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The best and worst of black metal. - 65%

The_Ghoul, July 28th, 2008

This album is truly black metal. Yep, there's no denying it. While it's oddly not the fastest of Marduk's for some reason, it's certainly the most black metal. However, it's also the worst of black metal. A wise friend once said that blastbeats (and by blastbeat I mean the b-s-b-s-b-s-b-s drumbeat that permeates this album) are merely exclamation points, in the sense that to make a coherent sentance you need more than just punctuation; likewise, to make a coherent song, you need more than just blastbeats. This album is like a constant exclamation point. It's meant to be a brutal statement of raw aggression. However, it comes off as meaningless as a random middle finger you see on the road from a bunch of teenaged faux-badasses. We all know Marduk aren't serious satanists, so what's the point of all this dumb lyrical content and dumb songwriting? Unless you're actually out raping angels and slaughtering the christian god, what's the point of writing about this? It's trite, we heard it all 27 years ago (18 years ago when this album was made) when Venom made Welcome to Hell. Back then, it was fresh. Now it plain sucks, and from the looks of it, Marduk ain't about to be writing Nietzche (sp?) anytime soon.

But lyrics don't define metal, riffs do. And here we have a bunch of amorphous riffs (although a few memorable riffs are scattered here and there; look no further than the main riff of Christraping Black Metal or Blooddawn) over blasting grindcore beats and surprisingly audible basslines that waste the production effort spent on them by following the guitars the entire time.

Speaking of which, the production reigns as one of the shining points of Panzer Division. The album cover suggests it's meant to be a howitzer to the eardrums and this is, indeed, a howitzer to the eardrums. Complete holocaust to the ears. All instruments can be heard, but it still manages to sound like a hurricane channeled into black metal format. Many people despise Legion's vocals; I say they're an acquired taste. In the world of black metal, it is often considered uncouth to have growls in place of shrieks, and indeed Erik Legion has a lower speaking voice than most black metal vocalists. As a result, his vocals sound more like extremely scratchy and acidic shouts than glass bursting shrieks.

A lot has been said tearing this album down to nothing or praising it up to lofty heights. I will posit that neither position is correct. This is uber black metal, with all the strengths of black metal, like rapid drumming and razorblade guitars, and all the flaws of black metal, like monotony and silliness. Half and half, really, true to the two-faced nature of black metal. I give it 50 points + 15 because it's well produced and at least above average in the talent department.