “Under the Sign of Hell” is either really good or really bad. Most mediocre albums are not exciting through and through, with an occasional good song, but this album is spilt with greatness and pointlessness.
The first four songs here are sick. After you hear these four songs, you’re definitely thinking masterpiece. But sadly, after these four the album falls apart.
First, we will discuss the first four songs. “Revelation of Doom” starts off with a bang featuring nasty drums by Grim. Seriously, the drumming on this song is like no other. Killer drum work from the late great, Grim. The song is total chaos, never relenting until the end. Pest’s high pitched screams really suit the music. Simply one of Gorgoroth’s finest. “Krig” is next with amazing guitar work from Infernus. However, if you listen to Enslaved’s “Vetranott”, from their 1994 album “Vikingligr Veldi”, you will hear the same riff played that is featured “Krig.” I don’t know if Infernus meant to do this, but “Vetranott” clearly came out before “Krig.” Anyway, it’s not a bad thing because we now have a much shorter version of the Enslaved classic. “Funeral Procession” is another incredible effort, with nasty riffing and fast drums. “Profetens Apenbaring” is no less than a classic. It starts off with wind blowing leading into marvelous folk baritone vocals from Pest. He sings so well here, and I wish he would do it more. Astounding guitars dominate the song giving it a rather epic feel.
Now, onto the bad half. After a quite stupid instrumental, the next four songs come and by no means do they match up to the first four. Songs like “The Devil is Calling” and “Blood Stains the Circle” are very agonizing to listen to. You find yourself checking the time to get an estimate of when they will end. Horrible songwriting, poor execution and overall pointless songs. “Odeleggelse Om Undergang” and “The Rite of Infernal Invocation” are not as bad as those two, but they are not memorable at all.
This album could have been one of the best but it failed in its second half. I would have given it a 100% if it were an E.P. with the first four songs featured. But because Infernus and the gang got lazy and decided to poison the album with pointless filler songs and it does not make the cut. I bought it, and I suggest you do too, but I only listen to the first four songs typically and skip the rest. You will probably find yourself doing that as well.
Under the Sign of Hell is the third album from Gorgoroth and, at the time, seemed like a bit of a departure from the sound that had been established on such classics as Pentagram and Antichrist. The sound is far less clear on this album; trading clarity for a very abrasive rawness. The guitars and bass seem to be tuned down, and the drums are featured a bit more prominently in the mix. As for the vocals, what can be said. Pest unleashes his most hellish performance, here.
From the first song, "Revelation of Doom", they unleash a chaotic fury of blast beats, thrashy guitars and inhumanly hateful shrieks. At a time when many of their contemporaries were "evolving", Infernus and his cohorts seem content to become even more primitive. The song is rather short, but does well to set the stage for what is to come. Also, in only a few minutes, it showed a lot of variety in tempo changes. It is cold, misanthropic and utterly merciless.
"Krig" begins with a brilliant tremolo riff, showcasing the great talent possessed by Infernus. The atmosphere is far from the somber darkness, found on previous efforts. This is pure madness. Pest's vocals are filled with hatred and dementia. The title is very appropriate, as this sounds like total war upon the feeble sheep of the mythical Jew-saviour. You can almost smell the blood on your sword.
As soon as the previous song ends, "Funeral Procession" begins, leaving almost no time for listeners to take a breath. This features some slower sections, with ghastly moaning and a woman's death gasp. Just under the two minute mark, Infernus unleashes some absolutely brilliant melodies. Enough can never be said to praise the songwriting abilities of this man. How many can make such short songs feel so epic?
The next song begins with calm sounds of the North wind blowing cold, as a faint guitar is heard in the distance. As "Profetens Åpenbaring" really gets going, the atmosphere is quite different than what one would expect from a Gorgoroth album, though hints of this first emerged on Antichrist. The clean vocals, and the rhythm of the song, are reminiscent of Isengard. Pest still manages to wield enough of his demonic screeching, throughout the song.
"Postludium" is an eerie track of backward messages and strange noises. This brief nightmare is what Gorgoroth considers to be a break from the madness.
"Ødeleggelse og Undergang" begins with fast tremolo riffs, blasting drums and insanely hellish vocals. This is, possibly, the best song on the album. It contains the trademark Infernus riffs that have made Gorgoroth among the elite of Norwegian Black Metal. About a minute or so in, the atmosphere becomes much darker. The pace slows down, as Infernus utilizes haunting open-arpeggio notes. This is the time to light the black candles, to unsheathe the blade and to bleed in the cold night air. Carve your chest open and gouge your own heart out, throwing this symbol of humanity onto the snow-covered ground and embracing emptiness...
