Archive for May, 2015

Review: Marduk- Frontschwein

Posted in 2015, black metal, marduk, Reviews, sweden with tags , , , , , on May 31, 2015 by blackmetallurgy

If there’s one thing Marduk does extraordinarily well, it’s war. Since the release of Panzer Division Marduk the band has been known for their tributes to rolling tanks and an unholy fusion of war and occult imagery. And it’s a poignant connection- apocalypses in plenty of religions involve warfare of some kind, and nothing smacks of evil quite like the Third Reich, which was actively involved with mysticism and esoteric practices. Nevertheless, with the exception of 2011’s “Iron Dawn” EP, the Swedish juggernaut hasn’t released a fully war-themed album since Panzer Division.

In 2015, the black metal war machine is back, and they’re as brutal as ever. Frontschwein is war-themed from front to back, and blends Marduk’s old-school, blistering, machine gun-esque blastbeats with Mortuus’ gut-wretching vocals, making for an album which combines the variety in Marduk’s later material with the sheer ferocity of their early work. This work is aided heavily by the addition of drummer Fredrik Widigs, a 26 year old prodigy whose efforts on this album are absolutely dumbfounding. Tying the entirety of the album together is Morgan’s masterful guitar riffs, sonically linking this newest of Marduk’s works to the rest of their considerable canon.

The album starts off with the title track, which bursts out of the gate with one of the catchiest riffs you’ll hear in 2015. Pretty standard in its straightforward approach to Marduk-brand black metal, “Frontschwein” accompanies such tracks as “Afrika” and “Rope of Regret” in its hearkening back to Marduk’s early days. The latter in particular is reminiscent of the brutality of Panzer Division Marduk, unceasing in its sheer speed. A traditional song, it makes for a great early release teaser in a promise that fans can expect a Marduk more tethered in its roots this time around.

Of course, not all of the songs on Frontschwein are sheer force. Songs like “Nebelwerfer” and “The Blonde Beast” utilize slower tempos, the former putting me in mind of such earlier tracks as “Prochorovka: Blood and Sunflowers” (which might be my favorite Marduk song. I don’t know. They are all my favorites at some point or another). The feel of this track is slow and inexorable, reeking of despair and hopelessness, another eventuality of war and destruction. In contrast, “The Blonde Beast” has an extremely catchy pacing and rhythm, the beat shifting onto the upbeat at 3:12.

One of my favorite aspects of Marduk’s music has always been that they do not mix out the bass as a lot of early black metal does, choosing instead to show off the low-end at varying points in their albums. As usual, Marduk makes full use of bassist Devo Magnusson’s considerable skill, amplifying the basslines in tracks like “503” and “Doomsday Elite.”

“503” is probably my favorite track on the album, and certainly, I feel, the most original. One of the slower tracks on the album, it’s in sharp contrast to its predecessor “502” on Panzer Division Marduk. What’s also exciting is the tambourine (yup, you read that right), which gives the roll-call a creepy, dancelike feel.

Likewise, Mortuus’ vocals are varied this time around, with “Thousand-Fold Death” featuring vocalizations at such speeds that it is almost like he is rapping, the speed of the lyrics mimicking the velocity of the drums and guitars. The title track also showcases more of Mortuus’ vocal talents, the higher pitch and rawness of the vocals so startlingly different from what I have come to expect that I was unsure that it was him at first.

The album artwork for Frontschwein keeps with the war theme; the regular edition features a color scheme a greyish green of army camo. Because I’m a huge nerd, I of course had to get the special edition version, which reminds me much of the special edition for Serpent Sermon. The war imagery continues here, with a shield on the front and an iron cross forming the “O” in the album’s title; the back also says “Marduk Legion,” a reference of course to the band’s supporters as well as another to war.

Front cover of the special edition. Ignore the Hello Kitty pants.

Front cover of the special edition. Ignore the Hello Kitty pants.

Back cover. Warshau III is the bonus track on the special edition- it's largely an atmospheric track.

Back cover. Warshau III is the bonus track on the special edition- it’s largely an atmospheric track.

Marduk Legion

Marduk Legion

A booklet containing images and extra layout serves as the extended liner notes, with a classy black field accented in silver. I really like the type font used in the notes, as it’s very stately. Once again, Holy Poison Design did the layout and Endarker the production, keeping much of the album’s work in-house. Perhaps the only thing I don’t like about Frontschwein is the packaging where the CD goes- these little slip-in covers scratch my CDs when I take them out to listen to them, and it’s profoundly annoying (I’m not sure if I bitched about that in reference to the last Watain album, but if I didn’t, I should have).

An example of the font. Sorry for the glare.

An example of the font. Sorry for the glare.

The pics are shaded in silver as well. Here's Devo for an example.

The pics are shaded in silver as well. Here’s Devo for an example.

Icky slip case.

Icky slip case.

Frontschwein is a fantastic release. It will certainly make it on my list of front-runners this year, and I personally think it ought to be on everyone else’s as well. I’m reluctant to say that it’s better than other albums (picking a favorite Marduk album is like picking a favorite child as far as I’m concerned), but it’s certainly a return to Marduk’s roots in blood-soaked soil. The ferocity in this one is unrelenting, and once again Marduk has proven their ability to subtly add new techniques to their arsenal while maintaining the relentlessness that has made them famous for their war albums.

Hagalaz’ Favorite Tracks:

Falaise: Cauldron of Blood
Thousand-Fold Death