Marduk - Frontschwein
Century Media
Black Metal
11 songs (53:29)
Release year: 2015
Marduk, Century Media
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

Kicking off with a melodic, almost Middle-Eastern flourish, Marduk's thirteenth full-length album is an excellent reminder of the power of these Swedes. Not always firing on all cylinders and often criticised in black metal circles for relying on emotionless blasting, Marduk have had something of a career renaissance since acquiring Mortuus from Funeral Mist. There's been a run of quality albums since 2004's Plague Angel with Rom 5:12, Wormwood and Serpent Sermon pushing the band's sound towards more atmospheric and experimental terrain, and it has worked wonders. After all, why try to outblast yourself when albums as highly regarded as Opus Nocturne and Heaven Shall Burn... lie within your past? Not to mention that the likes of Panzer Division Marduk have set such a benchmark for cold, near-monotonous brutality that a return to that style would only alienate all but the most rabid of fans.

So Marduk are continuing in the same path, but with a twist; returning to Panzer Division Marduk in subject matter, to make their first completely war-themed album since 1999. And it's a fitting choice for their music, which combines their dark atmosphere with the usual black metal battery for a suitably grim result, but one that's hugely enjoyable. The opening title track's initial embrace of melody and warlike drums soon turns to rampaging black metal, albeit structured and almost catchy, reminiscent more of a more straightforward Melechesh than the stereotypical Marduk barrage. It's a delightful start to the album, built upon with the following The Blond Beast, which uses catchy, mid-paced drum beats as an underpin for a tense and snarling atmospheric track, and shows off not only Mortuus' strengths as a snarling and gurgling vocalist (seriously, the man is absolutely terrific and approaching a level of Csihar-esque genius with his work to date) but also the underrated guitarwork of Morgan (Patrik Håkansson, also known for Abruptum) which contains both inviting melodies as well as adding a repellent atmosphere to the track.

Most of all, however, this album shows off Marduk's skills as a supreme songwriting unit. The addition of drummer Fredrik Widigs (Rage Nucléaire and others) is seamless and his solid yet varied drumming allows for tracks that twist, turn, and seize you by the throat – Afrika's epic tumult one example of many. Each track has something fresh to it, without resorting to the outright experimental approach of before, making the album varied and yet intense, focused but mixing in the band's many strengths, often within the same song. Wartheland is a slower, dirge-type rumbler, for example, but with moments of speed where the drums are allowed off the leash and a guitar backdrop that suits both crawl and dash. The central simple riff patterns of Between the Wolf Packs are incredibly infectious, acting as punctuation marks for the surrounding blasts, and the willingness to give the track time to breathe with a lengthy instrumental section is a wise one.

I'm a fan of Marduk being atmospheric, and the six-minute Nebelwerfer is that exactly. Almost doomy in pace, with liquid riffs dripping between crushing drum beats and Mortuus' yowls, and a subtly epic melody emerging towards the end, it's one of the album's many highlights. It's dwarfed next to the eight-minute Doomsday Elite, however, which is a speedy monster but so well-written that it feels like half its length, melancholic riffs that could be from a more brutal Drudkh simply ripping by. And there's even fan service for us Panzer Division Marduk fans with 503 (albeit with a slower pace and a more thoughtful style than that album's 502) and the closing Thousand-Fold Death, where Mortuus spits out lyrics faster than I've ever heard from him before. It's a good ending to a very good album, a reminder that Marduk goes fast as well as slow and can do either very well. They've grown uncomfortably into their status as a black metal band of legendary age but not necessarily legendary output, which I think is unfair to them – their back catalogue is often overlooked when it comes to discussions of the genre's best. Still, with albums as good as this being put out, few can argue against recognising them as terrific. An early highlight of the year.

Killing Songs :
Frontschwein, The Blond Beast, Afrika, Nebelwerfer, Doomsday Elite, Thousand-Fold Death
Goat quoted 88 / 100
Other albums by Marduk that we have reviewed:
Marduk - Serpent Sermon reviewed by Tony and quoted 88 / 100
Marduk - Those of the Unlight reviewed by Tony and quoted 89 / 100
Marduk - Nightwing reviewed by Tony and quoted CLASSIC
Marduk - Iron Dawn EP reviewed by Tony and quoted no quote
Marduk - Opus Nocturne reviewed by Tony and quoted CLASSIC
To see all 14 reviews click here
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