"Blood Stains the Circle" is a direct continuation of the previous song, as it flows seamlessly from one to the next. Pest's screams become absolutely insane and out of control. The pace is unrelenting. On this night, you will bleed until the last drop.
"The Rite of Infernal Invocation" is the longest song on the album. It is also the only one to feature a guitar solo. The song structure is very reminiscent of older bands, with a lot of thrashy riffs present. After a few minutes of hellish frenzy, there is nothing but some bizarre effect, similar to the sounds made by the demonic spirits from "The Evil Dead". This goes on for a few minutes, leading into the final song.
The album concludes with "The Devil Is Calling", which is consumed by an oldschool Black Metal feeling. As it fades in, it is pure evil dripping like blood from a slashed throat. This embodies the spirit of Hellhammer and Bathory, while being pure genius from the mind of Infernus. This mid-paced song is another highlight of Under the Sign of Hell.
This is probably the last of the essential Gorgoroth albums, as others would come along and contaminate those releases that followed this one. If any album is like a fist in the faces of feeble Christian scum, this is it.
The black metal band ‘Gorgoroth’ was formed in the year 1992. Their first release, ‘Pentagram’, was the usual dose of black metal. Very good if I may add, but nothing entirely new. Then came ‘Antichrist’, an album in which they began to do a little bit of experimenting. Instead of fast paced black metal, they began to work more with atmosphere. Oh yes there was speed here and there, but nothing compared to ‘Pentagram’. A good album as well, but ‘Pentagram’ was just better to me. Then came ‘Under Sign of Hell’, released 5 years after their inception, and it is by far the best album they will probably ever write in their career. ‘Under The Sign of Hell’ is 32 minutes of fierce black metal of pure fury. Most black metal bands would normally sing of Satan and such, and you felt absolutely nothing. Yea, yea, yea, Satan this, Satan that, whatever. But for some reason, when ‘Gorgoroth’ sings of Satan on this album, you can’t help but feel that this is true black metal, that these musicians truly believe and love Satan.
It’s the atmosphere portrayed in this album that make it so good; it’s raw, and it sounds very real. The performance of Pest is what solidifies this album as an ungodly album. Their previous singer, Hat, was good but is no where near as good as Pest. Pest truly puts his heart and soul into his voice, projecting an energy that is so rare to hear from a vocalist. In the song ‘Blood Stains the Circle’, Pest sings of swearing allegiance to the Devil. I know their lyrics aren’t printed, but I’m sure that near the end he screams, “Consecrate us! My savior!” When those words are uttered, you feel the passion, the love that this guy is showing. It may be fake, but my God does it sound so fucking real. When I first heard those words, the hairs on my neck and arms stood on end.
Then comes the guitar, which is another component that makes the atmosphere on this album so real. The riffs give off such an evil aura, that you wouldn’t be surprised that the guitar player would be Satan himself. But in reality, it is none other than Infernus, playing riffs that are very fast, fierce, and memorable. A good representation of what makes a black metal riff good. It’s hard to fully explain the sound of Infernus’s style, but it is somewhat unique. After all, it wouldn’t be ‘Gorgoroth’ without his riffs.
And the drums, the final ingredient in this album of pure black metal art. Most will tell you that Frost is the best drummer that ‘Gorgoroth’ has ever had. I must greatly disagree with this claim. That honor goes to Grim. The fast, vengeful playing of utter hatred is what Grim does on this album. It may be the overall sound that the snare gives off, but whatever it is, it fucking worked. Don’t get me wrong, when the drums kicked in at the beginning of ‘Revelation of Doom’, I was stunned. It came out of nowhere, and it is absolutely bizarre sounding. But when you hear it with Infernus’s guitar playing and Pest’s vocal performance, only then will you truly understand the significance of those drums. I assure you that Frost could not have done the same had he played on this album. Sure, his technique may be better, but Grim fucking beats the shit out of those drums, producing a sound that only compliments the atmosphere of this album. The mixture of these three musicians is what created the black, grim atmosphere of this album, a unique mix that sadly will never be heard again.
As for the bass, well, I can’t really hear it. If it’s there, then it’s there, but it did nothing for me.
‘Under the Sign of Hell’ is one of three albums that greatly represent black metal, in my opinion of course. If someone who never has heard of black metal asked me for a CD that showed them what black metal was, this album would be one that I would give them. Sure it may scare them away, but if it does, then it may not have been for them in the first place. ‘Gorgoroth’ has written solid albums, but it is this one that outshines them all. Will they ever write an album better than this one? I say no, but one could always hope.
