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With their second album, Those of the Unlight, Marduk built on the foundation of Dark Endless by increasing the speed of faster tracks and by varying the tempos of others to tell a more dramatic story. They would raise the speed on their third album, Opus Nocturne, but the change in producers from Edge of Sanity's Dan Swano to Hypocrisy's Peter Tagtren shortly afterward could be just as responsible for Marduk's choice to write even faster music as it is for their change in sound. Now that they could hear their own music with a different clarity, more low end and a thicker guitar tone, Marduk could rev up the war machine that would roll from Heaven Shall Burn When We Are Gathered through Plague Angel. Although the last Marduk album Tagtren produced was World Funeral, it wasn't until two albums later, Rom 5:12, where Marduk began using their latest change in production quality to explore a grittier side of their music. Each fan may split Marduk's eras differently and I divide it into three based on the production styles. As much as I'd like to wistfully imagine Marduk's next change in sound in another album or two, hopefully for the better, I'd like to draw your attention to this relatively humble opus, Those of the Unlight.
"Darkness Breeds Immortality" begins with an ascending riff before the night sky opens for Gabriel and his archangels to fall ever downward through the... well, you've heard Venom. Taking the song's lyrics in context with the recurring Lord of the Rings theme on the album plus the atmospheric majesty of "Echoes From the Past" (much more on that later), it feels like the Ringwraiths' fall from humanity into servitude to The Dark Lord. Like the fallen angel in the lyrics asking why but receiving no response, they wander the borders of their former homelands hoping to return. Thoughts brood farther away from the light from which they fell and these once proud mortal men find new identities as the tools of a wickedness they once opposed. The somber ending is like the shedding of their final human tears as any chance for redemption has long since passed and they have nothing more for which to hope as humans than to silently die. The music tells the story well with a variety of riffs and tempos and sets a dark, but adventurous tone for the rest of the album.
Marduk's first three albums have a more dynamic black metal atmosphere than the inexorable hyberblast that would come to define them. Those of the Unlight has plenty of instances where the music uses these dynamics to perfectly depict the subject matter. At 3:54 of the title track, the drums fall away, guitars and keyboard build the tension and you can almost see the Ringwraiths gathering in the sickly green light of their lair, preparing for another attempt to capture the Ringbearer while also thinking of the terror of facing Sauron's wrath if they fail yet again. The guitar leads in "Wolves" are just as painful and slow as the tormented howling of the titular beasts in a desperate quest to recover what they lost. Another simple guitar solo appears near the start of "Stone Stands Its Silent Vigil" like the last trace of color leaving the album before winter turns everything to frost.
If you're new to Marduk, I assure you that there is no other song in their current discography that sounds anything like "Echoes From the Past." Marduk may have become a decent gothic doom band if their urge for war hadn't been so strong. This serene atmospheric piece sounds like it was recorded in the deepest part of the forest surrounding the dungeons in which Candlemass brought forth Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. Listen to it between "Under the Oak" and "A Sorceror's Pledge" and tell me that it doesn't feel like a lost bridge for would have been a massive epic track. So many fantasy images emerge in your mind when hearing this song. The gentle acoustic arpeggios, the soothing keyboard and the sounds of running water and occasional rocks striking the inside of a cave evoke images of a sullen and betrayed creature separating himself from his kin to craft the first spear to be used for murder, a purpose previously unknown to him or to any other being who existed. You get the feeling of hatred growing in this creature's mind like the anticipation for revenge on whatever turned his heart to this kind of madness. At 5:04, the crashing guitars and plodding drums are like the deliberate footsteps of the now misshapen creature emerging from the forests while an exalting guitar lead reflects a feeling of accomplishment and of pride for the malice that he will soon make reality. You could see it as foreshadowing the violence that Marduk would eventually explore in both their music and their lyrics. Death to peace, war at last, from caves and forests to tanks and artillery in two albums or less. Thanks, Peter Tagtren!
