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Marduk has released a lot of crushing albums. Some maniacs say that the merciless "Panzer Division Marduk" towers over their other artistic works. Some other freaks exactly despise this album because of its lack of variety while worshipping outputs like "Those of the Unlight" or "Wormwood". However, the question about their best album is pointless and I am not of the opinion that "Heaven Shall Burn... When We Are Gathered" marks their outstanding release. But it seems to be at risk to fall into oblivion, not at least because of very strong later publications such as "Serpent Sermon". It is therefore time to bring back to mind their effort from 1996.
To listen to this album gave me the feeling of being entrenched in the epicentre of a raging battle. While ducking my head in order to dodge the thousands of flying bullets, I was also fascinated by the overwhelming destructive force of the war scenario. Despite the fact that the full-length clocked in at less than 36 minutes, a song title like "Infernal Eternal" expressed the aura of "Heaven Shall Burn..." in a very appropriate manner. The track itself presented thrilling guitar lines and its small number of breaks was very well integrated. Furthermore, it was fired by unbelievably fast machine gun drums, but this did not come as a surprise. Almost every song rushed by like a black metal tornado. However, to maltreat the drums like a berserk who has taken too many drugs is one thing. To ennoble the mega-fast rhythms with the required melodies is something completely different. But this was no serious problem for Marduk. They had not started the battle in order to be the losers in the end. Their most lethal weapon was "Darkness it Shall Be", a constantly raging beast. In view of the mind-blasting velocity, the band was in danger to lose traction while lead vocalist Legion pressed roughly hundred words in every line. I do not know how this was possible, but it seemed as if he did not need to take a breath during the five minutes of the song. By the way, the lyrics matched perfectly with the composition. "I have dreamt a thousand dreams about crushing other's dreams" was one of the key messages and the song sounded as if all these thousand dreams came to life at the same time. It offered exactly the kind of relentless devastation that one expected when hearing the name Marduk.
"Heaven Shall Burn..." marked an authentic work. The band members were men of conviction and they could provide more highlights. One of them was the dynamic "The Black Tormentor of Satan". Although its name sounded like a parody, this tune also worked as a lethal injection of Swedish black metal. Its guitars were buzzing the ears of the listeners like a swarm of aggressive wasps. Of course, this song also was equipped with terrifically fast drums. In terms of velocity, only "Dracul va Domni Din Nou in Transilvania" set a counterpoint. Its slow riffing gave Legion the possibility to shine with a more expressive style of singing. Apart from that, the song developed in a very positive way. It did not lack of tension and intensity so that it formed a welcome change.
However, the full-length was dominated by songs that were as fast as those of Immortal´s "Pure Holocaust" and the aura of the here described album was located in close proximity to that of the masterpiece of the Norwegians. Marduk´s guitar sound was less icy, but it offered the same degree of mercilessness and decisiveness. More generally, the proper production was alright and you won´t miss anything. Finally, I admit that I also liked the cover artwork and its colouring. The grim warriors embodied the musical approach in a fitting manner. Yet this was a minor issue. The crucial factor was that Marduk presented four killer tunes and three good songs. Only the brief intro did not add any value to the album.
Everybody knows what to expect when it comes to Marduk and that’s both a blessing and a curse, really. The band has the unique status of being extremely well-known and yet they’re not often named amongst the elite bands of their genre. They also have the unfortunate reputation of having a one-dimensional album as their flagship album (one that is certainly different from their earlier works). And while I wouldn’t suggest that this is Marduk’s finest hour, for me, this is a kind of ‘easy-listening’ black metal record. I don’t mean ‘easy-listening’ that in the sense that it’s overly melodic or sugary (although, you certainly couldn’t claim that Heaven Shall Burn… When We are Gathered is black metal at its most abrasive). And yet, whatever mood I’m in this record always has some sort of playability value; a pleasant darkness that washes over you, taking you into those familiar black metal realms of death, darkness and bloodshed.