One of the premier bands of late second or early third wave black metal, Gorgoroth have undoubtedly carved out a reputation as fearsome force of dead reckoning and reckless debasement to all pedestrians of the right hand path. Should you be a traveler who walks in the other direction, you will happen upon a marker on the road to wrong and may find yourself standing Under the Sign of Hell. May your ears peel like the forbidden fruit as you savor the great black metal to be heard on this album.
Yes fellow wanderer, black metal of greatness is at a premium in this day of metal gone wrong and age of MySpace. Under the Sign of Hell is an album I pop in with fondness in my quest for what can only be deemed as "ye olden country black metal" and these are frontiers for seekers of heathen quest where the meek will be shown no quarter nor a dime for the suffering.
This is an album that puts forth Gorgoroth's signature of sick banshee drumming, furious Arabian scales and sonic tremolos by guitarist Infernus. The bass on here serves as a carpet of crisp molten accompaniment. That is all I can tell you about the musical nature of this wonderment. This is very much a calling card in Gorgoroth's illustrious career. Everything after, sounded like they were striving to outdo Under the Sign.
Gorgoroth got rid of Pest and had the Gaahl to replace him. How dare they trade a vocalist for a frontman/poet who sounds like a pale imitation because Pest's vocals offset a sort of folk-ish rawness on the recording. Every song on here, his shrieks are that of an indignant troll clenching Rapunzel's hair in sodomy with great pagan fury. Indeed, the atmosphere is a wicked and unforgiving element. As a matter of fact, there is one eerie touch to this album that Gorgoroth patents on Under the Sign of Hell: the noxious sound of the intervals between songs that feels like a cold and stale air of a dungeon. And I am not being hyperbolic either. I once listened to this album while falling asleep and after the song Devil is Calling, ended, I experienced a sickly tingle start to creep into my throat soon followed by what is best described as a wolfish feedback sound found in the other songs but more protracted. It was a deadly anticipation for a hidden evil track that would send me straight to hell but thankfully didn't. So, Under the Sign for me is not only an evil album in sound but one of the first that I can say was actually palpable in feel as well. If that isn't what black metal should be, then I don't know what is.
After you have been to 'Hell' and back and read all of the signs along the way, there really is no turning back. This is essential listening after you have turned. The songs you will hear color your perception with the warlike solids of black and white. You look at the album cover and it agrees with everything you heard. What I heard was true and unadulterated Norwegian black metal for not the faint of heart. If blood was pumped making this album, it turned black.
"Under the Sign of Hell" was my first foray into Gorgoroth, and I have to admit, I don't know why it took me so long to check this band out.
The first thing that really captivated me about "Under the Sign of Hell" was just how straight to the jugular it is. There aren't big epic stringed intros or big layered bridges. It's not that I don't like those things, but I do like it when bands concern themselves with intensity. "Under the Sign of Hell" clocks in at just over thirty minutes, and is a driving relentless force. Once it starts it never really lets up. Plus, about half of the tracks start off with an immediate bang, giving the album a brutal never-ending quality (as some tracks seem to almost seamlessly bleed into each other).
Pest's vocals were another stand out thing for me. They're very raw, and high pitched to boot; both of which I prefer in my black metal vocals. Additionally, Pest will occasionally throw in some clean vocals ("Profetens Åpenbaring" for instance), which I found to be quite effective. I especially thought that the clean vocals toward the end of “Blood Stains the Circle” where interesting. The quality of the vocals are rather poor (as he, to me at least, sings out of key). But what they lack in quality, they surely make up for in raw power; for some reason they just work.
The guitars are solid. They don't wow me, but they do drive the album (and the album’s drive is one of its most important aspects). They're what you'd probably expect from a reputable black metal outfit: dissonant riffs, tremolo picking, an all-around high-end assault on the ears. Most of the riffs are fast paced, though there are [rare] times when Infernus plays slower parts (1:10-2:32 of "Ødeleggelse og Undergang" being a prime example of this). When they do occur, Infernus makes sure to make the riff is as discordant, as harsh, and as evil-sounding as possible. These slower parts, through contrast, also help accentuate the driving nature of the disc. Another thing I liked was the solo in "The Rite of Infernal Invocation", around the 1:33 mark. I didn’t like the solo because I thought it was necessarily impressive; I liked it more or less because it was there at all (if that makes any sense). As far as I can remember it's the only solo on the whole album. It helps give the song (and I suppose, arguably, the album as a whole) a little flair, even if it is short and sweet.
