‘Under The Sign Of The Black Mark’ Turns 25 (Part 2: Metalion)

This photograph was originally published in the July 1987 issue of Metal Hammer, accompanying an interview with Quorthon promoting Under the Sign of the Black Mark. Image courtesy of My Gallery of Rock and Metal.

Today,  May 11, 2012, is the 25th birthday of Bathory’s landmark Under the Sign of the Black Mark: arguably the single most seminal work in the history of black metal. Earlier today, we published a thoughtful analysis of the album by Swedish Death Metal author Daniel Ekeroth; our birthday celebration continues  with some words from legendary Slayer Mag publisher Jon “Metalion”  Kristiansen.

Justin M. Norton

BATHORY – Under The Sign Of The Black Mark

By Jon “Metalion” Kristiansen

For me and many other fanatics it is hard to point out the best of the four first Bathory albums, as they are all among the best albums ever. Bathory was already one of my fave bands when I interviewed Quorthon back in 1986. He talked about this album, so my expectations were high. Originally, this monumental album was supposed to be called Music From Under the Sign of the Black Mark. I was of course eagerly awaiting this third opus.

For some reason, I was sent an advance copy of this album by Music for Nations/Under One Flag, as they had seen the photocopied early Slayer Mags. Immediately, this was something very unique. There is such an eerie vibe going on during this entire album, it just sends shivers down my spine. The two first albums had simply been hell-paced Satanic metal. Under the Sign of the Black Mark also included some more, dare I say, melodic parts on “Woman of Dark Desires” and “Enter the Eternal Fire.”

Quorthon certainly reached a new level and set new standards for generations to come. For a lack of a better word, Bathory brought more “class” to the primal black metal. Where certain bands polished their sound over time, you can’t really accuse Bathory of that. They still embraced all their earlier trademarks. The darkness was born with Venom, but Quorthon took the total darkness concept to a whole new stage.

I reviewed Under the Sign of the Black Mark in Slayer 5. When I randomly got a copy of the U.S. version of this album on New Renaissance Records, they had printed one of my quotes as a selling point sticker on the cover. I’m still very proud of that achievement! The quote was: “One of the best death metal LPs ever recorded. Bathory shows that they stand head and shoulders above everyone else.” Now, I know we can discuss for eternity what death metal really is and so on, but back then it was OK to describe an album just as DEATH/THRASH/BLACK METAL…. I still stand behind those words written in 1987 now in 2012 and beyond…..

One more thing I need to brag about. I was personally thanked on this album, and that was a great thing, getting credit on one of the best albums ever. I guess I most have done something OK. Heads up high for this unique album. Thank you, Quorthon, for sharing this with us. R.I.P.