Sunday, December 23, 2012


Marduk - Frontschwein
Century Media, 2015
Genre: Black Metal

1. Frontschwein
2. The Blond Beast
3. Afrika
4. Wartheland
5. Rope of Regret
6. Between the Wolf-Packs
7. Nebelwerfer
8. Falaise: Cauldron of Blood
9. Doomsday Elite
10. 503
11. Thousand-Fold Death
12. Warschau III: Necropolis

After the release of "Serpent Sermon" I was, naturally, very excited to hear its follow-up. As soon as I saw pre-orders open up for the limited edition digibook, I placed my order immediately. I didn't really listen to the promo tracks very much, because over the past few albums Marduk has truly been in rare form and consistently improving. They stand as the only popular band that I listen to on a rather regular basis. So, that sort of sets the stage for how I'm entering "Frontschwein" and while I enjoyed most of "Frontschwein", this did not meet my expectations as being on par with "Serpent Sermon". Now it certainly has some on par moments, but as a whole, it didn't match up with the prior album in the same way to me.

Sadly Marduk have lost their prior drummer from the prior three albums, and this somewhat worries me. I thought Marduk had struck upon a solid line-up, but it seems line-up problems will remain a constant issue for them. The fact they had a reprieve for three albums is quite a boon at this point. On drums is Wigrids, who is actually quite young by comparison, which is interesting because Vader has also picked up quite a young drummer. I understand that Marduk's touring schedule and that life is very hard to keep up with, but at least the other three members remain stable.

Given the standard cover and title of the album I imagined Marduk would be returning to their warlike ways and that is certainly true. Although, I started off by saying this didn't really contend with "Serpent Sermon", there is still a lot to love on this release. In many ways I feel like they were trying to bring the realms of "Iron Dawn" onto a full-length and blending that intensity and fierceness into the style developed on "Serpent Sermon". While I, certainly, appreciate the blend, I think some work can still be done. For example, the opening track "Frontschwein" is a standard fair fast and hard hitting song around three minutes in length and stands quite apart from the album, just as I felt "Azrael" was out of place on "La Grande Danse Macabre". However, the album tries to balance this out a little bit with having similarly styled elements throughout the album. Songs like "Afrika" and "Rope of Regret" stand firm as the traditional Marduk post "Panzer Division Marduk". Strangely "503" is nothing like that, which likely stands as a reference to "502". I feel like some of these songs could have been brought in a deeper direction, rather than just playing fast and sawing away at the guitars for nearly three minutes straight. Listen to the stark atmospheric shift between "Frontschwein" and "The Blond Beast". "The Blond Beast" is a simply stellar song and could sit comfortably on "Maranatha"... in fact the opening riff sounds exactly like one of the songs on there... though I can't recall which at the moment. I was glad to hear this hit track two, so that I could see there was a serious balance in atmospheres. "Rope of Regret" does a valiant job trying to balance out the atmospheres of war and brooding darkness. Eventually Marduk seems to give up on the war torn country side and settles into a really satisfying second half with "Between the Wolf-Packs". This has some great riffing and even a section that is utterly catchy, reminding me of some of the catchy elements bands like Gorgoroth can summon from the early days. "Nebelwerfer" brings us into a slow and brooding styled song, but has riffing reminiscent of the mighty Sigrblot. The Sigrblot connection isn't restricted to this track alone and it shows up in other areas of the album, which I appreciated very much. The slow blend feels a lot more of what Mortuus/Arioch tries to incorporate as a full track on Funeral Mist and the slow brooding sections of "Souls for Belial". However, this time he seems to have succeeded. This is a much better song than "White Stone" which we heard on the "Maranatha" album. I feel like this type of experiment is unavoidable with Arioch and often times he does not capture the right space or frame of mind to set the listener. When that haunting lead section hits us in "Nebelwerfer", however, it is a truly stunning experience to behold, even though it is an incredibly subtle element. By this point the album settled into a beautiful blend of intense Black Metal and atmosphere, which is on par with "Serpent Sermon" and I think this is what they were initially trying to do with the first half, but rather than blending everything together into one interesting pot, they kept the elements rather segregated. This is the trap Marduk had always fallen into after "Panzer Division Marduk" and it is somewhat sad to see it still kicking around in their writing, I realize a lot of fans out there do want that, but honestly, Marduk have written songs in that style enough to last a lifetime as far as I'm concerned. If you want a taste of the "old" Marduk as far as their modern fans are concerned, I'd much rather them resurrect elements of "Those of the Unlight"!

I will say, that the limited digibook edition is very beautifully done. The layout and design are simply wonderful. I haven't seen the standard design to compare, but they definitely did well with this. The one and only complaint I could level at the packaging is the fact that the digibook doesn't really fit on my CD shelves. Whereas "Serpent Sermon" was a more standard size to fit on the shelving people have. Now, the major driving force for purchasing this edition wasn't just the packaging, but it was, in fact, the bonus track. Now, with "Serpent Sermon" they really gave us a bonus track unparalleled with other bands that include them. Marduk were not content to just give us a cover song or some three minute throw away track that didn't make the final cut when putting the album together. No, they gave us "Coram Satanae" an eight minute journey that was simply enthralling. I guess it was too much to hope they would deliver something like this again... but I am sad to report that the bonus track is not even Metal. I did expect this upon seeing the track was written by Arditi, a well known Ambient artist. On those merits the track is good, but compared to "Serpent Sermon" it can hardly compete. Perhaps if they took an Arditi song and translated it into metal it would work quite well, but here they just have about three minutes of Ambient. It would serve as a better intro than outro, imagine "Warschau III" building into "The Blond Beast".  Perhaps that was the original intent, but the main reason for me purchasing this edition seems to have lost some of its interest and value. I think the track listing is where a lot of problems can be levelled in some ways. "Nebelwerfer" kind of sits in its own space, with the rest of the album sort of just there around it. I think Marduk could have really made this work if they made the Arditi track the intro of the album rather than the bonus and, instead, put "Nebelwerfer" as the bonus. Doing this would have really made the special edition something to behold. "Coram Satanae" fit well in the "Serpent Sermon" space, which is why I said it should have been included, but if you listen to "Frontschwein" and the way the album develops, "Nebelwerfer" would sit way better as a closing track or, in this case, a bonus track. Listen to the space "503" puts its listener in, it totally sets the stage for "Nebelwerfer" and then put "Thousand-Fold Death" closer to the beginning, where it deserves to be.

Ultimately, I have mixed feelings on this. I'm not sure this will make the Top 10 cut this year, where "Serpent Sermon" was a clear contender. I feel this album is too all over the place with regards to what it wants to be. Does it want to be dark, brooding, contemplative? Or does it want to be hard hitting fast and quick to the point? I'm not sure "Frontschwein" knows what it really wants to be and these spaces are diametrically opposed on the album. They could have blended the "Iron Dawn" feel with "Serpent Sermon", but just couldn't do it all the time, which is why the latter half sits as a huge success as far as I'm concerned. Now the real trick for them is going to be if they could somehow write their standard warlike songs into the more brooding Funeral Mist atmosphere. I realize that is a huge challenge, but think about it, it would be a really impressive release to behold if they actually figured it out without losing atmospheric space to the listener. Imagine an expanded "Thousand-Fold Death", which has riffing that can easily lead into something far darker, especially with that lead guitar line. Personally, I would like to see if "Iron Dawn" can be invoked into the atmosphere of "Serpent Sermon" successfully. Something to hope for in the future, I think.