The drums were more of the same thing. Solid enough to continue the album's overall drive and tempo. I would have thought that Grim’s drumming to consist of mostly blast beats, but on the contrary, most of the drumming is mid-paced and keeps Gorgoroth's guitar-focused sound driving without being distracting (though to be clear, there are still a fair amount of blast-beats present on the album). On a production note, I like how audible the drums are within the mix. The toms and cymbals are very clear (which is not always the case for metal). While on the subject of production, “Under the Sign of Hell” has an odd raw sound. All of the instrument/vocals sound pretty clear, yet there’s just this overwhelming feeling of poor production hovering overhead (almost as if it were a live recording). I don’t think this it effected the album positive or negatively, but since it does fit the black metal aesthetic, and I felt it was worth mentioning.
The stand out track (for me) is "Profetens Åpenbaring". It essentially encompasses the sound of “Under the Sign of Hell” all on one track. Clocking in at 5:05, it is easily the longest track on the album as well. We get a slow ambient intro, both clean and shrieked vocals (not to mention a super heavy metal “HEEEYY!”), some ultra discordant riffs (3:52), and except for the intro and a second or two before the aforementioned riff, the song is constant and ruthless.
In the end, I think it's the constant barrage of passionate intensity that makes "Under the Sign of Hell" such a good album. Sure, there are several factors that, when added together, give the album this quality, but I see “Under the Sign of Hell” as one of those album that equals more than the sum of its parts. It may not be my favorite black album ever, but you could easily do a lot worse.
This is a Gorgoroth release I have more than a little trouble really getting into; for some reason it feels more primitive than the previous two albums, despite being musically and technically more complex in many ways. In yet another step away from 'Pentagram', this feels even more 'conventionally black metal' than 'Antichrist', as well as incorporating a greater level of thrash influence into what was originally an almost uncomfortably pure strain of BM. Perhaps it's not just my thing, but it's somewhat irritating to be able to see the artistry and interesting elements of a release but not be able to connect with them fully.
For instance, first legendary track 'Revelation Of Doom'; brutal, punishing percussion under a cascading array of thrashy black metal riffs and immensely hateful vocals from Pest, one of the most utterly misanthropic and chaotic black metal tracks I've ever heard... and yet I'm unable to connect with it on some fundamental level. Perhaps part of it is the production which obscures the riffs under a constant pounding of torturous snare, or perhaps there's just a sort of dissonance comparing this openly brutal, one-note music with the more artistic and subtle works of the past, but either way, I can enjoy it on an abstract level but not 'take it in', or so to speak. It goes like that with the rest of the album (though it is a bit more palatable with drums not quite so domineering in the scheme of the overall sound). Despite the music being good, the gap is not bridged between listener and recording.
The riffing seems peculiarly raw and off time on this recording, perhaps due to the greater thrash influence on this recording versus the rather binary black metal riffs of the previous albums. I like this a lot on an aesthetic level; it's excruciatingly raw, not so much in sound quality but in writing and playing; I genuinely get the feel that each member was specifically attempting to punish the audience while writing and recording these monstrosities which can barely be called songs. But again, that appreciation comes from a distance, and I'm unable to assemble these noisy little Satanic anthems into something greater in my mind. Maybe I'm thinking about it too hard, but 'Pentagram' and 'Antichrist' seemed to encourage the listener to dive into the dark, cold atmosphere while 'Under The Sign Of Hell' seems to rebuff such attempts. It's truly brutal and cruel music, but it lacks something in the way of atmosphere and accessibility for me.
Really, I chalk this up to being one of those albums that simply doesn't click for me in the way it does for others. I can't really dissuade someone else from giving this album a try; most find it very compelling and a fantastic entry in Gorgoroth's catalog. I'd be lying if I said it was a great album, though, because if it is, I simply can't hear it.
When I first got into Gorgoroth, they had just released their 2006 effort, Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam. The Gaahl/Infernus/King lineup had been there for the past couple of releases and I was not too familiar with the older works of this band. Heck, I didn't even know Gaahl only sang on one track of 'Destroyer', my personal favorite Gorgoroth album to date. All I was really familiar with was Gaahls vocals, which I love, and loved even back then, as well as the guitar work [something about the tones on the past three albums has really stood out to me], and the mood that is set by these dark pieces of art.
After a while I decided to look into the older works of Gorgoroth: Antichrist, Pentagram, and this one, which has stood out to me the most. I thought to myself that since Gaahl was not in the picture, and that these were much older works of Gorgoroth, it was very likely that I could listen to them and think them to be shit.
I was wrong. Not nearly as polished or 'brutal', if you will, as their more recent output, I still consider this album to be a Gorgoroth best, right next to Destroyer. Lower quality production, higher and more shrill vocals, drums that seem distant yet still punishing, and much more atmosphere make this album an all around enjoyable black metal experience.