Marduk's current direction explores a different kind of darkness then their first three albums, but fans of their new sound may also find a lot to like on an album like Those of the Unlight. From Rom 5:12 onward, it's like the creature has returned to his home, broken by the the horrors of war because one killing just wasn't enough and now spends its sunless days in a self-imposed orthodoxy of misery and decay. I'm still not a fan of the new sound, but I can at least appreciate it as another part of the band's evolution. Morgan Hakansson is still the mastermind and the other three faces in the band may continue to change, but Marduk remain the four wolves of the apocalypse.
This is a little surprising, but, back in '93, before Marduk decided they wanted to sound like a hyperspeed vaccuum cleaner, they actually knew how to craft discernible songs. Going generally at a midpaced flow, though still having the occasional the blastbeating and doomy moments, Those of the Unlight is mostly a guitar-driven album, with every song having a handful of riffs that are not only discernible, but memorable, with a very good sense of melody, and even groove. It's still not as melodic as proper meloblack like, say, Rotting Christ or Dissection, who were also defining their sound at around the same time, though it does come close at times. Just check the final minute of “Darkness Breeds Immortality”, or the beginning of “Wolves” to see what I'm talking about... pretty cool riffs, I even catch myself humming them from time to time. And there are solos too – so rare and often not really good in black metal – in “Wolves”, “On Darkened Wings", “Burn My Coffin” and “Stone Stands its Silent Vigil”, which sound pretty awesome as well, especially because the songwriting doesn't make it feel like they've been tacked in just because they had to. It's all about the atmosphere.
And, yes, regarding that, maybe I should talk about the songwriting for a bit. Take a look at a song like the title track, for instance, and you'll notice that it follows an interesting structure, having a dissonant intro riff followed by a groovy section and then different riffs accompanied by blastbeats (and dramatically anticipated by the bass alone). Then, when it repeats the two first sections afterwards, what follows is a doomy riff instead, that allows the drums a moment to shine as they progress from a tribal pattern towards something progressively more aggressive, melting away into atmospherics before building up for another fast, final section. I'm not claiming it's any stroke of genius or something never done before, but it's nonetheless quite interesting as they manage to keep it all sounding cohesive while avoiding boring traditional song structures. Even when there is a chorus, there are plenty of other things going on to keep it from being similar to a radio single.
What is also worthy of praise is the production, done by Sweden's underground superstar Dan Swanö. It's raw while still being clear enough for the bass to be audible at all times, as a meaty pulse throbbing beneath the dissonant riffs, and for the guitars not to sound too thin, murky or drowned out by the drums. And it's all so dark... no matter when during the songs, it consistently feels profoundly nocturnal, as if Af Gravf's raspy shrieks were the echoes of someone at a mountain top desperately screaming into the night. Which I guess is exactly the atmosphere they were going for, as the lyrics talk about death, the night, darkness, solitude and cold, desolate Scandinavian landscapes. Though I do find the Tolkien references in the title track a little nerdy, it's still passable and overall way better than the comical Satanic, “look at how blasphemous I am” thing they'd do so much in the future.
One last highlight that I'd like to comment too is the insanely cool 7 minute instrumental “Echoes from the Past”. With its first 5 minutes of orchestral atmospheric background fronted by a calm, minimalistic clean guitar, it builds up momentum to eventually explode into nothing less than good old, dark, melancholy doom. I think that it – followed closely by “Materialized in Stone” in the following album, Opus Nocturne, a fine piece of work too, also featuring Av Gravf's vocals and Swanö's production – stands out as the most emotional and beautiful song Marduk would ever write.
So, the bottom line here is: if you're a fan of black metal with atmosphere, melody and diversity, this may be the album for you. I think even fans of doom, blackened doom and depressive black metal might find some appeal in this. However, if you're looking for something noisy, fast and extremely aggressive, I suggest you look elsewhere, like Marduk's later output. My only complain is that Those of the Unlight, clocking in at 37 minutes, is just too damn short and they'd never do something quite like this again.
