Thirty Years Under the Sign of the Black Mark

Bathory‘s Under the Sign of the Black Mark turned turned thirty years​ old last month. The album marked the start of Quorthon adding in the epic atmosphere of Manowar and Iron Maiden which would come to fruition on Blood Fire Death. Under the Sign of the Black Mark also happened to be one of the first black metal CDs I ever purchased, which I preceded to play non-stop for about a week until getting bored of it and going back to listening to Altars of Madness.

Under the Sign of the Black Mark saw Quorthon regress from the black metal song structures of The Return……, themselves a linearized version of the riff mazes of Mercyful Fate and Slayer‘s Hell Awaits, into simpler ones reminiscent more of heavy and speed metal that were almost like a simplified, less progressive version of Motorhead. Songs featured distinct verse and chorus riffs that Quorthon’s harshly sung vocals followed in heavy metal style. Like most heavy metal, the songs were too repetitive for repeated listening without boredom resulting. The initial luster and awe wore off Under the Sign of a Black Mark in a few spins unlike Bathory and The Return…….

Bathory’s third work was a surface-level metal album only good for for revisiting every couple of years, not for repeatedly playing and critically listening to until you escape your own desires and become a pure, will-less subject of knowing to the music and can truly comprehend the music’s beauty as Schopenhauer would say. No, Under the Sign of the Black Mark was a work that revealed its makers intentions all too soon. Quorthon’s genius was in composing a black metal to lure mainstream metal fans into the underground but doing so left earlier fans of Bathory, Possessed, Slayer, and Mercyful Fate wanting for more depth and less repetition after the initial few listens. Under the Sign of the Black Mark merely aroused the desire to listen to Bathory’s earlier, better material in them. Creating wanton desire is charming and what is charming is no different from what is pornographic in that it leaves the viewer or listener wanting something else whether a puppy of their own, a sexual partner, or a less superficial black metal album such as The Return…… or Ritual.

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16 thoughts on “Thirty Years Under the Sign of the Black Mark

  1. con-job metal says:

    Call from the grave and the “born child of the underworld” song sound like party rock, but everything Master’s Hammer has done is lame.

  2. canadaspaceman says:

    Daniel Maarat – Altars of Madness > Under the Sign of the Black Mark= 1990s death metaller
    others – Under the Sign of the Black Mark > Altars of Madness = 1980s true metalhead

    1. It's just brown and water says:

      Really it’s The Return > Under the Sign

      1. The self-titled established the style, The Return… made it great, then it was time to give it more depth, but that did not happen until Blood, Fire, Death which also tried to work in heavy metal and speed metal, with varying degrees of success. After that, the band went back to its roots somewhat with Hammerheart, and after that launched on a quest for a metal sound outside of the underground. There is great stuff on every Bathory album, but Under The Sign Of The Black Mark has never been inspirational except to the same people who idolize Venom and the less interesting Blasphemy tracks.

        1. Rainer Weikusat says:

          The Return seems to be the only Bathory album which doesn’t entirely suffer from “Now, that was sort-of nice, but what was the point of it?”. There are still to many “here comes the guitar solo” guitar solos and too many simplistic riffs repeated for too long. The vocals are the only really interesting thing and even these suffer from over-demonstrativeness and lack of passion. This obviously influenced both Euronymous and Dead but falls far short of both.

          Link which has to go here:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSiJCX5Ly3c

          1. Diabolical Fullmoon AIDS Injection says:

            This is the stupidest fucking thing I have ever read.

            1. Rainer Weikusat says:

              Appreciation of Bathory is not as universal as some people believe it to be:

              How much was Quorthon [Bathory’s founder] an influence on you? There are definite similarities between your musical styles, as well as the one-man-band configuration.

              When it comes to Bathory, I only listened to [1988’s] “Blood Fire Death” album until I discovered, and very much liked, [1990’s] “Hammerheart”. Later on, I started listening to his earlier – and certainly poorer – albums, as well. Bathory was a major influence on me in 1991-92, but [Burzum’s] one-man-band configuration came not from Quorthon’s influence. In fact, in 1991 I didn’t even know Bathory was a one-man band.

              http://www.burzum.org/eng/library/2010_interview_guitar_world.shtml, emphasis added

              As Vikernes has a prolific ‘web existence’, quotes from him (Why do people love ‘authorities’ so much?) are easy to find. There’s also some video on youtube describing Per Ohlin attending a Bathory/ Quorthon event and being very disappointed about the rockstar-styled, leather jacket wearing, victory-sign gesturing person which showed up.

              The quote above continues with

              Instead the configuration came as a result of me being, well, egotistical. I want everything done my way, or not at all.

              and that’s really the great weakeness of all these “1 guy” projects: They’re all 1-D, static, ‘dead’ so to say.

              1. Why do people love ‘authorities’ so much?

                Higher quality of perception and analysis should be honored. If one cannot do better, defer to the subject matter expert.

            2. It's just brown and water says:

              He needs to be reformatted.

        2. possessedbyevil says:

          You have shit in your ears

        3. BlackPhillip says:

          In what respect was Hammerheart a return to roots?

          1. It's just brown and water says:

            wondering this as well

  3. Psychic Psych Toad says:

    They don’t sound like Venom any longer, so I don’t like it.

  4. GGALLIN1776 says:

    Please don’t keep reminding me of how old i’m getting.

    1. And then there was AIDS says:

      Cool story, Peter Pan.

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