When all is said and done, when the great histories of metal are written in blood upon the walls of time, there will be tales told of the greatest of the greats. When that proverbial all-knowing eye is cast upon the world of Black Metal there will be few who dare to deny the legacy of Sweden’s Marduk. Easily one of the most influential bands in Black Metal history, Marduk have once again returned to lay waste to your eardrums, to loot and pillage your senses beyond repair. Prepare to burn it all to the ground for you will not be able to rebuild what was lost.
Frontschwein represents Marduk’s thirteenth studio album, and one would think that really how much can one band possibly grow from album one to album thirteen. But if there’s one thing that Marduk has always excelled at it’s the ability to take a genre that can quickly grow stagnant at times and breathe new life into it. This album is no different. Marduk are once again a killing machine firing on all cylinders, shredding everything in their path with a hail of blast beats, tremolo picking, and unholy vocals. But this isn’t just some joy ride through playing really fast and pissed for an hour or so. No, Frontschwein, like so many Marduk albums that have come before it, is a well-thought out, well-crafted, pseudo-concept album where every note has been painstakingly inserted like madmen building the atomic bomb that will finally end it all once and for all.
While there are plenty of machine gun like shots being fired on this album in the most cantankerous of fashions, on this particular outing Marduk is actually at their most effective when they slow it down a couple notches and really reach back in time for the aura and desolation of their subject matter. Whether it’s the eerie opening facade of “Wartheland” that then rumbles forward like a slow-moving Panzer division on the hunt for prey, or the mid-tempo, slithering emanations of “503” these are the moments that truly unsettle the listener, that truly seethe death and destruction. Each track is in turn followed up by the hellfire fury of a more classic black metal approach – “Wartheland” into “Rope of Regret” and “503” into “Thousand-Fold Death”. The juxtaposition of these somewhat somber and ethereal moments with pure, unadulterated musical wrath only strengths and heightens the force and vehemence found throughout this album.
Marduk’s musical output over the last 20+ years has always stood head and shoulders above the vast majority of pretenders to the black metal throne. One could argue that the addition of Mortuus on vocals back in 2004 was a masterstroke that elevated the band to even greater heights. Certainly some of their best albums have come with Mortuus prowling the studios and festival stages. To say that he’s one of, if not the best vocalist in black metal today wouldn’t be hyperbole. He certainly belongs in the discussion and his performance on Frontschwein is once again filled with some seriously bone-chilling moments. It’s as if he’s channeling those dying soldiers on the front as he barks and snarls lyrics. Simultaneously the rest of the band matches Mortuus moment by gruesome moment with a level of immense intensity and sniper precision.
It could be easy to dismiss a band delivering another in a long line of albums, as ‘been there, done that’. But in the case of Marduk that mistake would be a heinous one to make. Frontschwein is out now on Century Media Records. Make sure you check out the video for the epic title track on the Century Media YouTube channel.