Marduk - Serpent Sermon
Century Media, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

1. Serpent Sermon
2. Messianic Pestilence
3. Souls for Belial
4. Into Second Death
5. Temple of Decay
6. Damnation's Gold
7. Hail Mary (Piss-Soaked Genuflexion)
8. M.A.M.M.O.N.
9. Gospel of the Worm
10. World of Blades
11. Coram Satanae

Given Marduk's current trend, I was excited to see the announcement of "Serpent Sermon's" imminent release. With the demise of Regain Records, it left bands like Marduk looking for a new label and I was a little worried when I saw them sign with Century Media. It's a huge signing for Marduk, but Century Media really has been out of the Black Metal business for a long time. Releasing album after album of absolute shit with regards to the world of metal. Dark Funeral have also decided to work with Century Media, so maybe things are changing over there... hopefully, this results in some US tour support for these great bands that have rarely come to my country. That being said... I should not have worried given Marduk's current trend in writing, because "Serpent Sermon" is the best in the modern era of Marduk. They are truly in rare form on this release. Never before have they released something with such an overwhelming ugly atmosphere.

This truly is the pinnacle of the modern Marduk sound and, honestly, if they can just stay here for a while and release albums of this caliber I will be a very happy Marduk fan. It will more than make up for the boring hours I spent trying to find merit in some of their middle era. When my only complaint is that "Messianic Pestilence" is too short, you know you've hit on a truly stunning release. It's been years since I would have ranked Marduk in my top ten for releases this year, but here we are... "Serpent Sermon" is certainly in there. It's not going to top Mgla's "With Hearts Towards None", but "Into Second Death" has riffing that is reminiscent of Kriegsmaschine's "Altered States of Divinity", so this is certainly nothing to complain about. One of the things that they really did right, and one thing I was looking for them to do, was to stop writing the "fast, slow, fast, slow" type of arrangement, well effort has been made on "Serpent Sermon" to do exactly that. The slow section of "Souls for Belial" feels a bit too much like Funeral Mist's "White Stone" to be truly enjoyable, but other than that when the band slows down like in "Damnation's Gold" it sounds perfect. That being said, "Serpent Sermon" sounds a lot more like the follow-up to "Maranatha" than "Wormwood" in many ways... so if you were looking for even more Funeral Mist, Marduk has basically fully become that sound. "M.A.M.M.O.N" actually has parts that are very reminiscent of Deathspell Omega, which sound very interesting cast in a Marduk fashion. It's perfect and I do hope that Morgan really likes this new direction for his band. It seems like everything is entirely revitalized and Marduk's new life is so much more promising than ever before.

When I saw that a special edition of this album existed with a bonus track that clocked in at nearly eight minutes, I pre-ordered that immediately. I'm really glad I did. It comes in a truly beautiful digi-book packaging... that makes me nervous to bring in my car for listening purposes. Regardless of the extra nice packaging the bonus track makes it totally worth getting. I actually can't believe this isn't on the album. I would have gladly given up "Souls for Belial" in favor of adding this as a closer to the main experience. I'm glad its included as the closing track... it does sort of overshadow "World of Blades" as a closer, but both songs are very good in the grand scheme of the album.

Here you have it... a rather "magnum opus" from Marduk. It is actually my favorite in their catalog. I didn't think there was much out there that would oust the classics from my memory, but this one did. Perhaps my love for this approach is what does it. If you're still keeping up with Marduk at this time and have loved the Mortuus era so far, you are in for a really incredible experience with this album. I will simply be shocked if they manage to outdo this in some way with a future release.

Marduk - Iron Dawn
Regain Records, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Warschau 2: Headhunter Halfmoon
2. Wacht am Rhein: Drumbeats of Death
3. Prochorovka: Blood and Sunflowers

After a couple years of silence Marduk bring us a new EP. Now, in the past, their EP's were typically really not worth getting. They just didn't have new material or they were thoroughly uninteresting... all that changes with "Iron Dawn". This EP features three entirely new songs from the band and they're actually good songs!

It's been quite a while since Marduk has really delved into the topics of warfare and with a cover featuring tanks you just know how this EP is going to run, if you're familiar with the past discography. The whole graphic layout seems to be designed around a book that has survived "World War II", as if excavated quite a few years after the war. The booklet has damaged texts, so you can only make out fragments of the actual lyrics. Its a very excellent and appropriate layout for the concept. Musically, this heralds back to what "Panzer Division Marduk" may have sounded like if it actually had an interesting composition. It is nice to see Marduk return to the war front, but I think this is a topic Mortuus doesn't think of very often in favor of his more vicious anti-religious lyrics and venerations of death. I would say that it would be interesting for Marduk to do more of this, but let's be honest, Endstille is doing this topic justice enough for us.

So, for those of you that have missed out on the more vicious attack side of Marduk, you may want to check out this EP. Albeit they vary up the songs more than a constant barrage and they closing track is a rather slow tune. Either way, Marduk have finally put together an EP that is worth our time and money and I'm looking forward to what comes next.

Marduk - Wormwood
Regain Records, 2009
Genre: Black Metal

1. Nowhere No-One Nothing
2. Funeral Dawn
3. This Fleshly Void
4. Unclosing the Curse
5. Into Utter Madness
6. Phosphorous Redeemer
7. To Redirect Perdition
8. Whorecrown
9. Chorus of Cracking Necks
10. As a Garment

It seems Marduk is going back to their old days with taking time to compose an album rather than cranking them out every year. This is really working to their advantage because once they hit upon "Rom 5:12" it takes time to develop that level of atmosphere, so two years later comes the mighty "Wormwood". "Wormwood" welcomes yet another new drummer to Marduk by the name of Lars and it looks like this is first foray into the Black Metal world, at least with regards to being recorded. I really do like his drums, they feel a lot more organic compared to Emil's who felt extremely triggered. Either way, he seems to be a great addition to the band.

One thing fans of Funeral Mist will notice is that, it seems the more time Mortuus spends with Marduk, the more Marduk starts to trend toward a Funeral Mist style. Being a huge fan of Funeral Mist, I am not about to complain about this trend, especially since the release of Funeral Mist albums is a really rare event in the realms of Black Metal. It will probably get more rare as Mortuus focuses even more of his efforts into Marduk, even more so if this includes him offering riffs to the project. Based on "Wormwood", I would be shocked if Morgan composed every single guitar line on here. I think the only song on here where I didn't like every single note struck was "To Redirect Perdition", but Mortuus' lyrics to that song are in truly incredible form. His vocal performance also really makes that song hold together, better than it probably would otherwise. Marduk are also heralding back to something they used to do... take into account two guitars! That has certainly changed the face of the kind of atmosphere has been able to generate in these modern times, just listen to "Whorecrown", it sounds amazing.

As of late Marduk has been recording in a new studio called Endarker studio and all their material is being engineered by bassist Devo. This is one of the reasons for the evolution of their sound, because rather than the ultra slick production of The Abyss, which was okay for top bands in the 90's, but people have really figured out how to use a raw edge to very good effect in Black Metal today. Many of you may recall that Funeral Mist's "Maranatha" was also recorded there in the prior year, so "Wormwood" has a very similar production to that Funeral Mist album. The guitar tones are so much more harsh and more in line with "Maranatha" than "Rom 5:12" or "Plague Angel". This really gives "Wormwood" the edge it needs to sound like it really matters to the Black Metal world today.

Again, Marduk are back on the map for having something relevant to say in modern Black Metal, rather than a band releasing mediocre albums. "Wormwood" is a more well balanced effort than even "Rom 5:12". It also has a far deeper atmosphere, which has been a new moving trend for Marduk. I hope it keeps being the focus of the band, because Marduk is finally returning to a level that I willingly recommend their albums to new listeners.