For a lot of people, however, this could be the record where Marduk started to get it wrong given the marked changes between this record and its predecessor. Clearly, there might be some issues for some listeners; the production is from Abyss studios and it is a great deal cleaner than prior outings, Legion does have a tendency to fit a large amount of lyrics into any given song and the tempo is perhaps just a little blastier than previous albums (I’d say that Opus Nocturne is still a very blast-heavy, frantic album for the most of its playing time, though). Still, to my ears, this Abyss job is one of the more palatable to come from the said studio – the drums in particular don’t suffer from the same boxy, Wacken-metal sound as, say, later Immortal – and the guitars aren’t overbearingly fizzy in that “will give you ear fatigue within 20 minutes” sense. Then again, this was 1996 and Peter Tägtgren would have several years to perfect that particular ‘art’. Of course, the record would have sounded better if it was more like Those of the Unlight or Opus Nocturne but it’s still very serviceable. Then there’s Legion who, at large, does a good job here. He’s pretty much a generic black metal singer in the vein of Dead but that’s precisely what this material calls for. His hyper-active singing does get out-of-hand on ‘Darkness It Shall Be’ which is basically a breathing exercise for Legion, set to the tune of Satan. It’s a reflection of black metal’s superlative phase (obviously Panzer Division Marduk would be a continuation down this route) when seemingly everything had to be the fastest or evilest. But honestly, it’s the only time on this album where I feel like I’m listening to a less classy band like Dark Funeral. And regarding the blasting? Well, I don’t think this is too blast dominated; the riffs are largely good and the bass is more than just an audible twanging noise (contributing some excellent parts and occasionally B. War will take the spotlight for a lead). Certainly, this is no one-gear album and the band elaborate on ‘Materialized in Stone’ and its winning formula with the grindingly slow ‘Dracul Va Domini Din Nou in Transilvania’, which proves to be among the very best Marduk tracks with its grim tale of medieval carnage.
It strikes me as a little odd that Marduk are one of the sternest, most po-faced bands in black metal and yet their 1990s material (that is up-to and including Nightwing, at least) is such damn good fun. On the one hand, it really does typify everything that people think of when they talk about black metal. But perhaps what they often fail to mention is how enjoyable it all is, which is understandable with a band as relentlessly dark as Marduk (after all, their debut did promise an endless darkness). This 1990s run of Marduk albums seems to have a celebratory feel for me; the band encompass all things dark, all that is black, everything nocturnal… as if they never saw that pasty, feeble Swedish sun at all in those years. There’s nothing atypical here (nor is there really on any Marduk album I’ve heard) but let that be a ringing endorsement for once rather than a criticism.
What can I say? I guess I’ll start from the beginning. Back in the first semester of 1999 I was really fed up with the dimmu-borgir/cradle of filth trend everyone was into (including me). I was sick and tired that these bands even received radio airplay, they used waaaaay to much keyboards to the point when it was no longer an atmosphere creating instrument, but the MAIN instrument, they had clean vocals, not to mention, the “un-evil / friendly” sounding production, the unaggressive riffs and the fart sounding drums. The worse part was that they were in EVERYONE’S mouth and in EVERYONE’S collection, thus, they were no longer special for me due to the fact that everyone knew them, kind of Iron Maiden or AC/DC type of thing.
I proceeded to get rid of my albums by the aforementioned bands, some I threw away in the trash, others I traded to some idiot for some classic death or thrash metal and others I sold for absurdly cheap prices at local act’s shows as a means of desperation to get rid of them. I needed something faster, more vicious, wild, rabid, cynic; shameless… in short, I needed REAL black metal. I was still in high school and some people from my country’s “scene” (in which I was a “new guy” at the time) who were much older than me mentioned this band called Marduk to me, they said they were from Sweden, totally satanic, insane, faster than lightning and so forth. I’ve always been against downloading music or having recorded tapes of different albums or having CD-Rs, so, the new kid who pretty much knew nothing of where to find black metal CDs in a third world country like my own, started seeking Marduk releases everywhere he could. The months went by with no success until one day, in early November of the same year a local music store realized metal sold a lot of records and that it was close to Christmas season, so, they brought some metal CDs in stock.
I started seeking in the shelves and to my great surprise; they had HEAVEN SHALL BURN… WHEN WE ARE GATHERED. I didn’t know if this particular album was good or bad, I was totally clueless, yet, I used the money I was saving for some Black Sabbath album and I bought the item. When I got home, I told my family I was not in for anyone in case the door bell rang or if someone called me on the phone, I turned my cell phone off, opened my CD player, inserted the disk and pushed play.