The vocals were the big thing with me, so lets start with them. I mentioned before that Gaahl's vocals were something I loved. Probably still my favorite aspect of Gorgoroth. However, with Pest singing on this release, the vocals are still really good. Some of the higher pitched black vocals can really annoy me at times, but I really enjoy what Pest has going on here. Not too high or shrill, but still high and shrill nonetheless, and he manages to work his anger and hatred into them. These are high quality black metal vox. The only vocal aspect of the album I did not like was the female 'Aaahhs' on Funeral Procession. It just sounds like someone's mom singing in the shower. They don't really add a whole lot. If you want good choir vocals, male and female, look at Behemoth's 'Grom'.
The drumming was also really cool. On the first track, I thought to myself, 'What the hell? It sounds like someone hitting a metal trash can', but this doesn't last for the whole album and I began to take note of how fast and just plain good the drumming is. Of course, he slows it down when need be, but there isn't a whole lot of slowing down on this album anyway. The drums aren't too up front in the mix and sound a little distant as I mentioned before, but I think it adds quite a bit to the atmosphere.
The overall atmosphere of the album is really enjoyable, and almost trance-inducing at times for me, even during the fast parts. The lower production quality (as compared to newer Gorgoroth releases) may add to this. Sometimes a black metal album can realy take me places and get the imagination going, and this album does the trick.
This album had it's place as my favorite Gorgoroth record until later, when I looked into Destroyer, which is now my personal favorite. Despite this, only when listening to 'Under the Sign of Hell' do I sit back and think 'MAN I love black metal!'.
There are many ways to describe this album. You could say it's the most savage album laid to disc, blasphemy in a half an hour, straight up ticket to hell, unholy perversion of all that's good, or, simply, the most effective black metal album.
As far as Under the Sign of Hell's legacy in history, it's one of the greats, up there with De Mysteriis, Storm of the Light's Bane, and In The Nightside Eclipse as genre-defining CLASSICS. However, Gorgoroth separate themselves from the pack in taking satanism to a new level. An individual song-by-song review would be ineffective, as this is a perverted ritual unto itself. Everything about it reeks of black evil, and every word screamed by Pest spits venom and bile into your face, and every beat drummed by Grim a pounding convulsion straight from the heart of hell. This is BLACK METAL like it's supposed to be made, there's nothing wrong with ANY song on Under the Sign of Hell, this is doing black metal the RIGHT WAY. Look no farther than this, because this defines satanic black metal blasphemy at its best. The atmosphere is very filthy and raw, and succeeds at being brutal and haggard where Darkthrone failed, creating an intimidatingly ugly atmosphere with maniacal drumbeats where Grim sounds like he's destroying the kit, melodic yet funereal and grim riffs pounding along with the heavily hammered drums. Bass acts counter to guitar, managing to stand out in the mix, all the while Pest screams with all his might. There is simply nothing more to ask for if you like your blasphemy raw and unhindered.
This album, for me at least, marks the end of Gorgoroth's glory days. This album and the two that came before it are, by a large margin, the band's more well-known and respected albums, and for good reason. This album stands out from those three as being a bit different. However, it stands on its own as one of the best black metal albums I've ever heard. I assure you you will never hear anything quite like this...this is what black metal is truly about.
This album is just pure hell, that's the only way I can describe it. From the hard-hitting intro of Revelation of Doom to the last notes of The Devil is Calling, you'll feel like you were thrust into hell and stayed there until the album ends. Every member of the band contributed to what makes this album so great.
This is the band's only album with drummer Grim and vocalist Pest. Grim doesn't do anything technically outstanding. What he does do is beat the listener into submission with unrelenting drumming from beginning to end (especially beginning...) his approach to this album was exactly what it needed to be. Pest is one of the best vocalists I have ever heard. He has a shrill shriek that tears your ears apart. Like Grim, the way pest goes about performing on this album is where he really shines. He's not bullshitting here...you can hear the passion going into the vocals. For an example, listen to the latter half of Blood Stains the Circle. The ending of Revelation of Doom is also a worthy mention. Surprisingly enough, you can very often understand what Pest is saying. More often than many other black metal vocalists anyway. Infernus does an amazing job as always. The riffs are brutal and hellish throughout. You can also find alot of melody (see Funeral Procession.) As you'd expect after all of the above, the music itself is generally fast and hard hitting. Though it sometimes takes a back seat to slower songs like Funeral Procession and The Devil is Calling. This adds some variation to the album without letting go of its grasp on you. It is consistantly effective throughout.
You owe it to yourself to listen to this album if you're a black metal fan. Albums like this do not come around often. This embodies what this genre was meant to be...evil in music form.