You can actually HEAR all the instruments. And it DOES have a sense of atmosphere to it. These are two things that Marduk has always had a bit of a problem with for the most part of their career. Plus, what is this? Variety of riffs? Well not so much variety but we are still seeing Marduk progressively moving more away from their blackened-death metal roots and trying to pull a Darkthrone on everyone and be nothing but a total black metal band. Marduk did become a total black metal band, but they should have stuck to their blackened death metal sound for the most part.
There is also the lead singer and drummer Joakim Gothberg who sounds at least a hundred times better than Legion and his monotone screech. here you can actually pick-up a sense of anguish in his screams as in you can actually feel his pain to a certain extent. Plus his drumming is well more constructed, thought-out, better timed...and lest not we forget doesn't sound like a drum machine going off at 10000000000000000 mph. Here he works both duties to his best and does an excellent job. In my opinion, this is easily Marduk's best line-up. Also the sound production is a bit raw, but you're still able to hear the majority of the musicians including ex bassist B.War's bass! Nicely mixed in with the guitars and at any given noticed, you'll hear the bottom end. Not a golden sound, but just enough to where you can hear it.
Only 8 songs and I can without a doubt say that these are Marduk's best offering past their first album "Dark Endless". The first track "Darkness Breeds Immortality" sounds like a faster version of the main riff from Darkthrone's "Cromlech". Also it should be noted there are no keyboards on here, but why is it every time I listen to this album I feel like I am hearing a simple droning key or two? Is there something Marduk isn't telling us? Where they actually trying to experiment with this album? Who knows but the next two tracks "Those of the Unlight" and "Wolves" are their best songs. Especially "Wolves" where it captures the archetype black metal riffing and doom-ish breakdowns and some wait, what's this? Psychadelic rock guitar solo? What were these guys smoking? Whatever it was it sure helped them. "Echoes From the Past" is an amazing instrumental with an ambient/ethereal sound. The rest of the songs are more of less bridges between the stand-out and the songs not mentioned aren't bad in themselves.
Out of the entire Marduk discography, you only need their first album "Dark Endless", "Those Of The Unlight", and maybe "Live In Germania" if you like really raw under-produced live black metal albums. Oh yeah, I completely forgot...the artwork on the album cover; the Nazgul for LOTR? Totally excellent. You definitely get your money's worth with this album.
I heard that this was the Marduk album that was unlike every other album, their "true" album.
Well fuck that. Let's face it, Marduk know how to do one thing good, and one thing only. And that thing is to blast away with amorphous riffs and randomly placed screams. They did only one good album in that vein, and this wasn't it (it was Heaven Shall Burn). When a band hasn't found their sound yet, it often comes off as shallow and unfocused, because they don't know what they're doing quite yet. And while I love the concept of Those of the Unlight (I'm a tolkien fan, and an album about the Nazgul is sure to pleasure my tastes) the execution leaves me underwhelmed. Sadly enough, Morgan Steinmeyer Haakanson does not know how to write good riffs consistently, and it wasn't until they found their "blast until the blasting's done" sound on Heaven Shall Burn that they sounded "natural". And while the albums that followed proved to be very repetitive and boring, they still sounded "natural".
And that's why I can't seem to like Those of the Unlight. It seems forced at every turn. They're faking it, and I can hear it. Every riff wanders and plods along, and never goes anywhere. While Panzer Division was a terribly repetitive album, if you listen to just ONE song off that album, and not the whole album, chances are you're gonna like it. And that's because Heaven Shall Burn... and the albums that followed were COHERENT, and this, frankly, isn't coherent.
A lot can be said for musical continuity. Without that magic touch that glues riffs together, it comes off as a giant non-sequitur. Sure, there are good riffs galore, but they have nothing to do with each other. It's like throwing watermelon, ice cream, steak, cucumbers, habaneros, and tartar sauce into a bowl and puree'ing it. While each of those much be good with similar flavours, all together it tastes like shit. Another comparison would be that this is a musical anagram; the riffs could, if arranged differently, potentially produce a masterpiece. I presume the reader understands what I'm saying, so I'll move away from abstracts and onto concrete examples.
