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A no loitering ‘Sign’ - 93%

marktheviktor, December 22nd, 2008

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.