My curiosity had been rewarded. The riffs, the drumming, the bass (which was very much audible to my surprise) and… THE VOICE…!!! It sounded like a tornado of sonic aggression coming in every direction. Simple, straight to the point, honest, no run-arounds. Pure fucking insanity. Chaos, mayhem, transgression… what not?
The riffs where like razors cutting flesh and soul, the drums were machine guns raping ones spirit and mental sanity, the bass was a constant rumble, an earthquake, and the voice was the closest thing I had heard to a real demon or possessed individual until that moment. The production was cold and thin, perfectly fits the mood. It all sounded like a blur if you didn’t pay attention to it. I loved it.
“I am the abomination, Satan’s earthly breed..” says “Beyond the Grace of God”, indeed that’s what it sounded like. The introduction to “Glorification of the Black God” is the start of Mussorgsky's “A Night at the Bare Mountain” and it blew me away. “A new age will come. A new king will be crowned. A new age will arise. In your blood you shall be drowned. The new age of Satan. The new age of Hell. This is what I’ve seen and darkness it shall be…” gave me goosebumps and made me dream. “The black tormentor of Satan” was sad, melancholic, fierce. The epic slow paced track on Vlad Dracula was mesmerizing and yet, the best was yet to come. “…feel the darkness growing when we draw near, my name is Legion, for we are many here…”, those lines actually made me cry out of excitement, joy and awe. I had found black metal, real uncompromising black metal. No excuses. No trends. No room for the week.
It was too good to be true. If one is able to get pass the wall of noise, created by the band with most care, you’ll be trapped in a maze of blasphemy, torment, ecstasy, melancholy, aggression, warfare and will be on the brink of sensorial bliss. Get this album, especially if you are very young and impressionable like myself when I was 16. You’ll never forget it. I guarantee it. Mighty hails and thanks for reading. Enjoy the darkness.
Ohw yes, this is one of those albums I bought blindly because of the album cover and hearing so many good things about them from friends whose views I held dearly. Remember, those were the days before the internet and most news came mouth-to-mouth and from a few mags. I had only heard good things about Marduk and when I saw this album in my local record store, when it came out, and especially the pretty cool album cover, I bought it. It had that Tolkien ambience (yes, this was a few years before the LOTR movie hype and I really loved those books) so what could go wrong?
Everything! Goddamn, it was like listening to a defect vacuum cleaner at 78rpm on vinyl. Or better, a tractor gone mad with someone playing guitar over it. I thought it was a joke. I had been listening to Darkthrone and Mayhem for a few years and I ‘grew up’ with grindcore but this wasn’t music anymore. These weren’t songs. Well maybe they were, but that tractor kept puffing and clicking through everything no matter what the guitars or vocals did!
This sounded like a project I did somewhere in ’91 with a friend and a drumcomputer at max speed. And now proffessional bands did this on vinyl as well? Damn, I could have been famous had I sold it, I realised…. I should have worn war paint and played wattered down The-Return-era Bathory riffs instead of crustcore riffs over it.
The only big difference between this album and my project was that this band, Marduk, were actually serious about it. Which even made it a better joke of course since nothing is more amusing than someone doing something embarassing without admitting or even understanding it. That look on someone’s face “what? What did I do?”. I have imagined Marduk looking like that forever since.
Amusing pandas as they are I also saw them live a few years later but that wasn’t nearly as funny since half the audience were pandas as well, and they all actually meant it. It became painful!
I know, by now the average reader must think “there’s another one who just doesn’t like black metal“. But you’re actually wrong. I grew up with Bathory, Frost and Venom, I really got into Darkthrone when they released “Blaze..” and Emperor is one of my favorite bands for example. So none of those disliking-the-entire-genre stigmas on me, thank you very much.
I played this album once every year and although it never grew on me in terms of ‘really’ liking it as being serious music I began to like it more and more in a humorous way. Playing it to friends when I wanted them to hear the downside of black metal. This album is an implosion of black metal. When ‘evil’ turns into ‘pathetic’ or even ‘ludicrous’. Satan does not listen to black metal you know, he encourages corporate rock, trance and R’nB actually, is Britney Spears’ biggest fan…. and Disney of course. Music which makes the higher amount of money and anything which lures the masses. Logical if you think about it.
