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Despite having many fans welcoming Mortuus' entry into Marduk in 2004, the influences that he has brought with him into the songwriting of the band has been rather a bit of a bittersweet experience personally. While I like the increased intensity that he has brought in, with his powerful vocals, the band also seemed to take a slightly altered route, with albums like Rom 5:12 and Wormwood containing some of the band's slowest songs to date, which could have been intended to display the band's growth, only ended up boring me. So when the band announced the release of a new EP in 2011, I didn't have much high expectations, fearing the inclusion of yet another 3 boring tracks, but looking at the short track lengths gave me some sense of hope, with any fears of a boring song being limited to at most a short 5 minute.
Fortunately though, Iron Dawn does not disappoint. Warschau 2: Headhunter Halfmoon opens with sounds of a war siren, in line with the band's constant themes of death and war throughout their discography, and marks a step in the right direction. And it does not take long for the song to begin proper, and the listener is thrown into a myriad of chaos and destruction, as Marduk batters the listener relentlessly, showing the listener what classic Marduk should sound like, with the large sounding guitar tone of Evil and the hard-hitting blast beats of drummer Lars. Mortuus' vocals here is more tortured than ever, and unlike previous releases, Mortuus' vocals register a slightly higher pitch over here, and this helps in making the music all the more impactful as it hits the listeners hard in the guts. The constantly wailing siren at the background also helps to keep up the destructive atmosphere and mood that the band has conjured, and further brings out and emphasises the violence in Marduk's music. Second track Wacht Am Rhein: Drumbeats of Death certainly lives up to its name, with Lars hitting the skins relentlessly, at an almost inhuman speed.
The first 2 tracks on this 3-track EP are no-nonsense, straightforward blasting black metal tracks that gives listeners little time to breathe, while the third and final track, Prochorovka: Blood and Sunflowers sees the band taking a slowdown (just like the slower material on the previous 2 albums), Don't be fooled by the somewhat slightly optimistic songtitle though, as the song presents an even darker side of Marduk, with the band opting to crush the listeners under the ominous and heavy atmosphere on this track. And while I would have loved to complain about how this track bored me out, it is hard to deny the impact and damage that the first 2 tracks have caused, making this third, slow track a somewhat welcome one, driven by slow and heavy riffing. The slight disappointment after the album ends then, would come in the form of the band releasing a statement mentioning how the upcoming full length will be of a different concept from the material on Iron Dawn. Until then, one can only hope that this does not mean further disappointment.
Marduk are one of those bands that everyone knows of in the black metal scene, but always seem to be compared to Mayhem. I suppose it's because they both come from the same era, their names begin with M and have 6 letters. The patches of their logos tend to both be on many metalheads jackets or vests. For so long I along with others have always considered Marduk to be the lesser of the 2 bands. Since 2004's 'Plague Angel' I have been slowly turning the other cheek. Morgan is the Euronymous, the Infernus of Marduk, in which the guitarist calls the shots, decides the band members and runs the show. I must add that all 3 were founding members so they deserved that right. I must add that they wrote the lion's share of material as well.
I believe that Morgan's addition of Funeral Mist's vocalist Mortuus (Daniel Rosten) has been an essential and vital decision in their elevation to excellence today. While former vocalist Legion took the band out of obscurity with excellent releases such as 'Heaven Shall Burn...', 'Panzer Division Marduk' and the criminally underrated 'World Funeral'. Those are great releases. But somehow, people still didn't put them in a higher league. I feel that Mortuus' addition changed that. He provided a more feral, intense, deeper voice to the music. He sounds tortured, pained and most important of all genuine. It sounds like it's coming from deep inside his black heart. Outside of Mortuus, Morgan's songwriting has matured and grown more diverse since the 90's. They are one of those few black metal bands that have gotten better through the years. They aged well. Unlike Mayhem which since their Dead, Euronymous and early Maniac, Blasphemer years have gotten weirder and shittier since.
So 7 years into the Morgan, Mortuus & Devo "era" lineup we get our first EP (Iron Dawn) and it covers a familiar theme, WW2 and German warfare ala 'Panzer Division Marduk ' 12 years ago. Morgan (as many other metal musicians) always had a fascination with WW2 and to be honest, it makes for great metal themes and imagery. We get 3 songs from perhaps a future full LP and the songs are laced with WW2 sound effects ranging from rolling tanks, sky diving war planes, machine gun fire, soldiers screaming "fire!", the whole bit. The first song 'Warschau 2: Headhunter Halfmoon' brings up the theme on the cover of their last live LP 'Warschau'. Burnt down buildings, ash and rubble. Some great fast riffing and musicianship from everybody. Going at full speed which they excel at most, after the general slowness (for their standards) of 'Wormwood', they went back to the straightforward "fist in your face" breakneck speed of 'Panzer Division Marduk' once again here and also on the second track 'Wacht Am Khein: Drumbeats Of Death' which continues the same war sound effects in the intro and the full aural attack on the ears.
