SWEDISH DEATH METAL: Under the Sign of the Black Mark turns 25

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The late great Sam Levenson once said, “Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going.” Had we followed Sam’s advice we might have led a fuller life but most likely would have failed to notice that on this very day 25 years have passed since Bathory released their seminal third album Under the Sign of the Black Mark.

Though we here at Bazillion Points listen to Bathory all the time, no one has loved, talked about, or thought of Bathory more than Swedish Death Metal author Daniel Ekeroth.  When he realized this important date was imminent, he instantly sent over a list of his favorite Bathory albums, wishing for it to be published on this historical day. We gratefully obliged.

 

TOP FIVE BATHORY ALBUMS, a list by Daniel Ekeroth

Blood Fire Death

In hard competition with Under the Sign of the Black Mark, this takes the biscuit as my favorite Bathory album. It’s their most majestic release in my eyes, with the most powerful sound and best vocals. It also contains the two most epic Bathory songs of all time: “A Fine day to Die” and “Blood Fire Death”. Though I personally prefer the occult lyrical content of the previous albums, I can accept the Viking stuff here since Blood Fire Death just sounds and feels so awesome. The record is just a miracle, shredding the boundaries between black, thrash and death metal. It’s one of a kind, and defies categorization.

 

Under the Sign of the Black Mark

If you are looking for the pure essence of black metal, your quest ends here. Under the Sign of the Black Mark features some of Bathory’s best songs, a wonderful atmosphere and screams that will give you nightmares. It is also a perfectly structured album, where the songs balance each other into an almost conceptual whole. This is the blueprint of all black metal to follow, and to this day the most accomplished black metal record ever made.

 

Bathory

“Venom on speed!” I remember thinking when I first heard this album, and I still stand by that. In fact, this is what I wanted Venom to be back then—faster, more intense and more extreme. It still holds up as one of the best albums of its era, with a devilish atmosphere and strong, catchy songs.

 

The Return

Probably Bathory’s most extreme album—it hit like an atomic bomb on its release day. I don’t think the songs are as strong as on the debut, and the sound and execution are not on par with the two albums that would follow. However, this is as violent and primitive as early black metal ever got and still a unique album in all its unpolished glory. Strangely, this is the only of the classic Bathory albums that was recorded in a professional studio—though by far sounding the worst!

 

Hammerheart

The last Bathory album that meant anything to me, and a classic in its own right I guess. The vocals and the production kind of screw it up for me although I really like the songs. If this had recorded in the same way as Blood Fire Death it would probably have been a masterpiece.

RIP, QUORTHON! /Daniel Ekeroth

 

Swedish Death Metal is the ultimate blow-by-blow account of Sweden’s legendary death metal underground, based on exclusive interviews with members of Nihilist/ Entombed, In Flames, At the Gates, Dismember, Grave, Hypocrisy, Opeth, Unleashed, Marduk, Morbid, Mob 47, Deranged, Edge of Sanity, Merciless, Therion, Liers in Wait, Carnage, Carcass, Tiamat/Treblinka, Afflicted, Repugnant, and the Haunted.

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