Marduk - Rom 5:12
Blooddawn Productions, 2007
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Levelling Dust
2. Cold Mouth Prayer
3. Imago Mortis
4. Through the Belly of Damnation
5. 1651
6. Limbs of Worship
7. Accuser/Opposer
8. Vanity of Vanities
9. Womb of Perishableness
10.Voices from Avignon

"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—" - Rom 5:12

With an album dedicated to the arrival of death in the world, "Rom 5:12" is truly where Marduk re-invent their entire sound. I haven't heard this much atmosphere in a Marduk album since "Opus Nocturne". Rather than trying to stick with their releasing new material every year, they took about three years to really get this album released. I think this was probably the smartest move for them, step away from their music for a while and really rethink things. The end result is the monumental "Rom 5:12". Even the layout is entirely revitalized, taking on the care that you get with Funeral Mist, which is no surprised since Mortuus designed and put together layout for this album. It's an absolutely massive booklet and barely fits in the jewel case teeth...

For starters this was the vocal performance I was expecting on "Plague Angel" and never got. Marduk more than make up for it on this album though. Usually, when I see a Marduk album with forty plus minutes in length, I worry about how quickly I will get bored with it. When I put this in and saw that this was nearly an hour long, I was worried at how tedious this review would get. However, with the opening song "The Levelling Dust", I quickly realize that this is not the same Marduk of before. As the album progresses, its incredible to see how far the band has really come. They have a lot of that filthy ugliness and hatred I love in a lot of Black Metal bands. Not only is this related to the devastating vocal performance from Mortuus, but even the guitar lines are written in a fashion that make this work very well. Emil's drum work really makes this album work well too, as he has always done before. I feel like Mortuus opened up a whole new world of underground Black Metal for Marduk, it feels like he's really kept up with the modern scene more and perhaps exposed it to Morgan a lot more. I think it goes without saying that Marduk has a huge infusion of Funeral Mist in their sound now. The frantic Morgan riffing is still around though, listen to "Vanity of Vanities". Listening to the epic eight minute slow songs in Marduk used to be an exercise in patience, but now they are truly a joy to listen to. The immersive state of songs like "Imago Mortis" are a far cry from the early songs. "Accuser/Opposer" actually has some clean vocal work on it courtesy of A.A. Nemtheanga from Primordial. One thing I really like is that you can really hear Devo's bass in the mix as well... even though he engineered this album, his mix is truly stellar. Just listen to "Voices from Avignon"... which closes with old samples similar to what we would hear on Funeral Mist's "Salvation".

The only sad news is that Emil didn't record on all the songs. I'm not sure if this says something about his involvement in the project. They only recorded the album over the course of two months, so I don't see why he didn't do all the songs. Either way this is an incredible album and just the right kick start Marduk needed to reclaim their status is a band to really pay attention to in the Black Metal. The only complaint I could ever have is they still seem to have that "slow, fast, slow, fast" type of arrangement to their track list. It would be really nice to see them step away from this approach and maybe start blending some ideas together. Either way, this album is extremely well done and a must have in the Marduk catalog.

Marduk - Warschau
Blooddawn Productions, 2005
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Hangman of Prague
2. Seven Angels, Seven Trumpets
3. Slay the Nazarene
4. Azrael
5. Burn My Coffin
6. Panzer Division Marduk
7. Blutrache
8. Bleached Bones
9. The Black...
10. Steel Inferno
11. On Darkened Wings
12. With Satan and Victorious Weapons
13. Throne of Rats
14. To the Death's Head True
15. Sulphur Souls
16. Warschau
17. Wolves

Celebrating the new and revitalized war machine, Marduk have seen fit to release another live album. Usually, I would be pretty wary about these things... but seeing this set list gave me some hope. Even though it was on tour for the "Plague Angel" release, they actually played a lot of other songs from the prior catalog. This concert took place in Warschau, Poland and it is easily the best live recording of Marduk since "Live in Germania". It comes in a slip case, but I really liked the cover on the booklet more, so I've posted that above. The booklet is awesome, a lot of great historical pictures of World War II.

The recording quality is very well done, if it wasn't then listening to over an hour long set-list would be horrible. Unlike "Infernal Eternal", Mortuus' vocals sound even better in the live setting. When he announces tracks between the crowd he uses that gurgling, heart wrenching, vocal style found all over Funeral Mist. Makes me wish he would do that during some of the Marduk tracks, like "Bleached Bones". They seem to have also went with the "alternate" vocal performance for "Steel Inferno" making this a truly devastating track. It shows up here and there, but he pretty much sticks to the high-ranged Legion styled performance for the earlier recordings. Albeit, his voice is far stronger and never gives out.

This must have been a truly stunning performance to behold. The war machine of Marduk has definitely been revived and fired up. I got see them on the "Wormwood" tour and that was a sight to behold. Even better than when I had seen them in 1999 on the "Panzer Division Marduk" tour. Its really great to see the band up and running in fine form again... its been too many years lingering in mediocrity and hopefully that will be over now.

Marduk - Deathmarch Tour
Blooddawn Productions, 2004
Genre: Black Metal

1. Steel Inferno (Alternative Version)
2. Tod und Vernichtung
3. The Hangman of Prague (Rehearsal)
4. Throne of Rats (Rehearsal)

To celebrate the tour of "Plague Angel" Marduk have put together this special EP. Here we get something pretty special. Prior to this Marduk's EP's have been sort of pointless to me, but if you notice "Steel Inferno" has an alternate version. This is the vocal performance I was more expecting from Mortuus. It is tortured and terrifying and makes the song sound entirely different. It doesn't matter that Morgan's guitar lines weren't that different, Mortuus' skill as a vocalist made the song sound entirely recast. Hopefully, you see why I had some criticism for his first outing with the band. "Tod und Vernichtung" is a slow and crushing instrumental. Sure its a new song, but its not a gem left off of the album. Its a very militaristic sounding song, but that's about it.

After this we get two extremely raw rehearsal tracks from Marduk. They actually don't sound too bad. I love hearing Emil's drums untriggered, they sound so much more devastating in this setting. Mortuus' vocals sound pretty solid as well, albeit way too loud in the mix. In some ways his performance sounds way more intense than the album versions, which makes this an interesting listen at the end. So, this is actually fairly worth getting, in my opinion.

Marduk - Plague Angel
Regain Records, 2004
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Hangman of Prague
2. Throne of Rats
3. Seven Angels, Seven Trumpets
4. Life's Emblem
5. Steel Inferno
6. Perish in Flames
7. Holy Blood, Holy Grail
8. Warschau
9. Deathmarch
10. Everything Bleeds
11. Blutrache

"Plague Angel" is the Marduk album I was hoping going to change things. Things were on their way to getting better with "World Funeral", just by having a drummer switch. Now Legion has left his vocal duties, which is probably for the best at this point. I feel like his writing was wavering at times and his voice just wasn't holding up anymore. On top of this B. War has also left the band and this is really a sad loss, since he is one of the best bassists in Black Metal. So, now we are back to a state of time like "Heaven Shall Burn," where Morgan is the only long running member. I mean, its his project, but to have a whole line-up change like this must be hard. However, maybe this is what Marduk truly needs fresh blood in the group to give it some really new direction, provided Morgan is open to new ideas from the new musicians. If not, Marduk may be stuck in a rut dead forever.