The third and last track of the EP is the slow track, but possibly the most interesting. The intro has an old "1930-40's" style radio playing some typical German music at the time of WW2 while you hear bombs and bullets in the background. I'm assuming the theme is set for a person in their house in Berlin listening to their radio, while their capital crumbles around them, as it's being surrounded by the Red Army and the Allied Forces combined in 1945. It's a slower track and it's something Marduk have been imrproving upon for the last few albums, where as before they used to be all out speed and blastbeats. They've added variety and quality to their sound and that's the main reason for their late peak. A wonderful EP, grab one if you see it somewhere. In light of the latest Morbid Angel abomination Marduk have stuck to what they do best and they don't fail. They give the fans what they want and for that WE THANK YOU!
Prolificacity is a two-way street; on the one hand, waiting two or more years for new material to surface can be worth the wait, as a case of Rush Job Syndrome is downplayed on account of the necessary time needed to cultivate and perfect new material. But on the other hand, waiting two or more years for new material to surface can be a damn-near torturous affair, especially when witnessing the band in question heading to your town over, and over, and over again on different-in-name-but-the-same-in-set-lists tours that almost causes you to check your watch in disappointment and frustration. But maybe I’m asking too much from the groups I like.
This case in point works with this here Marduk act, who finally unleash three new songs after an almost two-year recording hiatus, so let’s see if the Norsecorers have the capacity to placate this reviewer’s antsiness…
Now granted, Marduk’s musical brand of blinding violence can go either way, despite the fact that they do plenty in three-to-four minutes of material, and more. There have been moments where the relentless monstrousness of it all is a fine and terrifying affair (“Blackwing”, “Wormwood”), while during other times where even the deathly speed can’t mask ideas that may have been better off at a mid-tempo trawl (“World Funeral”, parts of “Panzer Division Marduk”). However, with “Iron Dawn”, the former is thankfully in place, most of the time; taking the blistering fever pitch of the previous album and throwing in similarly good riffs and ideas, Morgan and crew paint as bleak a picture musically as the EP’s subject matter can muster, even better than some of the other war-themed acts out there. Remember, kiddies…war isn’t heroic, or glorious. It’s ugly, it’s bitter, it turns a man’s soul black, and Marduk, once again, shows its dark hang-ups in as concise a way as possible amidst the various smoke grenades of Swedish-to-the-bone riffs, demonic gurgles, and punishing blast beats. Now granted, this EP can’t really hope to usurp the ghoulish “Wormwood”, but what it does accomplish is take the evilness of its predecessor and temper it into an iron-cross shaped stick to the eye of the listener, coming at him/her with both machine gun barrels blazing (“Headhunter Halfmoon”, “Drumbeats of Death”) and finishing it off with slow, trudging tank treads over your sorry head (“Blood and Sunflowers”). This is, once again, a band really on its mark, and it’s a shame that I haven’t been giving them their due praise and attention as much as I should’ve while I heaped accolades on groups that, in the end, didn’t deserve them; the guitars and bass are taut and bestial, the drumming is almost incoherently violent, and the vocals are, sadly, more reigned in than they were before; the best part about having Mortuus front the group is, apart from his inhuman vocal approach, his ability to sound disconnected from the music, hovering over it all like a God-crazed specter, but for “Iron Dawn”, his screams match the music almost perfectly, which makes for a nice listen, but not as unearthly as he’d been in the past. Also, the fact that this is only 3 songs can leave the listener a bit cold in its lack of longevity and closure; if they’d been able to flesh this out into a real full-length album, no doubt it would be something far tastier than this mere sampling of black metal jerky.
In the end, “Iron Dawn” can act as a fine distraction, utilizing the group’s now-perfected sense of abhorrent chaos to give you a quick death punch to the throat and run off back into the forest. Let’s hope that, in the months to come, even more Swedecore will come storming panzer-like down the streets of all us unsuspecting, neutral metal folk…just aim the guns the other way, fellas.