Take the title track. It opens with a decent riff, and then the bass and drums come in, and the bass basically follows the guitar. The drums don't do anything spectacular, and then a completely new riff comes in. Ok, ok, it still has the potential to knock my socks off. And again, the bass just follows the guitar, and the drums plod along. I should mention the drums. They are so timid and weak. I don't demand constant blasting, but some energy would be nice. Force would be good as well, with more energetic double bass, more convincing blastbeats, and on the general, the drums should fit the music a bit better. The drums, throughout the entire duration of this, sound out of place and just don't fit. In fact, nothing fits. That's why this is relegated to the heap of boring two-bit black metal acts.
Marduk have always been all image and very little substance, and this is no different. The image is different than usual (Sauron instead of Satan) but the ideology is still the same, and that is that the music isn't really important as long as it's loud, noisy, and "evil". Marduk are the very thing black metal should be against, and that is poser fakes who are more interested in sounding like generic "evil" than having anything of importance, both musically and lyrically, to say.
This isn't as bad as Panzer Division, because at least it's not repetitive and you can actually hear the riffs. But it's still not worth all the fellatio that it gets, because it's still a subpar album.
I have to begin this review with a cleansing confession: I deem this album one of the greatest things to have ever spawned from black metal. Considering the predatory genre, we can all agree only a strong selection have survived time’s unmerciful punishment, yet “Those of the Unlight” has fought since birth, and its obstacles still posses more hardships than other recordings of its eternal veil. The blacksmiths named Marduk once seized substantial respect before selling themselves into a blast-orientated joke, this here being their sole trophy of authentic black metal that isn’t restricted by tomfoolery. Ruined by what came, it denies its future rivals and walks alone, almost like a new band quickly resurrected with different people, but all judges know this easily crushes what Marduk presently worships. If you want to test my love for “Those of the Unlight,” ask me to punch every member of my family in the face or something equally wrong, because I’ll do it regardless. And yes, I really will!
During days of shifting shape and absorbing outer influences, Marduk had ditched all death metal spice spotted on their debut when “Those of the Unlight” was finally constructed, leading them towards an equation of darker dynamism. Alike most black metal bands functioning throughout the 1990s, the prominent path led Marduk down an atmospheric passage, granting them all divine qualities of its ethereal nature: intense riffs, witching drumming, numinous surroundings, herculean vocals, and power beyond words. Morgan Håkansson’s guitar licks are a perfect unison of personified chaos and mystique beauty colliding violently, creating unparalleled paradigms like the schizophrenic tremolo picking on “Darkness Breeds Immortality,” or bewildering designs of slow, haunting chords shadowing “Wolves” in a proficient aura. Even better, his ammunition varies from melodic structures to mid-tempo chimes, and in terms of quality, everything is stunning; however, the overall flow is unstoppable, not to mention “On Darkened Wings” and “Burn My Coffin” have some of the best solos I’ve ever heard. Honestly, I could give myself some left-hand pleasure with this shredding. Just too good!
But as the frenzied attack fades, a solemn mist of pouring rain quickly replenishes the soul with an ambient number entitled “Echoes from the Past.” The effort inquires much clearer music to the songbirds than any explaining individual could tell, for its usage of clean guitars, calming precipitation, and remarkable atmosphere truly earns a round of applause. It’s quite a charm, and one you certainly won’t anticipate; just dabbling into such uniqueness adds beautiful hues to an already-beaming illustration. Nevertheless, these notions impose a fruitful side we’ve never seen from Marduk; a reflection so gripping…is it really them? I honestly cannot believe so, because there’s intelligence, passion, poetics, and actual insight swirling within. What a visionary addition to this successful record.
