Despite being arguably the most famous of the original Bathory trilogy, I actually find this the weakest out of all of them. While this is definitely the closest to second wave sounding of the three, it lacks a lot of the raw edge that The Return….. does.
Edge as in a much thicker production mostly, certainly songs Of Doom…… bring some serious ass kicking, but not a drunkard thrash way as the previous albums. This edge is much more sinister, and in a way weirdly more sophisticated. Under the Sign of the Black Mark doesn’t crush you with aggression and riffs as much as it drowns you with raw evil and satanic imagery. This would come to define later first wave, and nearly all of black metal until the late 90s. This wasn’t music to drink to, it was music to complete satanic rituals too and commit other atrocities in front of the gasping faces of the moral majority in the 1980s.
Which makes it all the more odd to me how damn cheesy this can be at times. Songs like Call from the Grave and Woman of Dark Desires have this certain kind of low bro aura to them with their samples and lyrical content that it makes masterpieces like Enter the Eternal Fire stand out like a sore thumb. While Enter ends up being a slight preview of their next album and the start of Bathory’s more mid tempo viking metal invention, the previously mentioned Of Doom…… and 13 Candles (and really the entire rest B side if I’m being honest) are some of the coldest material Bathory ever wrote. And as much as I love their viking metal material, I kind of wish there was more like it in their discography, because I feel like Bathory had subtlety mastered a very specific sound that simply wasn’t recreated the same way by other bands, or really has been recreated since to my knowledge.
The only real reason I consider this weaker is simply because the A side in general is weak and filled with just a wee bit too much immaturity, even for the content of this album. It’s not that im not ok with a song like Women of Dark Desires in general, but why create that when you had some infinitely better material of a slightly different style on the same album?