31 Years Ago: BATHORY release Under the Sign of the Black Mark

Daily Noise - / 2018

31 Years Ago: BATHORY release Under the Sign of the Black Mark

GARFFFFFFFFFF! At least it arrived! The hellish third lp with the pride of Scandinavia! This time QUORTHON doesn't do all the work alone, at least we know he got a drummer! (We don't know his name thought.......) This is probably one of the best Death Metal lp'es ever released! BATHORY shows that they stand head and shoulders above everyone else with this release. You got the in and out of Death Thrash in the form of "Massacre", "Chariots Of Fire" and "Of Doom......" and you for the doomy stuff on tracks like "Enter The Eternal Fire", "13 Candles" and "Woman Of Dark Desires"! Real nice! As a matter of fact I didn't find one bad tracks on this lp. Everyone rages!! Check it out god damn!
- Slayer #5 review, 1987

BATHORY released Under the Sign of the Black Mark on this day in 1987!

Regarding the day: this might be the New Renaissance (USA) date as some Under One Flag (UK) ads from the time give 8th May as the release date.

One vivid memory I still do have of recording UNDER THE SIGN OF THE BLACK MARK, was how very early I had to get up every morning to be in the studio on time. We would try to be there around 9 o'clock every morning. Heavenshore was in Huddinge, and back then I was living an hour and a half the opposite side of Stockholm. During the first two weeks of recording, having no car or motorcycle in those days, I had to first ride the subway for forty five minutes in order to reach down town where I'd take a intercity train. So I would arrange with Crille, who lived only a few stops away from me, which subway car I'd be in so that we could chat along the way the things we were going to do that day. But once he was out of the picture, and I'd ride all the way alone, I'd frequently fall asleep from boredom and fatigue. And so not only would I'd miss my stop countless mornings and wake up at the end station, I had to jump a train that went in the opposite direction to go ten or twelve stops back before I could even take that intercity train. So I would frequently miss the first hour or so most days during that Autumn...
Another memory I have of recording Under the Sign of the Black Mark, is how we recorded the tracks in sections primarily. There's an awful lot of down-mixing blocks of recorded instruments, and then adding one more guitar or that primitive synthesizer that just sat there in a corner. That gave us few alternatives when it came to final mix at a later stage. The bass, for instance, disappeared almost entirely towards the end. I kept adding one too many of those Rockman guitars and a few chords of synthesizer to give depth to what was an awful lot of energy and utter noise. And that meant the bass, already recorded and mixed-down at that stage, got almost lost in the cacophony.
The drums too turned out strange, with a lot of short delay and strange EQ setting, the finished end result is somewhat cardboard and fragile. But for 1986, that stuff was still unique energy wise, even by international standards. There might have been other bands delivering technically better played metal, and sonically much more enjoyable albums, perhaps even more fun street-like Thrashing stuff. But I understand Under the Sign of the Black Mark is regarded as the first of a kind, a true pioneer when it comes to that type of Black Metal.
We weren't aware of history being made. Had somebody told me back then, that I would still be sent emails eighteen years later, from fans hardly even born in 1986/87, claiming Under the Sign of the Black Mark to still be a one of a kind Black Metal album, then I'd say "Get outta here!!". A lot of people insist that this is when Black Metal, as we know it today, was born. Though Venom might have been slightly ahead of the rest of us in time, even lending the genre its name, frequently people will bare witness that the real deciding moment was the release of Under the Sign of the Black Mark.
- Quorthon / Bathory interview, Bathory.nu

Bathory - Nocternal Obeisance

We should have done a better job with that one. But it was recorded at a very late stage, we were dead tired, out of inspiration and time, and were never able to find the sound we really wanted anyway. So we said we ought to be content with what we had, and basically didn't do anything more on it. Actually, we had just plugged that synthesizer in first time that very morning, we weren't even sure it worked. I had never played keyboard for a record before, and so would just try a few things out. I found a reasonably nice sound and we decided to record that quickly. It was a very non-prestigious affair. But while looking for sounds, we found some interesting sounds for other tracks, and so made a note should we find the time to add some bars played on that thing.
- Quorthon / Bathory interview, Bathory.nu

Bathory - Massacre

That one was actually inspired by reading a book on the battle at Little Big Horn. When I tell people that, they'll usually freak out and go "-No fucking way!". So I guess that track must have been coming across as something completely different. Hate to ruin somebodies idea about the lyrics. But that's how that one came about.
- Quorthon / Bathory interview, Bathory.nu

Bathory - Woman of Dark Desires

I remember virtually stealing the entire base for that track from Saxon's "Machine Gun". Their "Wheels of Steel" and "Denim and Leather" albums are highly underrated I think. But when I listen back to "Woman of Dark Desires" today, all I hear is how unbelievably over-the-tolerance those guitars were recorded. That needle must have been jammed shut at the top constantly. And when we recorded that solo; in order to make the lead guitar penetrate that wall of distortion at all, a EQ-setting was required that would allow for ample penetration rather than a great sound. But we had no references in those days. There were no such albums to go home and listen back to.
- Quorthon / Bathory interview, Bathory.nu

