“Under The Sign Of The Black Mark” was recorded at Heavenshore Studio in Sweden (a converted mechanics’ garage), in 1986. Bathory had already released two albums at this point (The self-titled debut, and “The Return……“), and compared to those this was a huge step forward. Although there are other members credited as performers, it’s generally accepted that by this time the band was a Quorthon one-man project, writing and performing everything. Which is impressive for those days! (Quorthon was known for being somewhat economical with the truth. He claimed never to have heard Venom’s music until the recording of this album, but early members of the band say they almost exclusively listened to Venom! Amongst other claims…!)
This album, more than any other, was THE biggest influence on Norwegian Second Wave Black Metal, with its huge, grand atmosphere and lo-fi sound. Which were actually accidental – Heavenshore didn’t have a fantastic sound, so they used 10-second reverbs (similar to a huge Cathedral reverb) on the album to cover that and any performance mistakes. Of course, people loved the sound, and emulated it.
My faves from this classic are Enter The Eternal Fire, Woman Of Dark Desires, and 13 Candles.
Fun fact: The “goat” on the cover art is Swedish bodybuiler Leif Ehrnborg (in a mask), photographed at the Royal Swedish Opera, in Stockholm.
Listen here: Bathory – Under The Sign Of The Black Mark