Review Summary: The frontlines of aggression
There is no point in begging for Marduk to change anymore. Just like the old saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, you cannot reasonably assume that this venerable Swedish act will just pack up and move on from the vicious heaviness that has defined their very essence since they first rolled onto the second wave scene 25 years ago. So let us instead concentrate on the facts: Marduk are as energized as ever, even as the years turn into decades and the black metal scene has largely removed itself from the abrasive simplicity showcased here. Black metal is an evolutionary beast, and despite its roots in an attitude that is unwelcoming to change the scene has branched out into a million offshoots and derivations that leave the core, second-wave Norwegian style as an outlier amidst countless other acts that have claimed to “move on” from this passé style.
I have made these criticisms of Marduk myself in the past, and as I am sure many of you are aware I have been begging for Marduk to do something to revitalize their aging sound. What I have realized with the release of Frontschwein
is that it is not Marduk’s approach that was at fault, it was my own. There is no point in going into one of their records expecting grandiose compositions or some semblance of sonic progression. Instead, it is critical that a listener be craving the unrelenting wall of tremolo riffing that Marduk display, because it is in this cacophony of violence that the band is at home. The skewed riffs conjure a sinister atmosphere and the band’s reversion to their mid-era fixation on World War II era imagery gives a visceral edge to a blade that was already razor sharp. Marduk’s sound is quite simply at home in this sort of landscape, with Mortuus’ superb vocals spewing out without even a hint of weariness. Everything is focused and everything is fully realized, as Marduk are at the point where they know exactly what they want their record to sound like and know exactly how to achieve that sound, and Frontschwein
is no exception.
The entirety of Frontschwein
is breakneck, and even during the more down-tempo tunes like “Wartheland”, the evil bellowing of “Nebelwerfer”, or “503” the record never ceases to bombard you with an assault of tumultuous drumming or slicing tremolo licks. It is all entirely unoriginal, yes, but it is still a ravaging listen if Frontschwein
is approached from an angle that is open to a record done in a style that has been repeated ad infinitum over the past two decades. I don’t turn to newer Marduk in hopes of finding a taste of originality in their style anymore, because I have realized that they refuse to move on from a sound they are arguably the best at achieving: a decidedly old-school album that is not merely homage to the sound of the Scandinavian mid-90s. Marduk were there, and they helped shape a sound that bands nowadays try in vain to replicate. Thankfully, Marduk are still around and are still wholeheartedly committed to beating you senseless with each new record.