Review Summary: Marduk finds beauty and order in chaos.
Marduk is a band often criticized for being generic to the point of being tedious and sometimes even painful to listen to. If you’ve heard Panzer Division Marduk
, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about
: jackhammer blastbeats played for the entire duration of each song, annoyingly same-y vocal arrangements, and repetitive power chord-oriented riffing with melodies thrown in once in a while that are simply too short to savor. Because of this, Marduk is often dismissed by many as lacking in quality and artistic credibility, understandably so. However, their 1994 release Opus Nocturne
stands firmly as being by far Marduk’s best album and as a noteworthy release in the black metal genre at large.
After the brief and eerie organ introduction is through, “Sulphur Souls” opens with a shriek and a patented Norsecore hyperblast with fast melodic riffing over it. So far, so generic; however, Marduk shows that they actually (!) do know how to slow it down with this one; the riffs begin to plod in a manner reminiscent of Under the Sign of the Black Mark
-era Bathory, then an overlay of beautiful melody takes the spotlight before the song picks back up again and sweeps the listener away with its raw fury. More Bathory influence is put on display with “Materialized in Stone”, which opens with a riff that wouldn’t be out of place on Blood Fire Death
(Manowar beat and all) and works its way into enchanting, well thought-out melodies that show what Marduk can really be capable of when they actually try.
A different side of Marduk is seen here than on their other albums. In general, they put much more emphasis on trudging mid-paced sections and longer, more elaborate melodies than on their other works (especially Panzer Division Marduk
). The drums are still fairly straightforward and don’t break any of the rules. Generic beats are used to accompany the riffs in order to set them into motion appropriately, and in that sense they serve their purpose well. The bass carries the low end well, and even has a chance to carry a melody of its own in “Deme Quaden Thyrane”; a welcome deviation from what typifies black metal bass playing.
The album isn’t perfect by a longshot however. Marduk still falls occasionally into cycles of Norsecore genericisms with the somewhat frequent dirty power chord riff/hyperblast combination. It doesn’t get nearly as tiresome as on their other albums as there is plenty going on in each song to balance it out, but if they had taken the approach that seemed so successful in “Materialized in Stone” on more of the album, it could have proven much more interesting. The production is fine but not necessarily ideal. The drums are very organic sounding and don’t use triggers, but are still very loud in the mix and sometimes the cymbals can drown out the guitar work a bit (though usually when that happens the guitars aren’t doing anything interesting anyway so it’s not too much of a loss). After all, this is
a black metal album from 1994, so you should know what you're getting into production-wise anyway.
Any black metal fan looking for something to listen to on a rainy day should look no further; there is plenty here to keep you engaged. All in all, Opus Nocturne
is in my humble opinion Marduk’s best album and would make for a worthy addition to the collection of black metal fans everywhere.