Bathory - Under the Sign of the Black Mark
New Renaissance
Black Metal
10 songs (35'55'')
Release year: 1987
Reviewed by Jared

Black metal is argued to have begun in two major places. Many look to Norway as the front runner in the black metal sound, but others have come to the conclusion that the Swedish area had to do a lot with its development. There’s a lot of truth in it being Swedish born due to Bathory’s involvement and its major contribution in being one of the leading pioneers of the genre itself. Black metal’s origins are a fun concept to debate, but all that matters in the end is the music. Many people take it upon themselves to argue about this genre like they are defending their own mother. This music will never mean anything to us like what it has meant in truth for the artists behind all its madness. I respect the genre immensely, especially the artist Quorthon, who has been noted as a true legend in metal. Under the Sign of the Black Mark played a huge role in the development of black metal, especially that of the 90’s explosion of bands within the Norwegian area.

The album begins with an ambient atmospheric approach with the echoing of the guitar in the background, all the while giving you a haunting feeling. After the eerie intro, the album rushes into a barrage of blast beating with some very erratic guitar riffs that have a hint of thrash, but more importantly it remains as classic as black metal has ever sounded. The guitar soloing sounds like it is echoing through a neighbor’s closed garage. This is exactly the surrounding Quorthon found himself to be in. Limited to a low budget, the entire album was recorded on a four track recorder and did it all within his own garage. The result is the rebellious low production quality sound that black metal bands would later embrace and use in their music for years to come.

Woman of Dark Desires is a real standout on the album. Its quick repetitive beat patterns and guitar licks make for a song on a rampage. Also to mention, its chorus will always be a constant stamp for me in my black metal album collection. Call to the Grave is also another great track on the album. The riffing is a bit simpler, but remains dark and true to the genre nonetheless. I particularly liked the solo here during the song. It created a great atmosphere to it as a whole. Solos sound a bit harder on the ear due to it “ear shattering sense” compared to the rhythm and sound level of the guitars. When soloing does occur, its volume really overtakes the rest of the instruments playing but it does not take away totally from the song.

One of my favorite tracks, Enter the Eternal Fire, is almost like Bathory’s first jump into longer, more epic song writing. The guitar riff is the catchiest on the album which has a somewhat crude rock sound. As the riff plays out, a strange sounding church bell rings as the riff constantly brings itself back and forth to its starting position. It is a simple concept, but it makes the song what it is. The song even opens itself up to some clean sounding guitar parts which sort of hint to the Hammerheart album which would be released only three years later.

As the album progresses, Chariots of Fire makes its way comfortably into the list of chaotic songs. This might hands down be the most unrelenting song on the entire album. The song is two minutes and 42 seconds which can only be described as having a “black metal machine gun” sound for the entire duration, excluding the keyboard introduction. This song is really how the rest of the album plays out, as well as much of the songs on the album. It will either give listeners the biggest headache they will never want to repeat, or for the more extreme metal lovers like myself, will keep coming back for more and more.

Some people will refer to this album as ridiculous noise that deserves no place in music history but I say to them they are wrong. This is a wonderful album for any black metal fans or extreme metal lovers. It clearly inspired many black metal bands that emerged in the early 90’s and still is a fantastic album to revisit today. It is no doubt one of the most recognizable albums that helped launch the genre of black metal to its feet.

Killing Songs :
Woman of Dark Desires, Call from the Grave, Enter the Eternal Fire, Of Doom
Jared quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Bathory that we have reviewed:
Bathory - Blood On Ice reviewed by Ben and quoted 93 / 100
Bathory - Bathory reviewed by Jared and quoted CLASSIC
Bathory - Blood Fire Death reviewed by Tyler and quoted CLASSIC
Bathory - Hammerheart reviewed by Jeff and quoted CLASSIC
Bathory - Nordland II reviewed by Jay and quoted 71 / 100
To see all 8 reviews click here
3 readers voted
Your quote was: 95.
Change your vote

There are 19 replies to this review. Last one on Wed May 08, 2013 4:42 am
View and Post comments