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After the orgy of devastation called "Panzer Division Marduk", it was logical that the most prominent Swedish black metal combatants had to modify their compositional approach. I was therefore not surprised that the following album showed another facet of the band. Nevertheless, the new direction of their output did not match my expectation. This was more than a mere modification. It was rather the case that "La Grande Danse Macabre" showed a completely mutated group. Too bad that this mutation led to a significantly weaker result than before. In the retrospective, the seventh album of Marduk marked the beginning of a very difficult period, at least for those supporters of the band that loved its relentless high velocity tracks.
Marduk prioritized less rapid tunes with the effect that the high speed numbers seemed to be just an alibi. No doubt, the band lacked of conviction while designing these songs, at least subconsciously. Well, the opener picked up the rapid fury of the "Panzer". It seemed as if Morgan and his crew did not want to shock their fans immediately. Thus, they seemed to satisfy their expectations, but already the subsequent piece made clear that Marduk had fallen in love with dragging rhythms as well. And, by the way, "Azazel" was not really bad. Anyway, it appeared like a slightly vapid latecomer of the preceding album. The same went for "Jesus Christ... Sodomized". Equipped with some (strong) leftover material of "Panzer Division Marduk", the fiery verses raised a storm whose force was foolishly diminished by the ill-defined chorus. By contrast, the title track cemented the new vision of Morgan's battalion. Its unswerving riffing had the force to grind the walls of a citadel and the song grew constantly. While spreading an atmosphere of horror, Marduk increased the level of density and one could almost smell the scent of death. This sonic granite rock was a monument and proved that the restless guys from Norrköping were able to write thrilling slow tunes. The dominant lead vocals and the fatalistic guitar work shaped an excellent flagship for the full-length.
However, the majority of the remaining tracks failed to impress with outstanding features. Marduk just did their job in an experienced manner and the songs were more or less solid. The nicely titled "Death Sex Ejaculation" belonged to the first category, "Summer's End", which needed two minutes to reveal its might, to the second. But the glue was missing. The tracks did not stick in one's mind. They passed by like ships on a river. One sees them coming, one watches them floating for a moment and then one focuses on another thing again. Without very significant differences in quality, the songs came and went in order to make the full-length complete. Don't get me wrong, Marduk did not fool their supporters while delivering lukewarm tracks. But it became obvious that songs which are based on slow or mid-paced rhythms had never been the musical home of the band. Isolated creepy tunes like the dragging "Dracul va Domni Din Nou in Transilvania" mark nothing else but the exception to the rule in this context. Yet whatever one might think about the song material, the emphatic production scored with robustness, power and clarity. All in all, "La Grande Danse Macabre" is definitely not the black sheep of the family. Yet it is a fact that it does not contribute many tracks to my old-fashioned Marduk mix tape.
Did I accidently stick my dick in a goddamn wormhole? There is a Marduk album during the stint of lameness that DOESN’T suck? You better believe impossible things can happen, and that special delivery happens to be “La Grande Danse Macabre.” After years and countless recordings of music so retarded it could generate brain cancer, Marduk finally pulled their heads out of their bungholes and realized things weren’t looking too hot, so they summoned the grand design of change; indeed, it was one decision that put brakes on a car recklessly slamming into everything conveyable. Progressing musically is sometimes an audio painkiller that leads you to a nice, relaxing place, and I’ll be the first to say having Marduk induce pleasure was a rare honor no man may ever experience again.
Pondering souls will never connect with this record mutually unless they realize Marduk finally ditched their dull patterns of black metal and stirred its finest ideas upon doom influence they’ve always dabbled in. The process, of course, is them keeping brutal edges amongst slower, mid-paced textures; however, equating two worlds together works to their advantage. Morgan’s riffs are heavily creative and wonderfully diversified per song, while percussion contributions flow alongside his additions unusually good when this activity takes place. Some blasting cuts try sneaking in, yet anthems partaking generic qualities actually appear decent in ranks of content. The key, however, is balancing newer materials between songs like “Azrael” that dip into previous mistakes, which properly corrects and showcases exactly what they’ve been trying to demonstrate. Better songs, more intelligence, improved performances, and actual beef? Please, give me a moment to swallow what has happened!
Believe it or not, Marduk continues ejaculating surprise after surprise once curriculums settle in; some items old alongside newer ideas, but rather impressive nonetheless. For instance, “Bonds of Unholy Matrimony” slowly builds before a solo impacting like a nuke goes boom-boom right on your face. Sure it’s just one solo, yet comparing the band and denial of such tapping on productions years past conjures old memories when these guys could contend with heavy hitters. I’m still a little timid around Legion’s semi-annoying shrieks, but he’s clearly found a better place within Marduk during these experimental times, not that he’s undergone utter rejuvenation, I might add. Yet as it concludes, “La Grande Danse Macabre” isn’t just passable, but nicely compacted and definitely an enjoyable recording most would appreciate. Am I dreaming?