Compared to Emperor, who were able to cleverly compose and put in blast beats, melodic riffs and catchy vocal lines to emphasise the intrinsic atmosphere of the songs on “In the Nightside Eclipse”, Marduk sounded like teens making a racket for the sake of annoying their parents and neighbours. Pointless. Hell, even Darkthrone had tried this formula but did it so much better two years earlier on “Transilvanian Hunger”. Grindcore had crushed some boundaries 10 years before this and the majority of the scene had been busy giving extreme and fast music either new depths or other genres a refreshing parallel evolution in terms of speed. Not Marduk. Their highest speed doesn’t even come close to what Terrorizer were doing in ’89 and their riffs were a mere shadow of Emperor, Darkthrone and Bathory. This was third rate at best.
Now there honestly are a few moments on the album worth mentioning. The best riffs are during “Glorification of the Black God” but it’s rather embarrassing that the majority of them is based on the 1886 Mussorgsky composition "A Night on a Bare Mountain". At least the band were honest enough to put a part of that composition at the beginning of their own tune. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out the band new that classic through Disney’s Fantasia instead of a decent education. “The Black Tormentor of Satan” actually has a few good riffs and ‘melodies’ on the first half on the song (that's were the five points are for).
When the band finally does not play a song dominated by tractor (“Dracul Va Domni Din Nou In Transilvania”) they prove they’re just as monotonous when playing slow. “Darkness It Shall Be” gets the award for most annoying song. I always think the band copy-pasted the same verse 20 times. Man, does this ever end? So utterly dull. The first verse is actually catchy but after hearing them repeat it perpetually…
Unlike the Young Ones, Chef, Blackadder or Monty Python I haven not bought the rest of Marduk’s albums to complete my comedy collection. One is enough in this case.
With this album, Marduk officially started the “long way to blast beat”. A period in which the speed has increased and the production is more powerful and brutal. Anyway this album is not like “Panzer Division Marduk” (that I like), but more evil the guitars riffs and with great inspiration. “Opus Nocturne” had great songs but the production pointed more on the pure sense of darkness and the atmosphere was far more ritualistic.
The great “Beyond the Grace Of God” is remarkable for the furious blast beats, the stop and go and the evil, quite mid-paced riffs in the middle. The first perfect example of how doing a great evil work with truly black attitude. “Infernal Eternal” is a classic among all the Marduk tracks…this is called “a track they would have never matched in the future”. The main riff is something evil, epic and totally black. Awesome.
Andersson and Legion are unmatchable and really the true Marduk spirit and their work is absolutely spectacular with never so evil shrieks and never ending furious blast beats. Check out the riffs on “Glorification of The Black God”…I believe that really few black metal bands did even a similar think. Pure vehemence and evilness. This is the true Marduk essence.
The screamed refrain on “Darkness It Shall Be” is spectacular while the track is on continue blast beats…inhuman!!! Follow the more melodic in the riffs the good “The Black Tormentor Of Satan” (great riff by the end); the slow, doomy “Dracul Va Domni Din Nou In Tranylvania” and the last, vicious blast beats attack by the great “Legion”.
This is the second best Marduk's work even if it was already quite different from the previous efforts and it pointed more on the sheer assault of the instruments. All the members were, anyway, quite angry and surely this album carries on the best period for Marduk.
This album seems to be a huge turning point for Marduk. Although I enjoyed the past releases, namely Opus Nocturne, this seemed to be a huge step forward.
Obviously the biggest difference is the new vocals being handled by Legion of Ophthalamia fame (And he is much better suited with the speed of Marduk behind him than the slower melodic driven Ophthalamia). Legion is in my opinion one of the best black metal vocalists I have heard, his style just seems natural. He hits that sweet spot between abrasive and annoying and just spews forth a pitch that is just diabolical. Form the onset of "Beyond the Grace of God" to his final screams in "Legion" where they layer a lower pitch growl for the repetition of "Death to Peace!"
Outside of Legions vocals, everything seems tighter and better produced. The drums are sharp and on target in a way that adds blistering speed without muffling the rest of the noise. The guitars hit similar praise, picking up the pace to near hyper speed but still driving underlying melodies which are very evident in songs like "the Black Tormentor of Satan". The track "Dracul Va Domni Din Nou In Transilvania" is quite a unique blessing. Besides the lyrical composition depicting the life of Vlad Tepes (aka dracula), it is a slowed down track that really highlights the lyrical talent of Legion. Similar to the song "Dreams of Blood and Iron" on the follow up album "Nightwing" this track truly shows a heavy and brutal aspect to the usually evil speed Marduk is accustomed to playing.