It is usually assumed the Gorgoroth never worked really as hard on any album as they've worked on the legendary "Pentagram", it might be true or false, but who cares as long as the band keeps giving us solid albums like "Under The Sign Of Hell". The sound which this album contains is million times better than whatever you'll hear from the new black metal bands these days and even the old and established black metal bands cannot sound like this today because most of them have deviated from their roots and have moved towards modernity and the modern black metal sound is no way near the sound which the bands from the second wave of black metal contained.
The vocals on the entire album are perfect, Pest's (vocalist) screams are full of passion, variations, energy & hatred. Those of you who consider Judas Iscariot to be epic, you'll be blown away by the talent of Infernus (Guitars/bass), the riffs are extremely fast and unpredictable and they create such an epic sound when combined with the ravishingly brutal drumming of Grim (Drummer) that has been disappeared a long time ago. Another quality that adds to the sound on this album is that the bass does not disappear among the extremely dominating guitars and drums and this enhances the beauty of the sound. Atmosphere is that quality that Infernus always wants to add to his music, the atmosphere has been immaculately created on this album in such a quantity that you won't be able to complain about it in anyway what so ever, let me give you a hint that there's more atmosphere than that is present in Darkthrone albums.
Except song no. 5 "Postludium", every song in this album is complete in its own sense and is legendary overall. Heaviness, simplicity, brutality, great musicianship and outstanding vocals are a few words that describe this album perfectly.
I was a fan of Gorgoroth since the beginning. I mean, I liked the band, not in a hardcore way, I don't think I would even have paid for a show. It was a bit to cacophonic and not tight enough for my own likings, evil is a meaning and noisy music without concept is not evil because it has no meaning. But this...oh my god this...
Where do I begin? Under The Sign of Hell is Gorgoroth's peak and what Gorgoroth always should've sounded like. I don't know if it's the fact that Infernus was teaming up with Pest and Ares instead of Gaahl and King Ov Hell for this album that made it so different, but holy shit, I felt like I was just whacked by a subway wagon and driven straight into hell...it's like an Infernus-fest with Pest on vocal command.
First of all the music. Infernus has all the place he disearves. He runs the show with his guitar. The riffs are long, agressive and not overly complicated , neither overly simple. The guitar sounds very trashy as one of my co-reviewers has pointed out the sound is distorted and has that dirt feeling to it. It's kind of light, without being fluffy, it just feels a tad military. It keeps the listener marching on to the beat of destruction. The guitar of Infernus is the general, I could discourse as much as I want on the drums & bass, but they just follow the orders, they go where Infernus wants them...and thank baphomet for that. Also , another part that I liked were the trashy guitar leaks at the beginning and the end of every song which gave some kind of a cave-like feeling to the album, as if it was recorded on the edge of another world.
Another interesting part of the musical aspect of this album is the electronical approach, as small and parcimonious as it is, it's there and employed very well. The Rite Of Infernal Invocation has a nice long eerie noise-like outro which almost sounds menacing to the listener. Menacing people from ten years back, by the medium of air vibration recorded on cd, that's quite an exploit. Postlidium is another atmospherical song which gives that crazy feeling to the album. Pest's voice in a few songs is also digitally hampered, which creates more evil atmosphere.
As far as the vocal goes. The lyrics are a tad different than the usual Nietzsche preaching, a bit more generic(which where they lost a point here), but Pest's delievery saves the day as, in my opinion his vocal performence is a lot better than Gaahl's even if by black metal standards Gaahl isn't bad. Pest is just that good.
I reviewed this album after the news of Gorgoroth split up, just to remind myself than Infernus on his own might not be a bad thing for extreme music!
Cold...hellish...destructive...and ultimately frightening...
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...BLACK METAL!
1996 was obviously a BIG year for Black Metal. The first wave had come and gone, and a plethora of pissed off Norwegian and Swedish kids had sunk their demon fangs into the scene for a good number of years. The Big Four of Norwegian BM (EMPEROR, IMMORTAL, DARKTHRONE, and MAYHEM) set the stage for a LOT of newcomers eager to dip their dainty li'l toes into the Burning Lake to shine and show the Christian horde that they still had plenty to fear. While a good number were substandard, or out-right sucked balls, a few showed good enough potential to stick around the scene, get signed, and release albums. One such band was GORGOROTH.
Regardless of the misanthropic and criminal turn the band has undergone in recent years, the music more than speaks for all the jail time they face(d). "Pentagram" was grim, albeit drawing heavy DARKTHRONE/BATHORY influences..."Antichrist" was brutal, though taking only baby steps in the right direction...but it wasn't until "Under the Sign of Hell" stormed the Earth like a swarm of locusts did GORGOROTH spawn forth a multitude of demonic forces hell-bent on burning every house of worship the world over. Musically, of course...if they can or cannot do so physically, that has yet to be seen.