Needless to say, I’m really impressed by how diversified and intelligent this record appears, not to mention Marduk loads their finest gig instrumentally since substance left the building, which is frankly stunning from my perception. Even better, it keeps you entertained throughout with unique cuts this band previously refused, and that’s how magic happens! It took too long, but at least it occurred! However, the anal-dwelling abominations released before and after this mid-way offering of alms are pure junk, so the rule remains simple: “La Grande Danse Macabre” is something you’ll definitely wish to scoop, but keep anything else disabled. Holy shit, I need a drink…
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
Ahh, Marduk, one of the most talked about and popular BM bands around today. It seems that when people hear the name Marduk, they automatically think of Panzer Division Marduk, the brutal, and I mean BRUTAL assault of pure Black metal. Breackneck speeds and furious blastbeats make that album one of, if not the, most brutal BM albums ever recorded. This album came after that one, and it is slower, doomier, and much more melodic. It starts with a short instrumental, then rages into Azrael, a very good song with a nice bass line in the mid section and 70's sounding rock atmosphere. Yes, that may be hard to believe, but it is true. Next is Popa Funebris, another instrumental. This is one is alright, nothing special. The next few songs are raging BM with blastbeats and tons of screaming, glass gargling vocals from none other than Legion.
Funeral Bitch is a slow, doomy song that incorporates a lot of actual melody into the song and it works pretty well. Summers End is total 70's sounding, with atmosphere and nice melodic guitar work. Death Sex Ejaculation is another blaster. It is alright, but nothing standouts all that much. Jesus Christ... Sodomized is a nice blasphemous song title, but really just an average blastfest.
Overall, if you like Marduk, you probably already have this album, but if you don't, then you may want to proceed with caution, because if the only Marduk you own is Panzer... then you will absolutely HATE this. Hails!
I was expecting to hear the return of Panzer Division Marduk -- the definitive norsecore album -- when I turned it on, but Ars Moriendi is almost a doomy song that sounds pretty damned cool until you realize that it's just the the first 15 seconds repeated 10 times.
Azrael -- lol! This is where the norsecore begins, marked by the screaming, blastbeats, and arm-eating picking. It's undeniable that they really are playing as fast and hard as they can, whereas other bands use distortion and other tricks. The picking and drumming is insane, though the overall effect ends up being monotonous. However, this one actually branches off and has a few bass lines and exotic-sounding guitar riffs thrown in.
Pompa Funebris is another instrumental song. It sounds like something Candlemass would do, though Candlemass would have more finesse.
Obedience Into Death starts out with the trademark crashing drums, ultra-fast tremolo riffs that go off in random directions, and screaming over blastbeats to create a wall of sheer white noise. The norsecore returns. The second half of the song is slow, and that blends right into Bonds of Unholy Matrimony, which is dirt slow, and more like Type O Negative for the first minute. After that, even with the non-pummeling double bass, there's some pretty good riffs, and then the screaming comes in and the sound turns to typical norsecore in a song reminiscient of Dark Funeral, and then some guitar work that sounds like Blopeth, but not as horrid.
La Grande Danse Macabre is 8 minutes of pure sludge shit. Death Sex Ejaculation is a return to the typical norsecore, and I wouldn't expect anything less from such a track. Funeral Bitch is a slow, chunky, song with horrid vocals, and it blows. Summers End is another doom song, and would be decent until the misplaced vocals shit all over it.
Finally, the song we've all been waiting for: JESUS CHRIST, SODOMIZED! I broke out in laughter when I heard that song name! So puerile, yet so bold and blasphemous. This song, however, is almost no different in riffs and drumming than Baptism by Fire. The chorus is as awful, but I suppose it complements the song's content. It stops as 2:20, almost as sounding if it would go thrash or something, but no -- more NORSECORE!
This album is half norsecore, half-doom, and it just doesn't work. If you want to be brutalized by grown men in corpsepaint, get Panzer Divison Marduk -- sure, it's bad, but unlike most extreme bands, they actually play breakneck fast instead of just loud and half-fast. However, if you want some actual black metal by Marduk, get Those of the Unlight -- it's fast, but it's a far cry from norsecore, with far better vocals and songwriting.
Marduk have never been known as innovators in the world of black metal. The wall-of-noise, the anti-Christianity, the vulgar sexuality, the war, the pagainism. . .it's been done. As they showed with Panzer Division Marduk, though, being unoriginal certainly doesn't mean you can't be great.
Now, Marduk brings us La Grande Danse Macabre. For this album, they took their standard wall-of-noise approach, and threw in a couple mid-tempo songs, some melody, and even a few short atmospheric passages--all of which have been done by, say, Immortal, among other bands.
Does it seem a little gimmicky, or predictable? Sure.
More importantly. . .does it work? Damn right it does.
The album opens with "Ars Moriendi" (translation: the art of dying), a short, mid-tempo instrumental that sounds like it's marching off to war. It flows into the traditional Marduk assault of "Azrael". These two tracks together give you a good idea of what the album is about; black metal blurs contrasted with mid-tempo melody and groove (e.g. the bass work in "Azrael"), all supported by the best vocalist in black metal, Legion.
The only real downside to this album is that the 'true' black metal sections seem a bit stale--which makes the changing of Marduk's sound even better, I suppose. Last thing we need is poor imitations of things they've already done. (Bringing the bass up in the mix at times works very well, although trying to do it while the guitars and drums are going full blast--i.e. "Death Sex Ejaculation"--was a bad idea.)
All in all, a fine album.
Standout tracks: "Ars Moriendi", "Obedience Unto Death", "La Grande Danse Macabre", "Funeral Bitch".