That being said, who did he get to replace Legion and B. War? Devo has replaced B. War and he was also involved with Allegiance, which is the only notable band I recognized from his CV. Legion has been replaced with one of the best vocalists in Black Metal, Arioch. However, here he has changed his name to Mortuus, but we should all know Arioch from Funeral Mist and Triumphator, albeit Funeral Mist is really the one you want to pay attention to the most. I think when I saw this announced, I have rarely been more excited for an album. Sometimes it takes one switch to really change things for a group. Unfortunately, I have also never been as disappointed in an album. When this first came out I hated it, but upon re-listening in 2014, perhaps I was a little bit too unfair given the state of Marduk's discography at the time. A lot of fans seem to have liked this album a lot, maybe people just wanted something even remotely different from the band and "Plague Angel" at least does that.

What "Plague Angel" doesn't do is give us a new approach to the guitar performance. These are all the same tried and tiresome guitar lines Marduk has been playing since "Heaven Shall Burn" and I think I realize what the real problem is. Ever since that time frame Marduk has always written music with the idea only one guitarist would be performing live. At first this sounded okay, but after so many years of it, I feel like its really time to branch out and started trying to write with two guitars in mind. It will add so much more to their music. They have an exceptional guitarist joining the band, Mortuus, and I was hoping who would help give the band some more interesting directions. The problem with "Plague Angel" is that it was likely already composed before he even joined the band. The unfortunate part of Mortuus' vocal performance is that he seems to have defaulted into "trying to sound like Legion", if you will. By that I mean, he focuses entirely on singing in the high range of the vocals, but this really isn't where his power lies. Listen to the vocals on "Deathmarch", an entirely Ambient track, but that is where Mortuus' real vocal prowess is. He shines when he can be extremely dynamic, shifting between highs and lows and everything in between. Luckily, he sounds more like Joakim af Grav rather than Legion. Maybe there wasn't enough time... but when I first heard this I was like "did Morgan bother to sit down and listen to 'Salvation' when he hired Mortuus?" This question really marred my experience on this album. They could have easily overcome the tried and true guitar lines by making the vocals and drums sound really fresh and different.

All that criticism being said, this is probably the best Marduk release in quite a few years. Even though it focuses on the punishing war machine approach most of the time like "Panzer Division Marduk" it just feels better all around. Emil's blasts don't just sound fast, they are fast. His patterns are a little more varied, which makes the album decent. I just feel with the new line-up big changes could potentially come in the future, and I really hope they do. Marduk deserve to be a top tier band and I think their line-up is much stronger now. It looks like the album layout and art direction is far stronger, it certainly mimics the layout of "Salvation", so it looks like the art direction is changing drastically. It, kind of, goes without saying Mortuus' lyrics are an excellent fresh direction to the topic department of the band. As usual, they belie someone who has spent time reading books, which gives them a really great edge. "Holy Blood, Holy Grail", I'm sure is influenced by the book "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln, which I have also read. It's quite a good book, but it got most popular because it was referenced in Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code".

In the end, I look on this more favorably than when I had first listened to the album. This is certainly a good thing. I know bigger and better things are coming and I long for the day when Mortuus can infect this project with more of his influence in many ways. We will see how much control Morgan wishes to exert on the project, but what has been done before will no longer be worth our time.

Marduk - World Funeral
Regain Records, 2003
Genre: Black Metal

1. With Satan and Victorious Weapons
2. Bleached Bones
3. Cloven Hoof
4. World Funeral
5. To the Death's Head True
6. Castrum Doloris
7. Hearse
8. Night of the Long Knives
9. Bloodletting
10. Blessed Unholy
11. Blackcrowned

It's been a couple years since Marduk put out a full-length and that has probably been for the best. Both for fans and the band. I feel like the lack of direction in writing was really marring Marduk's style a lot. With "World Funeral" they take a step back and release a fairly safe album as far as I'm concerned. A major change has taken place in the band, and it is really a good change for everyone. Fred Andersson has given up his drum throne to Emil Dragutinovic, who some may recognize as drumming for The Legion. His drum lines are far more fresh and interesting. If you are familiar with his work in The Legion you will instantly know that he has a lot to add to Marduk and he's going to fix some of the more pressing problems in the bands overly monotonous sound.

I said earlier this was a "safe" album, and I think that's true. This is nothing all that new to the Marduk camp and in fact it heralds more back to the times of "Heaven Shall Burn" and "Nightwing", but the writing is a lot more solid than the past couple full-lengths. I think Emil's approach to drumming saves this album quite a bit and makes the music feel far more interesting to listen to. This really follows the arrangement pattern of "La Grande Danse Macabre" though, with the fast song, slow song, etc. approach. With the new drumming this really didn't feel nearly as tedious. Sometimes Morgan's riffing stands out a bit more than before, but its not a big enough change to really feel fresh. Songs like "Bloodletting" can get pretty boring as they drag on, but thankfully they didn't attempt anymore eight minute epics that go nowhere. The only real problem with this album is Legion's vocals. He sounds okay on here, but it is nowhere the power unleashed in the days of "Nightwing". In fact, when he tries to reach the higher range his voice seems to fail at moments. If he keeps it more of a mid-range his voice holds up... but anything beyond that is a former shadow of itself. Its sad to say, but it seems like his voice is really failing. This really hurt the album a lot, since it seems a lot of songs are designed around showcasing vocals. If the drumming had been painfully boring this probably would have wound up being one of Marduk's worst albums... instead it is just a decent album.

I can honestly take or leave this album. I remember really enjoying it on its release date when I first got the album. I think I liked this a lot back then simply because it was so much better than the prior two. I felt like I had been waiting a long time for Marduk to do something that was even halfway interesting to me, but overtime this isn't really a "classic" in their discography or anything. Its an okay album, but nothing more really. This isn't even a bad album by the greater Black Metal standards, in fact, it just sits in the middle of everything released. An album one can point to if someone wanted to hear what most Black Metal sounds like today.

Marduk - Hearse
Regain Records, 2003
Genre: Black Metal

1. Hearse
2. Phantasm (Possessed Cover)

I feel like I'm just buying Marduk products out of habit. They're usually not outright awful... just not the best material out there. "Hearse" is a single with only two tracks to showcase a teaser for the upcoming full-length "World Funeral". It has an interesting aspect to it, but it has nothing to really do with the music. "Hearse" opens with a sample of someone saying "The Funeral is about to begin, sir." This line is taken from the movie Phantasm, as said by the undertaker who appears in the picture on this cover. The choice of this sample may have lead to the choice of covering the song "Phantasm" by Possessed, who may have also been influenced by the movie. Seeing those connections was pretty interesting for me.

The new Marduk song isn't too bad. I feel like they're still trying to find that next big thing for them to do. While "Hearse" may not be that, it's not a bad song at all. The arrangement does a decent job of keeping the slow parts and fast parts manageable so it doesn't feel overly boring. So, while the song doesn't have anything new... maybe the songs will be arranged a little better. The second song is a Marduk cover done in the usual fashion for Marduk.

Marduk - La Grande Danse Macabre
Regain Records, 2001
Genre: Black Metal

1. Ars Moriendi
2. Azrael
3. Pompa Funebris 1660
4. Obedience Unto Death
5. Bonds of Unholy Matrimony
6. La Grande Danse Macabre
7. Death Sex Ejaculation
8. Funeral Bitch
9. Summer End
10. Jesus Christ... Sodomized

I remember being less than impressed with this release when I first got it. Despite being given some semblance of hope with "Obedience", these two releases do not stand the test of time and I don't think I've listened to them since around 2002. Revisiting this album in 2014 is a little better... but not too much. I think Marduk was well aware they couldn't go full speed ahead on this... Andersson's single pattern blasts just won't hold up for another entire album and keep any listener engaged. If you pay attention to his pattern it's actually not that fast, his system just sounds fast because he manages t hit a lot of different things, so it feels like there's a lot going on. My problem is that he just has no other approach to blast beats... so it sounds boring.

