Rating:
8.5
Bathory - Under The Sign Of The Black Mark
11 May 1987


01. Nocternal Obeisance
02. Massacre
03. Woman Of Dark Desires
04. Call From The Grave
05. Equimanthorn
06. Enter The Eternal Fire
07. Chariots Of Fire
08. 13 Candles
09. Of Doom
10. Outro


Under the Sign of the Black Mark was, in many ways, one of the first great releases to incite the black metal genre. Yes, I am aware that Bathory's two previous records are black metal; however, it was Under the Sign of the Black Mark that created a standard by which all black metal releases should be judged. That standard was, however, not contrived by larger than life orchestrations or in-depth atmospheres but by the very soul of black metal which was truly defined in this record: dark, aggressive, and haunting music that would scare even Michael Myers on his unholy rampage. Indeed, Under the Sign of the Black Mark is the definitive black metal album.

Despite its low quality production, Under the Sign of the Black Mark is quite a well-composed album. Beginning with a haunting introduction, Under the Sign of the Black Mark takes listeners on a ride through hell and back, while hammering away at them with rapid drumming, thrash-oriented, cacophonic guitar riffs, and the very kind of shrieks that define black metal today. Admittedly, the ride is very enjoyable, chaotic, and brutal, while even delivering adequate guitar solos amidst the chaos, but one should keep in mind that this is not accessible music for anyone new to black metal. Furthermore, one who is expecting epic orchestras and progressive interludes will be very disappointed with Under the Sign of the Black Mark's simplicity. Indeed, it is not complex, nor is it of a high-quality mark; however, its very brutal simplicity is what defines black metal as an underground genre of extreme music. This is the album that inspired the modern-day tr00 black metal bands to play. Therefore, if one comes to Under the Sign of the Black Mark in curiosity, he should expect nothing more than raw, cacophonic black metal.

Honestly, the discourse of this loud, hellish ride cannot be concluded without the mention of the menacing themes that aptly supplement this album. Over the course of this ride, one will encounter imagery of battle ("Massacre"), mortifying cries for mercy ("Call from the Grave"), and hell ("Enter the Eternal Fire"; "13 Candles"), the very subject that captives so many black metal artists today. Now, while it is true that the lyrics in Under the Sign of the Black Mark are not the most thought-provoking or in-depth lyrics one can find, they succinctly compliment this raw, chaotic ride. One should also remember that before most black metal artists felt the need to write songs dedicated to flaming infernos of hell, Bathory was the first black metal band to do so.

Under the Sign of the Black Mark is what it is: evil; menacing; dissonant; and dark. Those very four adjectives have become a staple in the world of black metal, and if it weren't for Bathory and this record, black metal may have turned out differently. Or, it may not have even come into existence. Regardless, this album is a great listen for two kinds of people: black metal fans and those who may want to delve into black metal. Black metal fans should hear it, for it not only delivers the goods but also creates the genre that they love so dearly; and although I did mention previously that Under the Sign of the Black Mark is not a very accessible listen, newcomers to black metal should hear this album anyway before hearing the overly contrived black metal music of today (epic orchestrations and Gorgoroth-like drama included) to completely comprehend what black metal was and should be.

Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 9
Production: 7


Band profile: Bathory
Album: Under The Sign Of The Black Mark


 


written by Axe Argonian | 04.01.2011


Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.



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Himann - 04.01.2011 at 18:47  
This album needs no introduction but yes, the words "evil; menacing; dissonant; and dark" perfectly capture the imagery of this album. Good review and an album for the ages.
RavenKing - 05.01.2011 at 01:32  
"newcomers to black metal should hear this album anyway before hearing the overly contrived black metal music of today (epic orchestrations and Gorgoroth-like drama included) to completely comprehend what black metal was and should be."

Couldn't agree more. Way too many people nowadays believe that symphonic crap ala Dimmu Borgir is Black Metal and that BM needs orchestrations and artifices to be good, while BM is much greater without such useless artifices. The true soul of BM is visceral emotions, darkness, aggressivity, menacing and sinister music, distorted sound, in-your-face harshness, etc. Useless artifices only detract it from its core.
Axe Argonian - 05.01.2011 at 01:50  
Written by RavenKing on 05.01.2011 at 01:32

"newcomers to black metal should hear this album anyway before hearing the overly contrived black metal music of today (epic orchestrations and Gorgoroth-like drama included) to completely comprehend what black metal was and should be."

Couldn't agree more. Way too many people nowadays believe that symphonic crap ala Dimmu Borgir is Black Metal and that BM needs orchestrations and artifices to be good, while BM is much greater without such useless artifices. The true soul of BM is visceral emotions, darkness, aggressivity, menacing and sinister music, distorted sound, in-your-face harshness, etc. Useless artifices only detract it from its core.