Indeed, what has become of Marduk will only add disgrace to an already-stained moniker. First off, how can anyone not notice the stunning balance of instrumental flow? All musical blueprints freely involve bass guitar and percussion as rhythm tools underneath riffing patterns, which certainly does not appear throughout Legion-era releases; even when blasting chaotically, you detect a deeper feeling of instrumental spine, and that juggling keeps things looking dangerously entertaining. Alas, Joakim Göthberg’s twisted shrieks have somehow received less praise than those slurring mongoloids that followed after he departed. Coherently audible and loaded with darkness, Göthberg sounds suffering, evil, emotional, and wonderfully fitting during his seven rings of domination. Charades and fueling stereotypes might plague what came after these factors were exiled, but nothing can ever violate what has been achieved here: mass excellence.
Back in 2007, I was given a promo copy of “Rom 5:12,” which many folks considered the absolute return of Marduk’s glory days. Needless to say, the album’s doom-laden atmosphere could work an arm’s length of material and not much beyond, yet there was a reason for this lackluster approach. Upon realizing their original fans had been betrayed for a brainless ideology of black metal, Marduk could only gawk at “Those of the Unlight” and the honor that came with its rising, knowing it could never be touched again. Would an ex-quarterback attempt his position twenty years after retirement despite a spark to return? Absolutely not, because smearing past accomplishments to excel in future or present activities will only destroy what history had built; the band knew doing so would bury them alive. They can keep doing whatever they wish, but yesterday, today, and tomorrow all agree: “Those of the Unlight” shall never be dethroned.
This review was written for: www.leviatan-magazine.com
The second album by Marduk shows a more mature and pure black metal approach than Dark Endless. Three years have passed and the band has grown in musical skills and intensity. This album contains some of the best compositions by Marduk that still nowadays are played in every gig and this means that they are quite mature and enjoyable.
The doom parts are always a bit present but this time the group is more violent and faster. “Darkness Breeds Immortality” is a very good opener with a catchy main, black metal riff followed by some good, weird arpeggios. The blast beats are more powerful, faster and all the members are more confident with their abilities. The bass drums parts are faster, the mid paced tempo are a bit better structured and the guitars lines are far blacker.
There’s another thing I noticed: the song structures. They are better done with no out of the blue ends they had in the debut, giving you the idea completeness. The vocals are more shriek and evil. The speed restart by the end of the title track is a good example to taste the band’s mature level and evilness. “Wolves” is a small Marduk’s piece of history with the doom, occult atmosphere and the long, ritualistic solos…great song. “On Darkened Wings” shows a great single chord black metal riffage with good up tempo. A sign for the true black metal to come…
Anyway, we are yet quite far from the total blast beats period but here everything has been made to sound faster and more evil, like the great “Burn My Coffin” with a long series of blast beats. The bass is always pulsing and metallic, the guitars draw landscapes of pure horror through to “open chords riffs” technique or the single shredded one.
The production is quite raw but perfect for this sound, especially during the occult mid paced tempo where you can hear some keyboards sounds too or the melodic, black lead guitars parts. During the blast beats, the hi-hat is a bit too loud compared to the other sounds but it’s ok and also this contributes in creating a really gloom atmosphere. While “A Sculpture Of The Night” and “Echoes From The Past” are definitely faster, by the end of this album we can find the instrumental, ambient “Stone Stands Its Silent Vigil”. A great track with a melodic guitars work.
All in all, this is an improvement by Marduk. At the time they were building their glorious future.
Here we have Marduk’s second album and damn is this one huge slab of black metal. And it’s quite an unknown one at that. This is actually the first Marduk CD I ever bought so I started right off the bat with their pre-Panzer Division Marduk work, apart from having heard Throne Of Rats and a few other songs online just to get an idea. I for one am a huge Marduk fan and I love both their old grim death metal (Fuck Me Jesus, Dark Endless…), their pure black metal (this album all the way through Nightwing) and finally the fast-as-fuck blastbeat black metal which has become the staple of their new sound (Panzer Division Marduk and beyond). Anyway, let’s get to the music.
