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It’s often argued that the early 2000’s, more specifically the period between 2000 and 2003, caught Marduk at what could almost be described as the band’s creative stagnation period, when they “got comfortable” with themselves after the release of the rather one-dimensional and creatively poor (by their standards) Panzer Division Marduk, an album which, if it did anything at all, created a nearly unshakable stereotype sound for the band to the eyes of most outsiders. While this period truly is the least innovative of the band’s career on certain aspects, World Funeral, which is sometimes seen as the tired last chapter of the Legion era, is a highly underrated beast of modern, well-produced and aggressive black metal.
First of all, this album blows its two predecessors out of the water by its exemplary variation, sound, and sheer quality. Unlike on Panzer Division Marduk, nearly no two tracks sound alike here, and they range from mind-numbingly fast tracks like the opener With Satan and Victorious Weapons, the title track and the unique Night of the Long Knives (with its highly melodic second half), to some of Marduk’s slowest songs ever, instant classics like Bleached Bones, To the Death’s Head True and Castrum Doloris.
The album starts off with a ten-second intro consisting of a short sample from the excellent medieval-themed film, The Name Of The Rose, giving a good idea of what this album consists of in terms of ideas: Satan, how he inspires some people and a general atmosphere of evil, death, war and gratuitous violence, nothing exactly new for Marduk. First of all, the production needs to be mentioned because it’s extremely clean. Such an approach might not exactly suit black metal in general, but it does work well for Marduk’s own brand of militaristic, often fast-paced black metal and, weirdly enough, gives this album a rather unique sound, being so polished and loud, which is one of Peter Tägtgren’s production trademarks at Abyss Studios.
The clean production allows every instrument to be heard perfectly. Morgan doesn’t disappoint on this album, with a much more original and intelligent approach to his guitar work than on the previous couple of efforts: the riffs are still the tremolo stuff he’s used to doing, but they’re actually highly varied and distinguishable here, unlike on a select few other, previously mentioned Marduk productions. In terms of drumming, Emil Dragutinovic is a highly talented man: his work, combined with the excellent production job, makes the drums sound vastly better then his predecessor Fredrik Andersson’s last few jobs with the band. I’m afraid to say that Andersson was the one member whose talents seemed to wane as the band entered the new millennium, not Legion as is often claimed. Speaking of him, his vocals here are great. He doesn’t sound tired at all, in fact his traditional trademark sound is at its most recognizable here. He may not be as good as on the classic Nightwing, but he was certainly still a competitive vocalist on the eve of his replacement by Mortuus.
Almost every track here is notable in some way. The opener’s a good way to begin the album, aggressive and whatnot, providing a good clue as to what’s coming, while Bleached Bones immediately gives the other side of the story, a slow-paced song about necrophilia where Legion’s vocals truly shine. Cloven Hoof is a unique fast-paced track which is heavily dependent on its irregular and memorable drum work, while To the Death Head’s True is almost doom-like in its slowness, depending very little on the classic Marduk instrumentals in favour of a style resembling those near-ambient slow tracks the band sometimes makes, like the album’s own instrumental, Blackcrowned, which became de de facto Marduk intro at all live shows. Castrum Doloris is also a notable track in that it’s almost solely based on Legion’s ability to carry to song forward with his vocals, doing a very good job at it. This is one of those songs one can find stuck in one’s mind for days on end after a good listen of the album. Finally, there’s Marduk’s only single: Hearse. This track was well chosen and has everything needed for a good Marduk song: aggressive, well, everything, great epic vocals by Legion and variation: the riffs are highly memorable, especially during the slower midsection and latter half of the song, which is followed by some of Legion’s lowest growls in his entire career (with Marduk) mixed with some bizarre altered vocals near the end, which are used to great effect in enhancing the atmosphere of morbidity and death.
World Funeral is a very good Marduk album. It’s certainly not the very best due to one or two redundant songs, losing out to quite a few of the band's other albums, but is generally an excellent representation of the band’s overall sound and definitely a worthy piece of work. It’s a good way for Legion to end his illustrious association with the band, being one of the highlights of his career, even though the entire band has something great to offer here.