Amen to that!

Recently, I was talking to this one young musician about metal and its various sub-genres. Upon reaching the subject of black metal, I asked him which black metal musicians he liked. Apparently, his answer was Cradle of Filth.

See, additional but unneeded contrivances like symphonic orchestrations can be acceptable if they're added to compliment the music as a work of art (see latter-day Emperor). Unfortunately, it seems as if most "black metal" artists today (like Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir) employ such orchestrations not to compliment their music in an artistic fashion but to appeal to the popular trends of the genre and make their way onto MTV. That, my friend, is not what black metal was ever ordained to accomplish.
Richard - 05.01.2011 at 03:33  
Great review. Under the Sign of the Black Mark is a real classic and as you suggested, anyone interested in Black Metal should give it a listen. It has a great deal of historical and inspirational significance, and even more importantly it still stands up as a brilliant album all these years later - a rough production but a timeless appeal.

I like your use of the words "evil; menacing; dissonant; and dark" - and agree that some modern listeners may be put off by the primitive production, etc. However, if serious Metal enthusiasts are willing to give the album a proper listen, then I think they may really appreciate it, even if they don't usually listen to the really raw stuff. Particularly songs like Woman of Dark Desires, Enter the Eternal Fire and 13 Candles...
Metal George - 05.01.2011 at 20:56  
I love this album. It even has some catchy parts. They don't make them like this anymore.
quorthon - 07.01.2011 at 09:10  
"evil; menacing; dissonant; and dark" no other review catched the very soul of this album with so few words...
great review a even greater album!
ForeverDarkWoods - 13.01.2011 at 18:28  
It also captures a lot of my main points about this album. THIS is real black metal. Symphonic plastic shit like Dimmu ain't real. Blast-happy plastic shit like recent Marduk ain't real. Pretentious plastic shit like Drudkh or Deathspell Omega ain't real. Emo plastic shit like Xasthur ain't real. Synth happy folk plastic shit like Nokturnal Mortum ain't real.

THIS is what real black metal sounds like. THIS is the standard according to which black metal should be judged, and the modern shit can get the fuck out.
vezzy - 13.01.2011 at 18:33  
^

THIS.





















GUY IS A NEO-CONSERVATIVE CONSPIRATOR OF THE METAL CONSERVATIVE NATION.
!J.O.O.E.! - 13.01.2011 at 18:37  
Damn crypto-fascists.
ForeverDarkWoods - 13.01.2011 at 23:56  
Only Bathory is real motherfuckers!
Marcel Hubregtse - 14.01.2011 at 00:07  
Written by ForeverDarkWoods on 13.01.2011 at 23:56

Only Bathory is real motherfuckers!


You mean that band that started off as a Venom rip-off?
ForeverDarkWoods - 14.01.2011 at 10:40  
Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 14.01.2011 at 00:07

Written by ForeverDarkWoods on 13.01.2011 at 23:56

Only Bathory is real motherfuckers!


You mean that band that started off as a Venom rip-off?

Yeah, Venom is also real.

Self titled also wasn't a 100% Venom rip off, even if it was clearly very Venom influenced. Still one of the best metal albums there is though.

As for my comically exaggerated post, I was more describing the feeling that the album gives you when you listen to it. Compared to this shit, nearly nothing is real.
Marcel Hubregtse - 14.01.2011 at 12:18  
@Forever, as for my Venom rip-off reference that was about the first track on the Scandinavian Metal Attack compilation by Bathory called Sacrifice that one isn't even Venom influenced it just sounds like a pure Venom rip-off I though so back in the day when I got the compilation (for the Oz songs) and still do think so nowadays.
ForeverDarkWoods - 14.01.2011 at 12:23  
Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 14.01.2011 at 12:18

@Forever, as for my Venom rip-off reference that was about the first track on the Scandinavian Metal Attack compilation by Bathory called Sacrifice that one isn't even Venom influenced it just sounds like a pure Venom rip-off I though so back in the day when I got the compilation (for the Oz songs) and still do think so nowadays.

Damn. Always forget that one was ever released. Sacrifice is also on the debut album and sounds way more Bathory there though.
Marcel Hubregtse - 14.01.2011 at 14:42  
Written by ForeverDarkWoods on 14.01.2011 at 12:23

Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 14.01.2011 at 12:18

@Forever, as for my Venom rip-off reference that was about the first track on the Scandinavian Metal Attack compilation by Bathory called Sacrifice that one isn't even Venom influenced it just sounds like a pure Venom rip-off I though so back in the day when I got the compilation (for the Oz songs) and still do think so nowadays.

