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Requiem

Marduk

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Can't believe there's no Marduk thread. 

Marduk are without doubt one of the great miracles of black metal. They've lasted over 25 years and are still producing incredible albums. They have a style, but are not locked down so much that they get repetitive. This band has become one of my favourites from any genre. Would love to hear some opinions of this infernal Swedish institution. 

Requiem's Ranking of Marduk's Albums from Infantry Stooge to Panzer Division Commander:

13. Plague Angel (2004)

Firstly, I should point out that there is not a Marduk album that I dislike. I like them all to a certain extent. It might seem weird to have Plague Angel as my least favourite Marduk album given all the carry-on it seems to receive. The first album with Mortuus feels to me like they're adjusting to each other's styles. While I do like it, I tend to find it a little too dense and one dimensional, especially after the absolutely cracking World Funeral. The first three songs are very good, and there are moments here, but I just don't reach for this very often. Cover is pretty good. 

12. Serpent Sermon (2012)

Similar scenario to Plague Angel, this is an ok album but I just can't remember much from it, despite repeated spins since I purchased it around release day. The most memorable thing about this is a huge booklet that has surprisingly little in it. Cover is fairly unexciting. Boring in fact. There must be treasures waiting to open up in this, but it's been 6 years now and I haven't really found them. 

11. Rom 5:12 (2007) 

This is another from that group of three fairly empty sounding albums. They're sonically dense, don't get me wrong, but a lot of the darkness and mood feels generic to me. They're so bogged down in death and decay that I don't feel the listening experience has anywhere to go. Again, I like it but I don't love it. This got stunning reviews everywhere, but I just don't feel it, even after ten years. Cover is ok but again, random death imagery is random. 

10. Dark Endless (1992)

The debut is a lot more fun than the three albums listed above. Even though this is very death metal heavy, there's a great vibe here. It's an enjoyable listen. Features one-off vocalist Andreas Axelsson who I can't say would be missed, but he does a decent job. Very early this is, at 1992. Original cover is a bit silly and very death metal. 

9. Heaven Shall Burn When We Are Gathered (1996)

I have to be honest and acknowledge that this is the album I know least of all. I don't own it (it's the only one not in my collection) and have only heard it a few times. I liked it though. It's their first with Legion on vocals, and I'm a big Legion fan. Take its ranking here with a grain of salt. Probably their worst album cover. 

8. La Grande Danse Macabre (2001)

This is a solid album. The remastered version, which I have, sounds brilliant - the guitar tone is razor sharp. The songs have some great moments for sure, and 'Summer's End' is a brilliant little oddity. Legion's voice is a little bit repetitive and the lyrics are quite daft, for some reason, especially when compared with the albums before and after it. It almost feels like it was a bit rushed because there aren't as many melodies going on. There's a lot of riffage that plods a bit. Morgan is definitely not pushing boundaries, that's for sure. I think the worst thing about this album is that it sits awkwardly between two classics and I overlooked it for years. I need to give it more time. 

7. Wormwood (2009)

I wrote this off when it first came out, thinking it was like Plague Angel et al, but I was wrong. This is a really great album. 'Funeral Dawn' is the track I think of here, and it embodies the creativity that would later make Frontschwein their masterpiece. Mortuus' voice is stunning. I should give Serpent Sermon another listen to see if he's as good there. I could move that album up a bit if it is. I'm thinking out loud so I'll shut up and move on. Pretty cool cover. Interesting name too. 

6. Nightwing (1998)

We're hitting greatness. Whether it's the fast paced first half or the slower second half that focuses on Vlad the Impaler (and forms the 'Blood' part of their "Blood, Fire, Death" trilogy in honour of Bathory), this album is quality all the way through. Pretty good album cover of a Carpathian looking night-horror.  

5. Opus Nocturne (1994)

Now we're talking. This is the first of the five albums of Marduk's that I consider to be classics. The atmosphere and style here are brilliant, with Joakim dropping drum duties to focus purely on vocals. He has a rad voice, that's for sure. The riff in the title track stays with me for days afterwards. Album cover is not really my thing, but it's interesting to look at. 

4. Those of the Unlight (1993)

What a great album. The melodies here are so infectious and the vocals from Joakim are next level. He just spits them out like an anguished corpse. 'Wolves' is a masterpiece black metal song - one of the best of all time. B-War's first album on bass and he nails it. This has that Swedish melodic sensibility running through it with large dashings of true darkness. An exciting album. Amazing album cover. 