Within the first few seconds of "Revelation of Doom", the band bursts forth in a dark rage not seen since the explosive first riffs of EMPEROR's "Into the Infinity of Thoughts", and the same pace keeps up for the rest of the song and into Track no. 2, "Krig". Blistering guitar riffs rip through pulsing bass rhythms and chaotic drumwork courtesy of ol' demon drummer boy Grim (RIP). Vocal-wise, Pest displayed possibly the sickest and most inhuman vocal work on ANY black metal album during the second wave. Though rendering the lyrics 90-95% incomprehensable, his voice alone can give you chills. The biggest perk off this album, as opposed to many of their substandard peers, is that the song-writing is actually INTELLIGENT and THOUGHT OUT! Who'da thunk it for Black Metal?? If not seen within the speedfests of "Ødeleggelse Og Undergang" and the aformentioned "Revelation of Doom", to the cold and chilling "Funeral Procession", Mr. Infernus crafts a deadly dark mixture of intensity and melody that many Black Metal bands cannot combine (they either go for one or the other, not often to glorious results). Even the rather creepy ambient piece "Postludium" is worth noting, citing nightmarish imagery and atmosphere.
However, despite all its high points, there are a couple low points one notices after repeated listenings, though not many that would warrent the CD worthless, thankfully. First of all, the album itself only runs about 39 minutes, which, unfortunately, flies right by in the whirlwind haze the album is known for. As well, "The Devil is Calling" isn't quite a good closer. It's a half-way decent song, but more akin to industrial than Black Metal, and doesn't seem to fit the scheme of things as well as the rest of the album. But that's why Satan invented the Stop Button.
So, to recap...cold...hellish...destructive...and ultimately frightening...elements many other second/third-tier Black Metal bands WISH they could initiate, but seem to fail to do so. "Under the Sign of Hell", however, is evil in its unpurest form. Ave Satanas, indeed.
This album is a solid black metal release, the perfect bridge between early and modern Gorgoroth. Unlike Pentagram, it moves away from Bathory-inspired and chromatic guitar riffs, and moves more towards the modern style of riffing Gorgoroth has used on their recent albums.
Under the Sign is simply a great album in itself, however, regardless of said significances. "Revelation of Doom" starts with an insane guitar riff accompanied by a metallic-sounding blastbeat that can't be forgotten due to its dissonance and intensity. The first track leads into the sonic assault that doesn't stop until the end of "Profetens Åpenbaring", a somewhat odd song starting with pagan singing. This shows Gorgoroth's first delving into other genres: folk elements are present.
My main criticism of the album is what occurs after "Profetens Åpenbaring" and on several parts of the album, which is sustained silence with strange wind noises and odd semi-natural sounds. Although it does set the mood for the music, and it does set up the next song (for example, when "Postludlum" kicks in it about knocks you off your feet), the noise between some tracks is sometimes strange and out of place.
"The Rite of Infernal Invocation" shows Gorgoroth's improving and evolving style. The same amazing melodic elements as displayed on the last track of Pentagram are used here, but with an improved sound and structure. There are only eight actual songs on the album, but the overall quality is very high, and the experimentation still fits quite well with the music.
Lately Gorgoroth has been in the news quite frequently whether it was their concert in Poland involving sheep heads on stakes, blood covering the stage and 4 nude men and woman that were crucified on the stage, in which the entire band was nearly arrested for, Gaahl’s 18 month prison sentence for “performing satanic rituals and torture lasting for several hours on” a 41 year old man or more recently their show in San Salvador where a special task force had to be brought in after riots broke out during the gig and their music is no less blasphemous or evil than thier acts.
“Under the Sign of Hell” is viewed as Gorgoroth's ‘masterpiece’ by many Gorgoroth fans and for good reasons. The album contains countless riffs that are simply amazing compared to riffs presented by man other black metal bands, “Revelation of Doom” which opens the album shows this, the opening guitar riff is fast and very dark which is perfect for black metal and the riffs only pick up from here. The melodic guitar work in “Funeral Procession” “Profetenes Åpenbaring” and “Blood Stains the Circle” (to name a few) help set this release apart from most black metal releases. Infernus, who plays guitar for the band, also played the bass on all but one song but the bass is nothing special, it fits in with the music well and it gets its job done.
Grim’s drumming on this release could not be better, it has that classic thunka-thunka sound that works perfectly with the music. Some say that Frost was Gorgoroth's best drummer but I diverge from this opinion, as I believe that no one topped Grim’s performance on this album, it is a shame that he left after it was recorded. The albums strongest point is the vocal performance given by Pest, who is believed to have been Gorgoroth's best singer by many. Pest displays the classic black metal singing, which is more of a shrieking, but also adds a little variety to the album with his clean singing, which is very much like the singing done by Fenriz in Isengard, on songs like “Funeral Procession” and “Profetenes Åpenbaring.”