During the first few seconds of the opening track, Darkness Breeds Immortality, you get a pretty good picture of what this album (and the band’s music for that matter) sounds like. It’s a pretty nice opening track and one of the more memorable tracks here even though they’re all great. One distinguishing feature one will immediately notice is the crazy drumming which although lighter than the massacres to come after 1999 is still pretty big for black metal. I’m referring to black metal in the old-school repetitive drumming style and not the blastbeat black metal style some bands are know for.
Throughout this album we have Joakim Göthberg, who delivers some very good but kind of standard black metal vocals. I like his vocals a lot and, as is normal and hoped for in black metal, they give off a very strong feeling of pain, suffering, death…just like we love it! The vocals, however, are not the central aspect of this and indeed of any Marduk album to date.
The true power of this album lies in the immensity of each single riff shred out by Marduk’s mastermind, only original member still in the band and guitarist, Morgan Håkansson. His talent at writing riffs is amazing…They’re extremely memorable throughout the album and give off this sort of repetitive (in a good way of course) and nocturnal feeling which truly is the real genius of this album. That and that slightly groovy style they have to them, especially on the fourth track, On Darkened Wings. That song has one of the most killer riffs composed which builds up throughout the song and then “let’s itself go” in short, amazing solos starting with the one at the 1:30 mark.
The production here is quite fitting for the genre it’s part of and while raw and abrasive enough not to have the often-decried pseudo-fault of “overproduction” which seems to have many black metal fans by the balls but still good enough so that all the instruments can be very well heard. Including the bass, which is very well done by the way, really well integrated.
Lyrics are above average stuff about fallen angels, despair, darkness and more of the usual black metal subjects for the most part. I say for the most part because of the title track’s lyrics. These stand out from the rest because they deal with the guys on the album’s cover. Those Of The Unlight. Judging from both the album cover and the song’s lyrics, I’m positively sure that the band’s inspiration for these guys comes from none other than from the Nazgûl in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings. Judge for yourself:
Forever dying but never dead
The nine - Those of the Unlight
Frozen on the very brink's of death
Enslaved by the dark lord
Forever dying but never dead
The nine - Those of the Unlight
For those of you who’ve been living under a rock, there were nine Nazgûl, who were neither dead nor living, enslaved by the dark lord Sauron and the guys on the cover look strangely similar to the Nazgûl portrayed in Peter Jackson’s motion pictures. And it’s a pretty fucking awesome cover too for that matter. I see this more subtle homage to The Lord Of The Rings as more interesting than other bands which seem to be centered around the subject (Summoning, plus many bands named after LOTR things).
Highlights here include the opener Darkness Breeds Immortality, the title track and On Darkened Wings, with Wolves being a pretty strong number as well. That last one's not the best here as they seem to believe from the many live performances of the track but anyway....very good track.
So is this worth getting? Only if you’re a black metal fan, and you should be if you’re reading this. And I can guarantee you complete satisfaction, as this can run with the best in black metal. True Swedish Black Metal at its finest, no doubt about it. It might take a good number of listens to really get to understand this album more though. But it’s well worth the time. A great album from a great band.
Despite it’s black metal look and feel, Norway’s Marduk had only managed to sound like a decent death metal band on their 1992 debut Dark Endless. This made the advancements made on this, their second try at bat all the more surprising and pleasing.
First off, the material is far stronger as far as it’s writing is concerned, and the band’s ability to manage performing frantic tempos overlaid with ear-catching melodies comes into focus as well. Just listen to the way the riffs of the title song build and build, pausing long enough to spit forth melodic passages that can’t help but drill themselves into the brain. “On Darkened Wings” offers similar morbid tones, balancing the beautiful with the savage, the savage being where Marduk would concentrate their energy on the batch of releases following this one. But here the blending of disparate styles pays off big time, and even the atmospheric and ethereal “Echoes From The Past” is a perfectly executed experiment, and for my money one of the band’s finest musical moments.
Marduk would go on to forge an indelible mark on black metal from here, mostly through a triumph of power over finesse. And while some future releases are excellent, Those Of The Unlight retains an aura all it’s own. A future cult album? I believe so.