We get a little worried with "Azrael" as the opening first song, because it's basically another track off of "Panzer Division Marduk" with a vocal arrangement that tries to herald back to "Three Crosses" with the way it closes. However, things start to look up as "Obedience Unto Death" rears its ugly head. Here we have a rather thought out song and this keeps up with "Bond of Unholy Matrimony". Here Marduk attempt to play two epics in a row. "Bond of Unholy Matrimony" has some good stuff in it, but it's too long, Morgan's riffing isn't so intoxicating that we need to hear a ton of repetitions. After that we get to the title track, which attempts to be another slow crushing piece... just like "Bond of Unholy Matrimony" began. This song is, essentially, a Doom Metal song and it never lets up the slow pace. The riffing is good for three minutes, but not eight. They're just not that memorable... but I'm really not a Doom fan, so perhaps that's a problem for me. Realizing they'd been playing some slow material enter "Death Sex Ejaculation" a blast frenzy that is only saved by B.Wars bass line to make us even remotely interesting. I feel like this album has that arrangement the whole time... Doom Metal, blast beats, Doom Metal, blast beats, rinse and repeat.

When you realize this, maybe this album isn't as good. A lot of the material is essentially the type of slow material we heard on "Nightwing" and it does have good moments, but not all the time. The real reason this album sounded even remotely interesting is because of B. War's bass lines. For once they were actually pretty high in the mix and we got to hear how skilled of a bassist he really is.

In the end I'm left with really mixed feelings on this. It's not really an outright terrible album, but it isn't a stunner either. Far better albums were released in the world of Black Metal in the same year. I think I walk away with a more favorable impression than when I first heard it... but it hasn't won me over in the sense that I won't be listening to it again for, probably, another decade. It just doesn't have a timeless quality at all.

Marduk - Obedience
Blooddawn Productions, 2000
Genre: Black Metal

1. Obedience
2. Funeral Bitch
3. Into the Crypts of Rays (Celtic Frost Cover)

It always becomes a worrisome endeavor when a band resorts to putting pictures of naked women on their album art if they've never really done it before. Naturally, Marduk go for the "extreme" approach and have pictures of girls in bondage... which I guess goes with the theme of "Obedience". If you got the digipak version of this then you got an unmodified cover, which features a girl in latex on some horse thing. While I had thought of getting that one, I wanted the one with the frosted logo on the jewel case, which is what I got. The album art seems to focus mostly around nipple torture... hey if that's what you're into, that's what you're into. I'm certainly not opposed to girls in latex, but I would never use it as album art. Not even Dark Funeral went this route when they had songs like "Latex Queen" even. So, I approached this release with some trepidation, you could say.

Maybe its because my expectations were wavering... but it turns out the music was pretty good on here. The song has a good balance between being intense and interesting. The chorus riff for "Obedience" is actually relatively catchy. Not only that, but B. War's bass line really stands out and makes that riff shine. It's just disappointing to hear Andersson still using the one blast pattern over and over that he discovered on parts of "Nightwing"... its like this is the only thing we'll ever get from him now. "Funeral Bitch" slows things down a lot and here we have a heavy and brooding song. It actually has elements of atmosphere that are interesting, but much of it is not that interesting. I feel like Marduk actually spent time putting effort into the composition and once again B.War's bass line really makes sections of this song shine. Andersson even has an alright drum line, its simple, but it gets the job done. Still, it's a far cry from the arrangements on "Opus Nocturne". Then this release closes with a decent cover of Celtic Frost's "Crypt of Rays". Like the covers on "Glorification" Marduk keep the material true to form, but with new production and Black Metal vocals.

The lyrics are basically about having bondage sex and things like that. Is this what Black Metal has come down to topically? On one hand, I can totally understand wanting to sing about something different after all these years. I can understand being at a point where "wow...  I can only say Jesus is dumb so many ways...", but I just feel like this borders going down the Glam Metal route. Which is what I associate with this kind of stuff... I mean what will be the Black Metal version of "Cherry Pie", I shutter to think of this. I just feel like Black Metal is better than this, but in the end we're all human and our interests are where they are.

Marduk - Infernal Eternal
Blooddawn Productions, 2000
Genre: Black Metal

Disk 1:
1. Panzer Division Marduk
2. Burn My Coffin
3. Baptism by Fire
4. The Sun Turns Black as Night
5. Of Hells Fire
6. 502
7. Materialized in Stone
8. Beast of Prey
9. Those of the Unlight
10. Sulphur Souls
11. Dreams of Blood and Iron
12. Fistfucking Gods Planet

Disk 2:
1. On Darkened Wings
2. Into the Crypts of Rays (Celtic Frost Cover)
3. Stil lFucking Dead
4. Slay the Nazarene
5. Departure from the Mortals
6. Legion

1. Panzer Division Marduk
2. Burn My Coffin
3. Baptism by Fire

After only a couple full-lengths Marduk saw fit to release this live performance from their "Panzer Division Marduk" tour. In some regards its not a bad idea, since the songs really were meant to be seen... but the problem here is they are meant to be seen. At the very least there is a multi-media video for us to watch a live performance of the band during a set in France. This is only limited to 15,000 copies though to get the second disk. Wow... 15,000 seems like a far cry from the usual Black Metal limitations of 500 or less... what happened to 666 copies? I guess Marduk have really reached that status where that is just too little of a pressing.

The recording quality is pretty good and up there with "Live in Germania", but I think "Live in Germania" was a stronger live album in some ways. "Infernal Eternal" does try to do a good job at encompassing their discography. This is heavy on their newer material, but that is to be expected at this point. I thin one of the major issues I had with this is Legion's voice didn't hold up like it did on "Live in Germania". Maybe there isn't enough reverb or something, but it seems to crack out at times and just doesn't feel as solid as on the recordings. Some of the recordings are better than others, so perhaps those recordings are taken from a set where he was having an off night or his voice was just dead from heavy touring. I remember seeing them live on the tour for the US and it went pretty well, so I think the live experience might give them a lot more edge than a live album these days. With that in mind they did include three live recordings on the second disk. Make sure your computer has quick time though... The performances are recorded alright... there's heavy focus on zooming in on Legion, so hopefully you like his performance. I think this had more to do with the fact that it was just one stationary camera and they did try to pan around to the other members, but the stage being so dark it made it almost pointless to do this, so they just mostly settled on Legion front and center with Fred Andersson in the background staring off into space while he beats the hell out of his drums.

It's a pretty decent release and the booklet has a lot of pictures to look at, but I just think its too soon after "Live in Germania" in some ways. I feel like we just listened to a live set from Marduk... I didn't need another one so soon. However, there is one major incentive to check this out, this has all the lyrics for the set list. So, remember all those early Marduk albums... even "Panzer Division Marduk", that didn't have lyrics, now you can read them here. I'm actually shocked to see that "Christraping Black Metal" was not included in this set list... I figured that would be a "must play live" track. I would say this release is only for the major die-hards out there... or people like me who just buy almost everything from the bands they really enjoy.

Marduk - Panzer Division Marduk
Osmose Productions, 1999
Genre: Black Metal

1. Panzer Division Marduk
2. Baptism by Fire
3. Christraping Black Metal
4. Scorched Earth
5. Beast of Prey
6. Blooddawn
7. 502
8. Fistfucking God's Planet

Following in the wake of "Nightwing" it seems Marduk is running out of ideas. "Panzer Division Marduk" really embraces the notion of the Black Metal war machine, which a lot of the more vicious bands are being branded as. In that regard, we are treated to thirty minutes of music in basically the same guise as "Nightwing's" chapter I... only faster.