3. Panzer Division Marduk (1999)

Speaking of exciting. Panzer Division Marduk cannot be overrated if you ask me. From the World War II style soundbites to the insane speed that is also oddly catchy, this is a masterpiece. The original artwork of the tank barrel pointing right out at the viewer still haunts me. When Marduk do WWII they are untouchable in my opinion, and I think they are much more authentic and menacing than when they're just being naughty satanists. 

2. World Funeral (2003)

This could surprise a lot of people, but to me this album slays Plague Angel and the follow-ups. This is Legion's last album and he is on fire. Listen to his delivery in 'With Satan and Victorious Weapons' (incredible title by the way). Listen to the riffs and Legion's voice in 'Bleached Bones'. Listen to that crazy riff in 'Night of the Long Knives'. I think this album is far more menacing than almost all of their other albums, not due to speed or anything like that, but the aura. The change of pace is brilliant and 'Blackcrowned' that ends the album in a funeral march is perfect. Evocative red album cover and a great booklet. 

1. Frontschwein (2015)

Here it is. Not just Marduk's best album, but one of modern metal's true classics. The WWII themes are back, and Mortuus has stepped up to reveal himself as the best black metal vocalist in the world right now. They are also at their most creative. Check out that marching beat in '503' where Mortuus yells out the names of the towns that are being rolled by the Germans. Spine-tingling. 'Thousandfold Death', the final metal song, is stupendous and beyond comprehension. The final song proper, 'Warschau III' is so good it hurts. Fitting album cover that is such a breath of fresh air from the generic darkness of the recent past. 

Now all we have to do is wait and see what Viktoria turns out to be! 

 

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10 hours ago, Requiem said:

2. World Funeral (2003)

This could surprise a lot of people, but to me this album slays Plague Angel and the follow-ups. This is Legion's last album and he is on fire. Listen to his delivery in 'With Satan and Victorious Weapons' (incredible title by the way). Listen to the riffs and Legion's voice in 'Bleached Bones'. Listen to that crazy riff in 'Night of the Long Knives'. I think this album is far more menacing than almost all of their other albums, not due to speed or anything like that, but the aura. The change of pace is brilliant and 'Blackcrowned' that ends the album in a funeral march is perfect. Evocative red album cover and a great booklet. 

I loved this album, but do not listen to it as much as I should (it is the only of their albums that I own).  I think what made it so enjoyable for me was its blend of aggressive speed and heavy, deliberate, and slow passages.  You forgot to mention "To the Death's Head True" - one of their best songs (in my opinion).

Despite this, I agree that Frontschwein was their best work.  So many amazing riffs, and simply phenomenal vocals.

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10 hours ago, Balor said:

I loved this album, but do not listen to it as much as I should (it is the only of their albums that I own).  I think what made it so enjoyable for me was its blend of aggressive speed and heavy, deliberate, and slow passages.  You forgot to mention "To the Death's Head True" - one of their best songs (in my opinion).

Despite this, I agree that Frontschwein was their best work.  So many amazing riffs, and simply phenomenal vocals.

Agree totally regarding ‘To the Death’s Head True’. All those slow tracks are just crushing. It’s a combination of the songwriting and the tone of the guitars. Morgan just nailed the sound.

Frontschwein is just next level, isn’t it.

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11 hours ago, Requiem said:

Agree totally regarding ‘To the Death’s Head True’. All those slow tracks are just crushing. It’s a combination of the songwriting and the tone of the guitars. Morgan just nailed the sound.

Frontschwein is just next level, isn’t it.

Definitely.  While I really like the riffs on Frontschwein, I think that the vocals are what make it so good.  The singer has a phenomenal voice - perfectly suited for both fast and slow songs.

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5 hours ago, Balor said:

Definitely.  While I really like the riffs on Frontschwein, I think that the vocals are what make it so good.  The singer has a phenomenal voice - perfectly suited for both fast and slow songs.

It's a phenomenal release. As I'm (clearly) in the middle of a Marduk obsession I'm doing a lot of listening, and I'm trying to figure out why a lot of the albums from 2004-2012 don't seem to have many riffs at all that I can get behind, yet 'Frontschwein' is absolutely full of them.