This is a very solid effort for fans of Swedish Black Metal that belongs in the same category as previous Dissection and Dawn opuses.
I'm a big fan of Marduk. I got into them around 1998 circa Nightwing. Listening to the band's material up to now it's easy to see the progression from pure black metal in the 90's to blackened speed metal today. Legion made his debut on this album and was incredible, his raspy demonic voice fit the band perfectly, it just blended perfectly with Morgan's shrill guitar sound. To this day I don't think Marduk can make an album as "black" or "necro" as this one ever again. 'Nightwing' was the closest to it since. But from 'Panzer Division Marduk' onwards they have changed to a harder, faster, intense band, dropping the necro sound of moments like this.
Most of the best riffs are here in this album, Beyond The Grace Of God, Infernal Eternal, Glorification Of The Black God, Legion, etc. are all winners. Songs that stand the test of time. The production is clear but not overdone. The band sound tight with excellent drumming from Fredrik, great bass playing from B.War and the legendary Morgan shredding away on guitar. This was the quintessential Marduk lineup. Even though Emil in my opinion is a better drummer. Unfortunately these guys don't get the recognition that Mayhem or Darkthrone gets and that's unfair because their best material is up to par with their's easily.
No matter how hard or fast they sound now they can't match the "blackness" of this album and the atmosphere it creates listening to it. I can't recommended this album enough. If you're getting into Marduk this HAS to be the first release you must get from them. After this I would go to Opus Nocturne.
Marduk took a big step with their 1996 release “Heaven shall Burn, When we are Gathered”. Firstly noticeable, this is where Marduk took their music to hyper speed. The slow parts which were partly featured on their previous releases are gone, and the overall tempo has been heightened a lot. Secondly, their singer Joakim leaved before this recording. Recognizable from “Ophthalamia”, Legion fit the role as Marduk’s new vocalist very well. While he may do very little to actually vary the pitch of his screams, he’s a fine vocalist.
When Morgan (the guitarist) once said that the purpose of Marduk was to create the most violent and fast metal ever, he said a mouthful. The speed is most of the time relentless and one really starts to admire these characters ability to play their instruments. The riffs are fast and varying, while the drums are repetitive. The drums though are bashed at with such levels of speed that variation can be difficult to reach. The bass is buried beneath the rest of the instruments, but based on what can be heard from it, I’d say it sounds pretty stale.
The album starts out surprisingly good. “Beyond the Grace of God” introduces us to the whole new style Marduk has incorporated into its style. The drums are going very fast on this song, and so are the guitar tones. Now, the danger with this type of music is often to overuse the brutality (which many artists seem to do), but luckily there’s actually quite a lot of melody stuffed in the many different parts here. More than often, if a riff is repeating itself, Morgan has added some small variations and tones to it. There’s a part towards the end of the track which is entirely based on melody which I for one never thought I would hear from this band. This is a very nice touch, and it just works so well. The same story goes for the next track : “Infernal Eternal”. This masterpiece is the best track off the album, mainly for its melodic touches here and there. Yet another very good song is offered here, and it’s called “Glorification (of the black gods)”. They’ve based this one on some kind of classical piece which I can’t remember the name of. With their own small incorporations, they’ve made it a splendid track. After this one, it starts to drift. “Darkness it shall be” features the same speed and technicality as the ones previous to it, but they’ve taken away the formula of melody completely. It sounds very stale, and this goes on and on towards the end of the album. This album is only 35 minutes long, and yet it feels like it should’ve been shortened by half. Surprises lie also in the remaining half of the album, such as the bass lines in “The Black Tormentor of Satan”, but it all ceases to really impress. This is also where you notice the limitations of Legion as a vocalist.
Could’ve been a splendid album but doesn’t cut it all the way through. The major flaw lies in the fact that they cut the melody parts from half the tracks, and therefore it becomes repetitive towards the other half of the album. Still, this is one of Marduk’s best efforts with full-length albums and this is a good place to start if you haven’t heard anything from them yet.