Review Summary: Punky, relentless but also inconsistent and certainly clutching at straws in places.
In hindsight, I completely understand the necessity and apparent urgency for a black metal band that have been around for over two decades to now be thinking of going back to the roots, a decision that is often brought about by rabid fanbases and over-excited record labels. Yet Marduk are one such group that have nothing to prove, especially considering they made a name for themselves in the underground once with the underground movement of Opus Nocturne
and again with the vicious snarl of 2007's Rom 5:12
. Despite being aware of this, it seems that based on the evidence of latest album Viktoria
's sole upcoming preview, the menacing opener "Werwolf", Marduk have taken a trip back in time to when their youthful exuberance was more obvious than anything else.
Having made this point, I still feel that this stylistic "shift" seems all too inadequate. To say that Viktoria
is only 33 minutes long and does its job would be a real lie, because its first half gives the impression of a band running through demos than it does actually getting somewhere with a musical direction. "Werwolf" is excluded from this, but it doesn't exactly help matters when "June 44" is riddled with juvenile barks and "Tiger I" proves to be nothing more than a hellish slog through mid-paced boredom. The redeeming factors can be found in the generally speedy pace of most of these songs, but what matters here is not so much the musical style, rather the delivery and performance of the band. This is why it confuses me to say that the same band lazily slogging through "Tiger I" also happens to fire on all cylinders with "Narva", the latter of which propelling itself to highlight status simply based on its adventurous mid-section. You could also refer to the title track, which borders on symphonic black metal tropes midway as the guitars soar to higher musical pane, largely eschewing the generally mundane first half of Viktoria
. Towards the end of the album it seems that there's a brilliant resurgence of some form of urgency from Marduk, almost as if "June 44" through "Tiger I" never actually existed.
Yet as great as the better songs of this full-length release are, you can't quite shake the feeling that a good half of the album sounds like it has been shoved aside. It's almost as if the band announced a B-sides collection, complemented by new tunes which still prove Marduk are doing what they do best, but only when they feel like it. The inconsistency is irritating unfortunately, and to say that about an album which consists of merely nine songs and 33 minutes is a warning sign to any musical listener that gets easily impatient when what they're hearing quickly becomes sloth-like. It's a nice musical direction for Marduk to think of heading in, but next time it would be great if the band actually made every song count. With Viktoria
, it's very much a bottom-heavy feeling.