"Panzer Division Marduk" seems to be the "go to" album for the more modern fans of Marduk. I remember at the time Marduk cited that during this time a lot of bands were putting out lighter material and Marduk wanted to release something that was an all out assault on the senses. In some ways they did succeed, but in many others it was almost too much. The riffing doesn't really capture anyones imagination. The closest they get to "catchy" is parts of "Christraping Black Metal". The other massive problem is the drum performance. While I understand it is all blast beats and that's kind of the point, the problem I have is that it is the same blast beats. It's almost like Andersson hit upon this sequence of drumming during the "Nightwing" recordings that has made him forget that other drum patterns exist. I remember a friend of mine posted a review to the extent of "One riff, one beat, gets you one star." While I don't think the album is that bad, its still not exceptional either. I think another reason why I was bored with this album in 1999 is because I feel like a lot of that approach to Black Metal had been happening over the years. Despite what Marduk claimed about the era, I certainly had my fair share of pummeling and fast Black Metal during the late 90's. I will say, I think the songs come off better in a live setting than on CD, since when I saw them on this tour they were fit well for a live audience.

I think this album garners a sort of "love/hate" aspect to it. I know a lot of fans love the intensity of the album... but in the fast of their past discography, this is a cheap thrill at best. And that's about all I can say about it. It doesn't have any lasting memories for me. Building the essence of World War II is an interesting idea... but bands like Endstille would come along and do it so much better.

Marduk - Nightwing
Osmose Productions, 1998
Genre: Black Metal

Chapter I: Dictionaire Infernal
1. Preludium
2. Bloodtide (XXX)
3. Of Hells Fire
4. Slay the Nazarene
5. Nightwing
Chapter II: The Warlord of Wallachia
6. Dreams of Blood and Iron
7. Dracole Wayda
8. Kaziklu Bey (The Lord Impaler)
9. Deme Quaden Thyrane
10. Anno Domini 1476

In historical perspective "Nightwing" as an album has been heralded as Marduk's downfall. In some ways that is somewhat true. It would take years and serious line-up changes to do something that reaches beyond "Nightwing". Some call this the pinnacle of the bands efforts. I'm not sure that's true because "Opus Nocturne" is an extremely good album, for extremely different reasons. "Nightwing" advances the style that was original laid out on "Heaven Shall Burn" and with "Nightwing", I sort of do agree that this style has peaked. That being said, at the time of its release I had a very different perspective on this and so did everyone else I knew at the time.

"Nightwing" was hailed as one of the most intense Black Metal albums around. During this late 90's time frame I feel like the more popular bands that were known had really major problems with trying to figure out what do with Black Metal. They'd really explored the genre very deeply and the question of "what is next, became pretty hard to answer. For Marduk they would stick with the style that first showed up on "Heaven Shall Burn". However, this album is split into two separate chapters, the first chapter takes the intensity of "Heaven Shall Burn" and basically plays it non-stop. This really makes for an incredible assault on the senses and is akin to the type of pummeling we're used to from Death Metal bands. Marduk manage to do an excellent job casting this in a Black Metal approach. While Legion may not be the most dynamic of vocalists... but in the early 90's, who really was? Not everyone can try to be Attila and, frankly, most Black Metal vocalists stick to a particular vocal tone, so everyone who complains about this confuses me to some degree.  Legion did an exceptional job on this album, in my opinion at any rate. The closing layering of "Of Hells Fire" sounds brilliant! Not to mention this has one of the more vicious Black Metal songs for its time "Slayer the Nazarene", which is still one of my favorite Marduk songs. Maybe I am a bit nostalgic with this release, but listening to it always conjures fond memories. I do understand some of the complaints for this section of the album, there is very little variation, but with only four songs it's just the right length to listen to this kind of material in this vein. A lot of the songs seem to be designed around being able to showcase Legion's vocal performance and I think he manages to deliver in that regard.

The second chapter really finishes up the sequence on the true story of Dracula. Something the history buff in me really appreciates. Albeit I have never actually read a book about the historical man. In any event this really varies up the album a lot. The songs on this section tend to be far more brooding and dark compared to the intensity of the first chapter. Here they've also delivered an updated recording of "Deme Quaden Thyrane", which first appeared on "Opus Nocturne". The strange thing here is they didn't include "Dracul va Domni din Nou in Transilvania" from "Heaven Shall Burn". I really think it would've been a great idea to include the full sequence in one sitting, but perhaps they figured that was already recorded to satisfaction. The lyrical content on this section was extremely well done and between Chapter I and II, I really walked away thinking Legion was a very above average writer in the scene of Black Metal.

This is really where Marduk's more modern sound took off. To some peoples joy and others dismay, but wherever you come down on their discography a lot of people enjoyed "Nightwing" quite immensely when it was originally released. Sometimes it is tough to look back on these releases and remember what it was like back then and sometimes the release doesn't hold up to the test of time, for me, I feel "Nightwing" really does. The real question becomes... what's next for the band?

Marduk - Here's No Peace
Shadow Records, 1997
Genre: Black/Death Metal

1. Here's No Peace
2. Still Fucking Dead
3. Within the Abyss

Also this year we get an interesting treat of some lost Marduk recordings. Back in 1991 there was supposed to be a 7" release of an EP titled "Here's No Peace", so the band went into Dan Swanö's studio to record a couple songs. The end result is "Here's No Peace". However, this material never saw the light of day until now, because rather than put this out they went ahead and just released "Dark Endless" instead. At the time I think that was probably a smart move, because having the opportunity to put together a full-length is usually a better plan starting out. That being said it is really interesting to revisit this material now. I got this around when it came out and a lot of the Death Metal influences in Marduk had been stripped away. So, to hear this original recordings was really nice. I feel like this is even heavier than their debut and demo material. It makes me wonder what Marduk would have become if they never decided to strip this out of their sound. I am pretty happy with the way Marduk sound up to this point so far, so I am not that disappointed... but if they never stopped being a Black/Death band, I wonder where they would stand today. Anyway, a very cool collectors item to have and worth hearing if you are interesting in the history of this band. On a fun side note, this was released by Tena, who was the founder of Triumphator, which featured members of Marduk as well.

Marduk - Live in Germania
Osmose Productions, 1997
Genre: Black Metal

1. Beyond the Grace of God
2. Sulphur Souls
3. The Black...
4. Darkness it Shall Be
5. Materilized in Stone
6. Infernal Eternal
7. On Darkened Wings
8. Wolves
9. Untrodden Paths (Wolves Pt. II)
10. Dracul va Domni...
11. Legion
12. Total Desaster (Destruction Cover)

Bringing Black Metal to the stage is something had been going on for quite some time. Marduk, at this point, had gotten the reputation for being quite the intense live performance. So, as their reputation as a band and their live reputation grew it became time to release the obligatory live album. As Mayhem before them Marduk would travel to Germany and record a live that clocks in at nearly an hour in length. It comes with a booklet that has a lot of band photos documenting the live performances, which is a very welcome addition.

This was recorded during their tour for "Heaven Shall Burn" and despite that they played a really solid list of songs comprising of more than just their modern catalog. This is a great thing, because I don't think they revisited this much of their first three albums after this. This also captures a time frame before Marduk became just a tiresome blast fest in the later years. Here we can relive their far more dynamic era and the production is actually very good on this. Sure, maybe Legion doesn't sound as tortured and intense on the original material that Joakim performed, but he does do a solid job with his vocals in the mix. The other part that really makes this stand out is now B. War is pretty high in the mix and we can really hear how complex his bass lines were for a lot of the songs. It makes me wish he was a bit louder in the mix, because he really does add an interesting quality to Marduk's music. Another treat on this tour was that those who attended got to see Peter Tagtgren help out with a second guitar. This must have been an immense set to witness, since I have never seen Marduk live with two guitars. Not to mention they performed the "Wolves" sequence in succession, which must have been extremely awesome to see.