I would argue that while 'Plague Angel' through to 'Serpent Sermon' are the most suffocatingly extreme releases (and some people love this about those albums) they have ever put out, they are strangely devoid of memorable moments and hooks. I guess it's personal taste, firstly, but also that phenomenon bands have of just missing the mark repeatedly until they suddenly have a spark of creativity. Although in a different genre, Moonspell showed this on '1755'. 

For me, 'Frontschwein' contains a lot of elements that they are suddenly doing better.

1. Songwriting, primarily. Unlike previous releases, there is a huge degree of quality control going on. Many riffs lift the hairs on the back of my neck etc. 

2. Mortuus' voice with the choked off yell at the end of some lines. He's brought that technique in and it's amazing. I've mentioned it before and I'll probably mention it again. 

3. The experimentation and creativity on tracks like 'Blond Beast' and '503', partly down to Fredrik Widigs' drum patterns. Also things like adding the tambourine(?) beat in '503'. When that comes in I can't believe what a stroke of genius it is. There's nothing comparable in the 2004-2012 material really, perhaps apart from 'Funeral Dawn' on 'Wormwood'. 

4. A focus, and this is really important for Marduk. I think when Morgan has a theme that he's working with he is just that more inspired. Again, this is just personal taste and only my opinion, but when he's writing for an album about standard black metal motifs the riffs come out fairly unispired and standard. I've been pumping those albums lately and I can't believe how boring many of the riffs are. Then they amp up the fuzz, drop Mortuus' vocals in the mix to make it sound more extreme, and the songmanship is running short. When they have a theme, like WWII or Vlad Dracul, things just pop and spark with creativity. The lyrics fall in line, and suddenly you have a 'Frontschwein' or a 'Panzer Division Marduk'. 

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18 hours ago, Requiem said:

It's a phenomenal release. As I'm (clearly) in the middle of a Marduk obsession I'm doing a lot of listening, and I'm trying to figure out why a lot of the albums from 2004-2012 don't seem to have many riffs at all that I can get behind, yet 'Frontschwein' is absolutely full of them.

I would argue that while 'Plague Angel' through to 'Serpent Sermon' are the most suffocatingly extreme releases (and some people love this about those albums) they have ever put out, they are strangely devoid of memorable moments and hooks. I guess it's personal taste, firstly, but also that phenomenon bands have of just missing the mark repeatedly until they suddenly have a spark of creativity. Although in a different genre, Moonspell showed this on '1755'. 

For me, 'Frontschwein' contains a lot of elements that they are suddenly doing better.

1. Songwriting, primarily. Unlike previous releases, there is a huge degree of quality control going on. Many riffs lift the hairs on the back of my neck etc. 

2. Mortuus' voice with the choked off yell at the end of some lines. He's brought that technique in and it's amazing. I've mentioned it before and I'll probably mention it again. 

3. The experimentation and creativity on tracks like 'Blond Beast' and '503', partly down to Fredrik Widigs' drum patterns. Also things like adding the tambourine(?) beat in '503'. When that comes in I can't believe what a stroke of genius it is. There's nothing comparable in the 2004-2012 material really, perhaps apart from 'Funeral Dawn' on 'Wormwood'. 

4. A focus, and this is really important for Marduk. I think when Morgan has a theme that he's working with he is just that more inspired. Again, this is just personal taste and only my opinion, but when he's writing for an album about standard black metal motifs the riffs come out fairly unispired and standard. I've been pumping those albums lately and I can't believe how boring many of the riffs are. Then they amp up the fuzz, drop Mortuus' vocals in the mix to make it sound more extreme, and the songmanship is running short. When they have a theme, like WWII or Vlad Dracul, things just pop and spark with creativity. The lyrics fall in line, and suddenly you have a 'Frontschwein' or a 'Panzer Division Marduk'. 

I think that their older albums lacked the ability to sustain interest (at least for me).  They would have a few songs that were of particular interest, but would then degenerate into typical and non-evocative bm riffing.  They needed a stronger, more unified vision.  You identified their thematic interests as the source of their more complete albums, and I think that that is correct.  "Frontschwien" (and "World Funeral") both presented shifting sound textures and speeds that helped to break up the constant aggressive playing, and thereby were able to grab and hold the attention of the viewer to a far greater extent.  They also kept the listener in a state of anticipation - constantly on edge, on the lookout for some new, as of yet unheard sound.

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