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Album Reviews : Marduk – Frontshwein

By on February 12, 2015

mardukfrontcd_638Legendary black metal outfit Marduk has never been one to innovate, experiment, or deviate. The span of their 25 year crusade has seen perhaps some of the most memorable black metal to emerge from the second wave, but also the most repetitive. Despite numerous lineup changes and tone shifts, their desire is still apparently simple in aiming to be “the most blasphemous band in the world,” a philosophy which unfortunately does not encompass the musical side of the word “band.” Still, to “true kvlt” fans Marduk will always be a sort of Krieg comfort food to the legions, which is irrevocably continued in their latest offering, “Frontschwein.”

It is blatantly apparent that guitarist Evil is the sole remaining original member from their doom-laden debut Dark Endless, as he has settled into comfortable terrain over the years. Expect more of the same on Frontschwein, with Evil spewing forth catchy but simplistic riffs that permeate the listener’s memories for hours afterwards, like a perpetual mantra. The defining characteristics of the second wave of black metal are still prevalent, using cacophonous, chaotic chord changes and furious tremolo picking, as well as the occasionally sinister dirge for effect. The tempo from Serpent Sermon has mostly carried over into Frontschwein, as most songs remain in a mid tempo grind, occasionally slowing or speeding up, which may have honestly been to the detriment of the overall experience. While this does assist in the accessibility of the music, it may be slightly boring to dedicated Marduk fans who may be more accustomed to the assaulting barrage of songs like “Baptism by Fire” and “Azrael.” The guitar tone is also less distorted, with the gain being toned down for a seemingly cleaner sound, contradicting the concept of “Necrosound” coined by Burzum’s Varg Vikernes.

Mortuus does his usual croaking cavalcade, contributing a certain desperation to the sound of Frontschwein. Unfortunately for fans like me, who are still reliving the aggressive, undeniably evil screams of Legion, or the sinister shrieks of Andreas Axelsson, Mortuus has always been a step down in intensity. The occasional (but more common) shouted vocals also jars with the rest of the music, and may even evoke a few groans from dedicated listeners. Lyrically, it repeats the same black metal staple clichés we’ve all heard before, with a faux German glorification of World War II mixed unscrupulously with vague allusions to angels and demons. For those who revel in old war tapes and documentaries, or for mind numbed teenagers, it may seem to be the best thing since sliced bread, but to others it leaves a longing for more depth which Marduk may never deliver.

Fredrik Widigs demonstrates that he may have been the easiest choice for the latest in Marduk’s long string of drummers, for the most part providing simplistic 4/4 beats and blasting. Again, for those of us still holding the glory days, this still falls short compared to Fredrik Andersson or Emil Dragutinovic (admittedly out of sheer nostalgia), who added a belligerent, almost destructive element to the wall of sound Marduk was reputed for. While the drumming is technically solid and the fills may satisfy, the naggingly weak sound of the snare drum may be off putting for some on the songs where they aren’t drowned out by everything else.

Regardless of questionable musicianship, the tracks still deliver in some respects, but fail in others. The opening title track “Frontschwein” (German for “front line soldier”), opens the album up nicely, providing main riffs and a rhythm worth banging your head to, creating a melodic intensity that would have been more than welcomed if continued consistently. “The Blond Beast” then ruins whatever momentum the opening track generated with a stereotypical black metal chord that can’t help but remind me of the commercialized, simplified, mainstream-friendly black metal that Satyricon spat out with their self titled album. “Afrika” picks the pace up again, reminiscent of “Souls for Belial” from their previous effort, arguably in one of Widigs’ better performances on the album, and creating a chant worthy chorus that will be sure to please live crowds. “Wartheland” again puts a foot on the brakes, attempting a sluggish, menacing number. While the chorus is enjoyably beguiling, the song falls short of the ominous heights that Marduk had once reached with “Cloven Hoof” or “Dracul va Domni Din Nou in Transilvania.” “Rope of Regret” is a welcome respite from the mid tempo turns in the album, providing a throwback to the sheer brutality over melody approach that popularized Marduk in the mid 90s. “Between the Wolf-Packs” is a simple but surprisingly satisfying offering that evokes the presence of winter chills back into the fold. “Nebelwerfer” is another tedious dirge attempt which becomes all the worse when Mortuus starts shouting like a six year old boy whose mum won’t let him eat another lollipop. “Cauldron of Blood” is another solid contribution, adding to it an endearingly haunting riff in both the first prechorus and the bridge. “Doomsday Elite” and “Thousand-fold Death” are crushingly chaotic, with both providing two of the only interesting lead riffs in the album, and latter providing an assaulting barrage of vomitous vocals redolent of machine gun fire.

This album is not by any stretch Marduk’s best effort, and serves as just another bullet in the belt to wear on stage, but there is enough in the album to gratify most fans. While the album occasionally wanes in a conceded stab at the more malevolent vein, on the whole “Frontschwein” still shows that Marduk can still do what they do best, if not as consistently, and may also prove as an easier access point for less “true kvlt” listeners.

Artist: Marduk
Album: Frontschwein
Year: 2015
Genre: Black metal
Label: Century Media Records
Origin: Sweden

Track list:
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

About

Benjen is a qualified teacher residing in the south-east suburbs of Perth. Benjen was introduced to hard rock at the age of 12 with Papa Roach's "Love-Hate Tragedy," and has developed a love for hard rock and metal since. He also has a keen interest in gaming and almost every fandom imaginable, from Doctor Who to Deadpool. He can be followed on Twitter @thetoadmode