Written by: AP on 18/02/2015 18:41:55

Despite having formed in 1990 as ‘the most blasphemous band in the world’, and building a reputation as titans of the black metal genre, Marduk have managed truly to impress me on two occasions only: the grim, war themed onslaught that was 1999’s “Panzer Division Marduk”; and the intense, atmospheric opus of 2007, “Rom 5:12”. Mind you, the remainder of their work has nevertheless tended to hold a high standard, as evidenced both by our extreme metal aficionado Ellis ‘EW’ Woolley’s thoughts on their 1992 record “Dark Endless”, and my own impressions of their previous outing “Serpent Sermon” three years ago; and as such, word of a new album by the Swedish horde always tempts my intrigue. In January, Marduk released their thirteenth studio album “Frontschwein”, which as its title suggests, revisits the World War II theme also explored on the aforementioned masterpiece “Panzer Division Marduk”. That by itself is a promising omen, yet without batting around the bush too much, it never reaches those heights.

Like so many of Marduk's songs, the opening track enlists a thundering wall of blastbeats for a rhythmic foundation and lays upon it a dark and somewhat pagan melody, but as the album's namesake it does little to inspire awe. Less traditional is the following "Blond Beast", on which the recently introduced Fredrik Wildigs slams down a march beat to accompany a simple, yet distressing riff courtesy of Morgan & Devo. A standout moment on "Fronschwein", the song is less inclined toward evisceration, thriving instead on subtleties. Its transitions from verse to chorus and bridge/solo are executed with mouthwatering finesse, while Mortuus' netherworldly growls and snarls seem placed as if via predestination to emphasise the track's key moments. "Wartheland", too, distinguishes itself as a peak moment as slow, brooding chords suddenly dissolve for Mortuus to roar "Totalitarian... Command!" like the most terrifying war cry. From then onwards, the song winds itself around a grim melody with Wildigs alternating between trudging and pummel, the opening punchline frequently visited in well timed stop/start shifts.

Elsewhere, the frost ridden epic melodies and demented ferocity of "Rope of Regret", "Falaise: Cauldron of Blood" and "Thousand-Fold Death" each contain sections worthy of appraisal, just as it's difficult to resist the urge to maniacally headbang to the thrashy tune of "Between the Wolf-Packs". But the sad fact remains, that given the talent and experience underlying, true ingenuity and grandeur on "Frontschwein" comes too rarely for the record to consolidate itself among the Swedes' best. Too much of its running length is spent rehashing trite black metal doctrines that ensure there are few revelations to be had here outside of the undeniably high base standard Marduk tend to hold. With a few exceptions, cueuing any track here you'll be fed a barrage of very decent, yet in the long run forgettable black metal, though "Afrika", for instance, sounds completely devoid of identity, and the neverending "Nebelwerfer" seems utterly pointless in its slow, repetitive grinding through six minutes of runtime.

A return to past glories "Frontschwein" is not, alas. It entertains without haunting; it upholds the traditions, but rarely challenges them. Devout fans of Marduk will no doubt find lots to rave about, but for those seeking progress or the next modern classic, "Frontschwein" will not cut it.


Download: The Blond Beast, Wartheland, Rope of Regret, Thousand-Fold Death
For the fans of: 1349, Gorgoroth, Watain
Listen: Facebook

Release date 19.01.2015
Blooddawn / Century Media

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