Review Summary: The illusion of black metal
It’s been more than a few years since “popular” Scandinavian black metal effectively hit a brick wall. The scene has been pummeled into a bloody pulp of tremolo picked riffs, monochrome makeup, and shattered memories of the days when most of black metal’s current listeners could barely walk, let alone understand what exactly contributed to the relative blossoming of the black metal sound we all know today. To put it bluntly, black metal as most people envision it died in the mid to late 90’s. It has always puzzled me why bands like Sweden’s Marduk- an act that was around for the proverbial rise and fall of the second-wave Scandinavian scene- are still here in 2011 clinging to a sound so indisputably, well, 90’s
. Sure, Iron Dawn
is wrapped in that war-mongering flavor that laced Marduk’s sound as far back as 1999’s Panzer Division Marduk
, but it is still in essence the same Marduk with a few more years and a few less tricks up their sleeve.
Ten years ago it was still likely that Marduk would deliver a solid, if one-dimensional record that appeased the scores of fans who would eat up anything that contained a blast beat or two and a tight, tremolo-picked riff. Now, with their latest EP Iron Dawn
, Marduk have shorted us on the “solid” aspect and simply left us with an offering that is about as one-dimensional as black metal can get. Aside from cliché samplings of bombs, sirens and other wartime fanfare we are tasked with digesting three songs with almost identical instrumentation. The guitars are lightning-quick and the riffs so forgettable that one has a sincerely difficult time recalling them by the time all has come to a close. It doesn’t help that the production is so clean as to leave the album with that sort of sterile, personality-devoid perfection that you would expect in, say, the waiting room of a dentist’s office. Slap this alongside vocals that never change pitch in their spewing of what are certainly lyrics with the depth of an empty kiddie pool and you are left with, well, the remnants of a sound that is well past its prime.
I can’t say that the album is outright terrible, because it’s not. There is nothing laughably bad about Iron Dawn
, instead there is a lot that is depressing and sad. It makes you acutely aware that you haven’t heard a black metal record in the second-wave vein that you enjoyed in what seems like a very
long time, before you realize that if this is what is left of that sound then maybe you don’t want to hear any more of it. Iron Dawn
leaves in its wake that feeling of nostalgia that only comes when something you remember fondly is gone forever. Let me put it this way: I was listening to Iron Dawn
one night on my computer, letting its drums bombard me with no meaning or purpose before, some minutes later, my heart leapt in gratitude when the riffing became full of life, melody and direction. I quickly looked at the screen only to find out Iron Dawn
had ended and what was playing now was 1994’s Opus Notcurne