Combined with the line-up on “Under the Sign of Hell” (which has yet to be topped by the band) and the excellent production that makes this album as cold and dark as it is, contributes to helping this album to be the bands best work. Stand out tracks include “Funeral Procession” “Profetenes Åpenbaring” and “Revelation of Doom” which have also become Gorgoroth classics. Great Black Metal album.
With their third full-length, Gorgoroth took a significantly different apporach to their music, as well as another step forward in terms of songwriting. "Under The Sign Of Hell" is a very adapt title for an album whose sound seems to indeed have been forged in the darkest depths of the underworld, as well as its mysterious cover foreshadows that everything here is strictly in black and white (with a strong predominance of the former, of course).
The songs are still fairly short, and the riffs can still be described as trademark Gorgoroth, but the rendition is a lot more aggressive and the sound (so clear and full on the previous albums, in contrast with so many other Blacm Metal releases) is very abrasive and much more raw. This time the guitars and bass are also tuned one step down, at leats on most of the songs, which is another new feature for the band's sound.
This result definitely owes something to the new line-up that partecipated on this album. Apart from Infernus, still handling the guitars and some bass parts, this album features the likes of Grim (R.I.P.) of Immortal and Borknagar fame, whose barbaric beats fit the new character of the music (more aggression, less groove) very well, as well as Pest (of Obtained Enslavement, who had already partecipated on "Antichrist) on vocals and Ares (of Aeternus) as a guest on bass.
As the album begins, "Revelation of Doom" wastes no time in assaulting the listener with razor sharp riffs and merciless beats, soon paired by Pest's trademark shrill, acid screams. The sound differences between this album and the previous ones are brutally obvious, as everything in here (including the vocals, which in contrast to "Pentagram" and "Antichrist" are kept way loud in the mix) sounds distorted and overloud. The drums have a rather bad quality (the snare almost sounds like someone knowcking on a door), but they will becomes better on the rest of the album. The song itself is a very fast attack backed by fast and powerful drumming, and despite its short length has enough room for some tempo changes (including a kind of "marching" interlude which oddly reminds of "Child in Time"). Enough to describe the characteristics of the album, and to scare most listeners away for good.
"Krig" is next, and is basically more of the same although the guitars and bass built a more melodic background which creates a nice conrast with Grim's relentless blastbeats and Pest's inhuman screams. His aggressive banshee-like voice fits the band's new sound very well.
"Funeral Procession" slows down the pace and lets Infernus unleash some highly melodic and sorrowful guitar parts. Grim is impressive with his double bass drumming, while Pest tries a falsetto chanting in one point. The song has an unpredictable ceeleration at the end, and closes on yet another sad riff.
the sound of blowing wind precedes the barely audible guitar introduction of "Profetens Åpenbaring", and goes on for about a minute before the proper song starts. The feeling of this one is similar to "Funeral Procession", but this time the mid-tempo goes on from the beginning to the end, with the variation relying solely on the riffs and their dynamics. Pest thrpws in his clean vocals, which have a kind of solemn, recitative tone to them, and fit the more melodic passages to a great effect.
"Postludium" is next, and is a weird interlude built upon a backwards phrase sung by Pest played at different speeds.
"Ødeleggelse og Undergang" brings the fast pace back into the picture, although the riffs are menacing more than aggressive, especially in the middle section where the pace goes down.
The last drum roll of the song mixes with the beginning of "Blood Stains the Circle", another fast number with a very strong percussive feature that give it an almost tribal feel. Pest's vocals are amazing here, as lacerates his larynx with a kind of "melodic" scream which is definitely the highlisght of the song.
More speed comes in the form of "The Rite of Infernal Invocation", a blizzards of really fast riffing backed by precise drumming and more possessed screams from Pest. At the end of the song a kind of rumbling noise comes in and goes on for about three minutes before the last song, "The Devil is Calling", begins... weird and rather pointless, as most people (including me) just go for the skip button when the music ends.
So, "The Devil is Calling"... the slowest track of the album, and the most melodic one too. Grim somehow manages to hold back hsi need to thrash the hell out of his kit and provides a slow but rock solid background for the great riffs that make up this grand finale.
"Under The Sign Of Hell" completes the trilogy of the first Gorgoroth era on a high note, and introduces new elements in their sound. A recommended listen if you like raw Black Metal, and a mandatory purchase if you're a fan of the band. It's well worth it.