Bathory - Call from the Grave

I actually produced a heavy doomsday-like demo of Frederic Chopin's funeral march first. Only a couple of weeks later did it occur to me that it really should be turned into a full blown track, incorporating the funeral march and with a buried alive theme. One funny thing that comes to my mind when I think of that particular track, is what one major British metal publication had to say about it back then. Whereas the rest of the world clearly took it for what it was, a horror story about being buried alive, this British metal publication interpreted that particular track as a newly risen interest in Christian values and newly born faith in God on my behalf... those media guys' have just never been too right on the spot about anything have they?! Not even back then...
- Quorthon / Bathory interview, Bathory.nu

Bathory - Equimanthorn

I basically ripped the opening passages from the soundtrack to the "Jaws" movie writing that one. We forgot to overdub a guitar for the intro, and so really the first six bars or so are actually remnants of a demo track onto which we'd lay down the various overdubs. I can't remember why we never did take care of that.
Equimanthorn is actually made up from Equi as in equal or the center or pinnacle of something, man as in human, and thorn as is a thorn of something stuck into something or someone, the thorn representing the vengeance theme found in the lyrics. If I remember correctly, what I was aiming for was a nature God of early mankind, not above man but equal to him, though a deity in every other way. In other words; a primitive God for a primitive mankind. I guess it's true here for the first time I am trying out what singing about deities or spiritual values other than the purely Satanic one, might turn out like. Once again a track with this insane guitar sound, the indicator must have shown red from beginning to end.
- Quorthon / Bathory interview, Bathory.nu

Bathory - Enter the Eternal Fire

The very positive response to this track particularly, was a surprise, and encouraged me to write more in that style. The rhythm and composition felt fresh. By that time, we wanted to say more, spread out and expand not only musically, but lyrically as well. The somewhat slower pace and different composition style of material like "Enter the Eternal Fire" and "Call From The Grave", so much better suited storytelling of a style other than screams of "SATAAAAAN" at 365mph. And so "A Fine Day To Die" and "Blood Fire Death" on the next album, was probably tailored from scratch to conform with this new rewarding rhythm and interesting composition style.
- Quorthon / Bathory interview, Bathory.nu

Bathory - Chariots of Fire

"Chariots of Fire" is one of few attempts on UNDER THE SIGN OF THE BLACK MARK to touch topics other than the purely Satanic or Demonic ones. It might be difficult to remember these days, it might even be hard to imagine citizens of a neutral nation even bothering, but though the wall would come down only a few years later, back in the mid 80's the cold war atmosphere was still very potent.
Throughout the years I wrote quite a lot of material on the nuclear war subject. But only very few things were ever recorded. "Chariots of Fire" was one, "Total Destruction on THE RETURN OF THE DARKNESS AND EVIL was another. And I'd visit the topic once more on BLOOD FIRE DEATH with "Holocaust".
- Quorthon / Bathory interview, Bathory.nu

Bathory - 13 Candles

...a classic Satanic story, with a thumping rhythm and sweeping winding chords, telling the story of the child of Satan being conceived by the eternal virgin, but overall quite forgettable really.
- Quorthon / Bathory interview, Bathory.nu

Bathory - Of Doom......

I dearly wanted to write a track dedicated to our fan base. We had been flooded with such a huge amount of fan mail from early 1985, and the supporting letters just kept on coming by the dozen every week. People would send us photo's of themselves wearing BATHORY shirts, either homemade ones or the few we had produced ourselves in 1985 and promoted by sliding small merchandise flyers into the album sleeves. And they'd all let us know how they would party like animals, headbanging all night to our albums, draw our logo and the goat all over the place, and how they couldn't wait for a third album. We were still amazed by all this admiration, flattered by all the support and immensely proud of every little sign of attention or letter from outback wherever. "Of Doom" was our way of letting all of them know how grateful and humble we felt.
The increasing eerie sound at the beginning of that track, is actually a piano chord played back backwards. One of the quarter inch tapes we were using was a second hand tape, and it contained some light muzzak before we recorded one half of UNDER THE SIGN OF THE BLACK MARK over it. We must have been putting that tape on backwards right from start, for all of a sudden, when going from record mode to play-back mode playing back something we had just recorded, we heard this surging sound coming out of the speakers. It took a while before we realized it was a piano chord belonging to something already on the tape. But we liked that so much, we decided to copy that and make one track begin that way. I still wonder what that muzzak was. If that pianist only knew he or she is on a BATHORY album...
- Quorthon / Bathory interview, Bathory.nu