In the end, this album is actually pretty good. Usually I'm pretty indifferent towards "live" albums and I can honestly do without them in the grand scheme of a discography. However, in this case, this might be a nice set to capture, since it is probably unlike anything Marduk would ever do in the more modern era.

Marduk - Glorification
Osmose Productions, 1996
Genre: Black Metal

1. Glorification of the Black God (Remixed Version)
2. Total Desaster (Destruction Cover)
3. Sex with Satan (Piledriver Cover)
4. Sodomize the Dead (Piledriver Cover)
5. The Return of Darkness & Evil (Bathory Cover)

Marduk have finally entered the EP fray, which a lot of other bands seem to be doing by 1996. The sad part about this release is that rather than release this a year later, they release it a few months after "Heaven Shall Burn". So there really isn't any new material on here. The opening track is a "remix" of a song featured on "Heaven Shall Burn". I'm no music engineer, but figuring out how these tracks sound different is proving challenging to me. If this is a remix in any fashion, its really weak and a waste of our time.

After this we get a whole slew of cover songs. They're all rooted in the Thrash Metal genre, so if you were curious about what Marduk would sound like if they played 80's Thrash instead of Black Metal, this will answer that question. They do a decent job with them. They try to preserve the original instrumentation as much as possible. They just add Black Metal vocals and updated production values really. So, if you are a fiend for that stuff you should this out... otherwise there really isn't anything new worth hearing on here.

Marduk - Heaven Shall Burn, When We are Gathered
Osmose Productions, 1996
Genre: Black Metal

1. Summon the Darkness
2. Beyond the Grace of God
3. Infernal Eternal
4. Glorification of the Black God
5. Darkness it Shall Be
6. The Black Tormentor of Satan
7. Dracul va Domni din Nou in Transilvania
8. Legion

Well… all that’s left is Morgan Håkansson as being the only original member left in Marduk.  Joakim, who did vocals on “Opus Nocturne” has departed and vocals have been taken over by the enigmatic Legion.  As I finally get around to writing this in 2007, I think this is one of the more overlooked albums in Marduk’s history.  “Heaven Shall Burn” is easily one of my favorite releases from them, but everyone seems to point to things like “Panzer Division Marduk” for a “good” album, I’m not sure where people come up with these crazy ideas.  Anyway, “Heaven Shall Burn” would surely pave the way for Marduk’s famed album “Nightwing”.

The first difference between the prior releases of “Dark Endless,” “Those of the Unlight” and even “Opus Nocturne” is how ferocious and intense this album sounds.  “Heaven Shall Burn” is by far the most intense delivery from Marduk, and quite possibly one of the most intense releases in Black Metal for it’s time.  I can’t think of a single band in 1996 off hand that can match this.  Then again, I've heard something like 900 different Black Metal bands and when, easily, thirty percent of them copy Marduk it’s hard to really break everything apart after this many years.  That doesn’t change the fact that this album always stood out to me.

When you compare earlier Marduk vocal performances with what’s being done on “Heaven Shall Burn,” I don’t think the earlier vocal tones really would have worked as on the prior material.  I think changing to using Legion to front the band was a smart move.  He was originally in Ophthalamia and he gave good performances there, but he really complements Marduk perfectly for this new shift in music.  His voice just has a certain flow to it that gives Marduk that extra edge of cohesiveness, which has the effect of added intensity.  Marduk has surely become a well oiled war machine.  Not to mention for the first time Marduk has finally printed their lyrics for us to see!  The first three albums’ lyrics wouldn't be released until much later in their career, so when I first got this I was shocked to see lyrics.  For the most part they are the usual pro-Satanic and pro-war based lyrics that are found within Black Metal.  However, this is back when that subject was still fairly fresh to the world for the most part.  The only major shift is in the track “Dracul va Domni din Nou in Transilvania” which focuses on the true story of Vlad Dracul. You may remember seeing something like this on "Opus Nocturne" with the song "Deme Quaden Thyrane" and the story is developed further her with "Heaven Shall Burn." It's a lot more meaningful on this release, because here we get to actually read the lyrics that go with the story... rather than wondering what it is all about on "Opus Nocturne". The rest of the tale would be picked up on the “Nightwing” album.

As I mentioned earlier this was musically much more ferocious for Marduk.  I don’t think anyone was really expecting this kind of intensity, and I know it sort of set the stage for what some Black Metal bands would strive to outdo.  However, despite this fierceness Marduk managed to switch it up enough to keep people interested without getting bored.  I think many will also be surprised to hear that this album also has a lot of fairly melodic guitar passages, yet maintains the intensity.  There are a couple tracks that are all blast beats, but it’s balanced against tracks that mix it up.  So this album really had an excellent blend of drumming that was blasting away and drumming that was fairly mid-paced and allowed listeners to change focus.  If you’re a classical music fan, like me, you’ll recognize “Glorification of the Black God” as not being composed by Marduk, but being composed by Mussorgsky.  It’s the track “Night on Bald Mountain.”  I think Marduk’s rendition of it is “glorious” (pun intended).  I always pictured Mussorgsky as being a fan of extreme Metal, if he existed today, whenever I listen to his work; he’s one of those heavier classical composers, in my opinion.  Marduk’s choice in this was great, it’s a pretty well known track, but I think Mussorgsky had some even heavier works on his “Picture’s from an Exhibition” piece.  Marduk also slow the pace down for “Dracul va Domni din Nou in Transilvania.” I think this is exactly what this kind of song needed conceptually; it’s an epic story so the slow pace gives it that daunting and brooding feel.

Marduk, for the first time also, gave their listeners a real treat with a large booklet to look through.  The art and layout complement the music wonderfully.  Though, I must say that I've always preferred the artwork on “Those of the Unlight.”  I really like that cover a lot.  “Heaven Shall Burn” had a cover that was a little too comic book styled art for me, but it is a step up from the “Dark Endless” cover.  Just when compared against “Those of the Unlight” it wasn't as good to me.  I did think it was cool that all the characters shields bear the Marduk logo; I thought that was very inventive.

Ultimately what we have here is one of Marduk’s greatest works.  They pushed the envelope incredibly far in Black Metal and left a lot of bands trying to match or outdo this incredible intensity.  I would highly recommend this opus to anyone, and just remember if you’re a new buyer of this, this was released before this sound started to get old.  This was fresh and practically unheard of back then.  The war machine of Marduk made its face known with this and it would scarcely be forgotten!  Death to peace!

Marduk - Opus Nocturne
Osmose Productions, 1994
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro / The Appearance of Spirits of Darkness
2. Sulphur Souls
3. From Subterranean Throne Profound
4. Autumnal Reaper
5. Materialized in Stone
6. Untrodden Paths (Wolves Part II)
7. Opus Nocturne
8. Deme Quaden Thyrane
9. The Sun has Failed

Another year another Marduk album. Luckily not much has changed from the gold they struck on "Those of the Unlight". There has been a further line-up change over the year and "Opus Nocturne" features a new drummer with Frederik Andersson. This way Joakim can focus solely on the vocal performances, which is a smart move, because he gives a really good voice to the style Marduk is performing. Andersson's drumming is great and this album seems to be a lot more demanding in the speed arrangements, so he adds a really good dimension to that.

