Thursday, May 11, 2017

Posted by \m/ The Power of the Riff \m/ | File under : ,

Bathory are one of the few bands who have changed the course of metal music not only have they been influential in many young metal musicians, following the call to start making noise of their own but they have also been genre defining, laying down the template for the second wave of black metal. They also were and still are the most important and influential extreme metal band to ever come out of Sweden. The band and this album have become a cornerstone, a pillar if you will for the second wave of black metal which was to come out of Europe in the early nineties and spread it's black wings over every corner of the globe, with black metal bands appearing everywhere, no doubt inspired by the legacy of Bathory.  The band created the sound of pure evil and darkness with their first two albums and with this their third gave the genre something which it lacked before, that crucial element which gave all of those Norwegian bands an edge, and that my friends was atmosphere. Before this album bands like Venom sounded evil but they lacked atmosphere which is essential in creating black metal. Under the Sign of the Black mark not only sounded evil and creepy as fuck it also had that atmosphere which is essential for modern day black metal as we know it. Bathory was the brainchild of one Thomas Forsberg better known to you and I as Quorthon and remained as a one man project for the majority of their career, and never playing live. Although it has been said that they did play some gigs in their early years this has never been confirmed. Such is a great part of Bathory's charm, mystery.

Such was the mystery and mystic created around and behind the band that Quorthon's original name was never revealed while the band was active. This helped cement further the bands occult and obscure quality. Another interesting fact is Bathory had an early sound which seemed to be heavily influenced by the mighty Venom but Quorthon maintained to his death that prior to starting Bathory he had never heard of Venom, this does seem unbelievable but I always wondered if this was true or perhaps Quorthon really wanted to come across as original on Bathory's first album. In my opinion it doesn't matter because one way or another Bathory took the genre somewhere it had not been and probably never would have went if not for Quorthon. Bathory's original sound came partly from lack of studio experience, time constraints and budget for example for the first Bathory album the band had to record at half the speed in order to fit everything on one master tape which created a humming sound on the album and that very humming sound was what contributed to the evil and obscure feeling on the album, like the music was being channelled from some hellish ancient time that the Gods had forsaken. They also recorded that first album in less than 50 hours because they didn't have enough money to pay for the studio time. All of these circumstantial events helped create the sound. Even the infamous goat cover which has become symbolic of Bathory and black metal was made in the most DIY fashion by Quorthon who simply cut out a set of eyes, a nose and a mouth from various horror magazines and then pasted them together using tipp-ex to cover up all of the joined pieces and then drew the torso by hand and their you have one of the greatest album covers in the history of metal.

Bathory then went on to record their second album this time in the professional Elektra Studio but he still maintained that evil and brutal sound in fact taking everything in a more extreme direction with the music being faster more aggressive and complete with grunted and inhumane vocals. For Under the Sign of the Black Mark however Bathory returned home to Heavenshore which in fact was a converted garage which suited the primitive and evil nature of Bathory's music far better than a professional studio ever could. It is a well known fact that true obscure, primitive, atmospheric and evil sounding black metal is hard to create in a polished studio. From beginning to end the album created an ungodly, dark and eerie atmosphere which sent shivers down my spine when I first heard it which I still get to this very day. It's interesting to note that the atmosphere was created in large part due to the exaggerated use of reverb on the album which Quorthon only used to hide and cover up the many cuts in the tape and mistakes, so you see great art and music is never planned, it simply comes form the unknown. The album created it's own world which sucked you in and took over your soul, once you heard Bathory their was no turning back. A lot of the songs were also played at a slow pace which Bathory had not done on their previous two albums which passed by in a blur of speed and mayhem. This use of dynamics helped also to create the atmosphere on the album. Hailed as one of the best albums of the genre by many black metal fans and musicians alike. It's influence can never be underestimated. Under the Sign of the Black mark will be forever remembered for it's powerful, nightmarish and truly atmospheric evil sounding music which in my opinion to this day has never been bettered although many have tried. So raise your horns in rememberence of Quorthon and the truly amazing metal he gave to us and for those who never heard Under the Sign of the Black mark now is your chance to hear an epic piece of metal history.


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