Damn. Always forget that one was ever released. Sacrifice is also on the debut album and sounds way more Bathory there though.


The Return of Darkness and Evil also sounds Venomish on the Scandinavian metal Attack album but not as bad as Sacrifice but sonds way more Bathory like on The Return...
ForeverDarkWoods - 14.01.2011 at 14:46  
Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 14.01.2011 at 14:42

Written by ForeverDarkWoods on 14.01.2011 at 12:23

Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 14.01.2011 at 12:18

@Forever, as for my Venom rip-off reference that was about the first track on the Scandinavian Metal Attack compilation by Bathory called Sacrifice that one isn't even Venom influenced it just sounds like a pure Venom rip-off I though so back in the day when I got the compilation (for the Oz songs) and still do think so nowadays.

Damn. Always forget that one was ever released. Sacrifice is also on the debut album and sounds way more Bathory there though.


The Return of Darkness and Evil also sounds Venomish on the Scandinavian metal Attack album but not as bad as Sacrifice but sonds way more Bathory like on The Return...

I know, I've heard it, but I tend to overlook it.
Richard - 15.01.2011 at 04:16  
I think Quorthon said in interviews that he wasn't even familiar with Venom's music in the early days of Bathory.. he was just influenced by the same kinds of music as Venom was also influened by at that point, so there happened to be certain similarities.
Marcel Hubregtse - 15.01.2011 at 04:30  
Written by Richard on 15.01.2011 at 04:16

I think Quorthon said in interviews that he wasn't even familiar with Venom's music in the early days of Bathory.. he was just influenced by the same kinds of music as Venom was also influened by at that point, so there happened to be certain similarities.


That was total bullshit. I remember back when the comp was released he even stated in an interview that he thought Venom were brilliant. Plus back then everyone into metal, even the mainstream had hear about and had heard Venom one waty or the other.
Quorthong became revisionist in that sense a bit later down the road when his music became popular (which did take quite a while btw)
ForeverDarkWoods - 15.01.2011 at 18:43  
Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 15.01.2011 at 04:30

Written by Richard on 15.01.2011 at 04:16

I think Quorthon said in interviews that he wasn't even familiar with Venom's music in the early days of Bathory.. he was just influenced by the same kinds of music as Venom was also influened by at that point, so there happened to be certain similarities.


That was total bullshit. I remember back when the comp was released he even stated in an interview that he thought Venom were brilliant. Plus back then everyone into metal, even the mainstream had hear about and had heard Venom one waty or the other.
Quorthong became revisionist in that sense a bit later down the road when his music became popular (which did take quite a while btw)

Wasn't there also a pic of him in some zine with a Welcome to Hell LP in the background? I have a vague memory of seeing such a pic but I could be wrong.

Anyway, it is of course obvious that he had heard, and liked, Venom. What he went on to do from the third LP onwards was quite different from Venom though.
RavenKing - 16.01.2011 at 15:09  
Perhaps Quorthon was influenced by Venom, perhaps not. I guess we'll never know. But, in any case, Bathory's early albums are all a significant step above Venom, a big improvement over it, as Venom was quite mediocre.
ForeverDarkWoods - 17.01.2011 at 18:03  
Bathory, Venom, Mercyful Fate, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost and Black Sabbath. These are the bands that compete for the title of the best metal band in history in my opinion.

Venom was great, if you don't mind stuff to be a bit unpolished. It adds an organic quality to it that practically all bands of today lack completely. Out of all the records I have heard, Welcome to Hell might be the release that felt the most "alive", so to speak, that I have ever heard. It's imperfection is part of it's greatness..
vezzy - 17.01.2011 at 18:11  
Written by ForeverDarkWoods on 17.01.2011 at 18:03

Bathory, Venom, Mercyful Fate, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost and Black Sabbath. These are the bands that compete for the title of the best metal band in history in my opinion.


You're way off.
!J.O.O.E.! - 17.01.2011 at 18:35  
Hellhammer and Venom?

I believe a "lol" is in order.

Especially for Smellhammer.
vezzy - 17.01.2011 at 18:38  
A lol? No, my friend... this is in order:

!J.O.O.E.! - 17.01.2011 at 18:39  
I'm tempted to use the Rofl Harris one too but I only used it a week or so ago.
ForeverDarkWoods - 17.01.2011 at 18:56  
You guys are just not real enough.
JeffreyAgente - 09.04.2011 at 22:16  
Like this one!

" Enter The Eternal Fire" is the best track! The guitar in this song is so amazing!
Slayer666 - 10.04.2011 at 16:05  
A very confusing album for me... Some songs I can't stop playing, some songs I can't stand more than 40 seconds because of how much they bore me. Oh, well, I'll just stick to the ones I like.

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