Like "Those of the Unlight", "Opus Nocturne" doesn't waste much time getting into the meat of the album. A mild intro that is less than a minute in length and they we are off with "Sulphur Souls". It really does have all the atmosphere and intensity we loved from "Those of the Unlight". The tracks are a lot more dynamic than that though and the album is really wonderfully arranged in that regard. Its not all blast beats and screams, these songs are really thoughtful arranged and tracks like "Materialized in Stone" slow things down giving things a very different feel to what the genre can bring us. This album truly has everything that Black Metal should represent. This is also where the telling of the true story of Dracula started showing up in Marduk's discography. At that time I don't think they had the Dracula project really well formulated in their heads, because this song appears again later on "Nightwing".

This is still a monumental release in the Marduk discography. It's extremely varied and every song is very well written with a level of passion that rivals many future Black Metal bands, who simply attempt to mimic this. A great and timeless release as well...

Marduk - Those of the Unlight
Osmose Productions, 1993
Genre: Black Metal

1. Darkness Breeds Immortality
2. Those of the Unlight
3. Wolves
4. On Darkened Wings
5. Burn My Coffin
6. A Sculpture of the Night
7. Echoes from the Past
8. Stone Stands it's Silent Vigil

"Those of the Unlight" stands legendary in our modern times. This is, truly, Marduk's first pure Black Metal album. It's fairly impressive that such a huge change in sound would occur in just one year. Unfortunately, for this album Andreas Axelsson has left on vocal duties and now they are being handled by drummer Joakim af Gravf. I think his voice fits this sound extremely well, even better than Andreas'. Joakim's voice is a lot more hollow sounding and just sounds so much more tortured when he screams. Definitely, a great decision on the bands behalf.

"Those of the Unlight" is really where Marduk infuses a huge amount of atmosphere into their sound, making this sound a lot more like a Black Metal album. Seriously, the entire Death Metal aspect of Marduk has been completely stripped away. They've recast the project with a lot more Black Metal in the atmosphere. I feel like, in many ways, they are channeling a less melodic version of Dissection with the way the guitar lines work combined with Immortal. This is a really well done album showing how intense Black Metal can get at times. This gave rise to such classic songs as "Wolves", which seems to have become a fan favorite of this release. The overall presentation of these songs has a so much more darkness in the feeling than ever before, which really makes this a stand-out release for Marduk and, especially, these early days of Black Metal. Its interesting to note that the album closes with a fairly calm and powerful epic outro in the guise of "Stone Stands it's Silent Vigil." This is a really different kind of song for Marduk and really shows the diversity of the musicians on one hand. On the other... I feel like its and odd outro for this type of album. Sure the song sounds beautiful and has a very somber atmosphere, but does it really fit with the rest of the songs? I guess it, basically does, since Marduk take their mood in more than one direction throughout the release.

In the end, this album is hailed as being pretty legendary amidst the Black Metal fans all over the world. Even though I haven't listened to this album in years, it really has a timeless quality to it that holds up over the decades. The real challenge for Marduk was to now see if they could release and album that was just as good. They're certainly off to a solid start with their first two releases.

Marduk - Dark Endless
No Fashion Records, 1992
Genre: Black/Death Metal

1. Still Fucking Dead (Here's No Peace)
2. The Sun Turns Black as Night
3. Within the Abyss
4. The Funeral Seemed to be Endless
5. Departure from the Mortals
6. The Black...
7. Dark Endless
8. Holy Inquisition

It seems shortly after Marduk released their demo they were swiftly signed to the young label No Fashion Records. At the time they were very new, but over the years No Fashion Records would go on to sign some very legendary bands over its lifetime. I remember picking this album up in about '95 or '96 for about eighteen USD and being mad at how expensive it was. But it was worth it back in those days, finding this kind of material was not that easy. I also remember feeling very ripped off at such a price. Opening the booklet there was just nothing inside the folded sheet of paper. Just a white space, it was pretty frustrating back then.

"Dark Endless" really continues the sound originally shown to us on their demo. There really isn't much deviation from that style, which is good, because all the songs from the demo are also included on this album. So here we have the early Swedish Black Metal scene transitioning out of its major Death Metal assault to the world. The trappings of Entombed and Dismember are still inherent in Marduk's sound, though they have thinned out their guitar tone a lot more to have more of a Black Metal style. Still, when they play some of the slower sections the riffing is reminiscent of bands in the Death Metal scene. I think Marduk are really trying to enter a slightly different realm of Black Metal here, not just because its a Death Metal hybrid, but because they're playing a far more uncompromising style. Aside from the slow Death Metal their Black Metal is a lot faster and far more intense than a lot of other bands at this time. I think "Dark Endless" would go on to influence a whole different generation of Black Metal. The only unfortunate thing I can say about this is that due to the volume of Death Metal and focus on intensity, this doesn't have that much of a dark atmosphere. Instead the feeling of this album comes off to be more like Entombed's "Clandestine", which isn't necessarily a bad thing. So, it has a dark feeling to it, but it is hardly icy cold like the Black Metal being performed in Norway at the time. Either way, I remember really enjoying this album when I found it, it really wasn't like anything else I had at the time and I can only imagine what that was really like in 1992.

Overall, Marduk has an excellent debut here. I'm not sure this release really gets the recognition it deserves, but before all those other bands were playing really fast Black Metal, Marduk was there already doing that. Then again, people seem to easily forget the time something is released, despite the fact it is clearly printed on the CD itself. Ah well, now a classic in their discography at least.

Marduk - Demo #1
Self-Released, 1991
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro/Fuck Me Jesus
2. Departure from the Mortals
3. The Black...
4. Within the Abyss
5. Outro/Shut Up and Suffer

As you can clearly see, I missed out on the original demo tape release of this, now fairly legendary, demo. Back in 1991 it was just titled "Demo #1", but based on the opening track it was later re-released in 1994 as "Fuck Me Jesus". This is the version I own and it comes in a slimline case. While I'm sure the original tape had some kind of limitation, I'm not sure what that limitation was. I also couldn't find a really nice scan of the cover to share on here.

While, I list the genre above as solely Black Metal, there might actually be some debate for that listing. This demo was a fairly interesting release at its time, because it wasn't like the Black Metal we all heard coming out of Norway at the same time. Sure, it was played in a similar manner, but this was so much heavier than what the Norwegians were playing. Marduk leans pretty heavily on the guitar tone of the Swedish Death Metal scene for this release. The opening song "Departure from the Mortals" sounds like something we'd hear from Entombed or Edge of Sanity at the time. Perhaps Andreas Axelsson's, from Edge of Sanity, involvement on vocals here lead to help with these production values. So, with that tone in mind, Marduk has decided to play Black Metal, but the tinges of Death Metal are truly inescapable at times in their writing. You may be able to argue that this is a hybrid between the genres in many ways. When Marduk perform slower pieces like "The Black..." and some riffs in "Within the Abyss" it almost borders on a Doom Metal level, but that swiftly changes and the Black Metal is undeniable. The vocals are totally rooted in Black Metal and bear the usual influences of performances like Darkthrone and Mayhem at the time. While the demo opened with a blasphemous intro, a sample from the movie Exorcist... you know the scene, where the girl is shoving the cross in her crotch; the outro, on the other hand, is heavily rooted in early 90's video game music. Seems kind of an odd way to close out the album and I feel they probably shouldn't have even bothered with it.

In the end this demo had a lot of different elements. At times, maybe too many, because while this Black Metal is rooted in the Death Metal tone, it doesn't have the same level of cold atmosphere typical to Black Metal. Instead it has more of the intensity and power of Death Metal. So, it is kind of interesting from this point of view. We'll see what Marduk produce in the future though, this is just a demo and just a taste of what the band is working on at this time.

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