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Good album for the current year - 70%

Demiror_Moritur, November 26th, 2018

Together with Abruptum, Dissection, and Ophthalamia, Marduk is one of the most real, most authentic bands to come from the Swedish black metal scene. In this year’s full-length album release, Viktoria, the band undoubtedly did their best to keep the eternal black flame burning and alive, while staying true to their classic borderline death metal black metal sound, and still retaining accessible production values and levels without ever sounding too fake or plastic.

Coming three years after their previous full-length, Frontschwein, this album arrives at a much-needed point in time, when the scene is becoming nothing but a carnival and festival of new, no-name posers nobody heard of or cared about years ago pretending to be something they are not, and countless of morons perverting the name of the black metal genre by releasing absolutely worthless projects that are in the thousands all over every platform you can think of. Thankfully, we still have genuine bands such as Marduk active that can make one somewhat glad to still call oneself a black metal enthusiast. Admittedly though, this effort is probably not as good as it could’ve been, or is it?

The band members at the time of the recording that formed the album’s lineup were M. Håkansson (Evil) with the guitars, M. "Devo" Andersson (Devo) on the bass, D. "Mortuus" Rostén (Mortuus) performing the vocals and F. Widigs (Fredrik Widigs) doing the drum work. Nothing much of interest to mention regarding this aside from the fact that the only remaining members from the 90s from the band are Evil and Devo, the rest being added later on over time as the band progressed onward into the 2000s and 2010s, until the present day.

It’s hard to release something of worth in the current music climate, particularly in black metal, since the standards are completely forgotten by now, and only a select few actually care about keeping a serious mentality or attitude towards their musical work or being respectful of previous key figures in the scene that set the precedent for how certain things should sound and be like. At the same time, it’s important to further advance the genre in a way that it doesn’t remain stale and boring for those who have heard it all and know their shit when it comes to the originators of the style. Hence, the question is raised, what can a band with an admirable trajectory and a good amount of releases behind their back such as Marduk put out in the market that will NOT dirty their name or make them seem like they’re trying too hard, all the while staying true to the genre’s traditions and counter-culture? Should they aim to please the fans or should they just not care and do what sounds good to them?

The album opens up with a mediocre introductory track that features some out of place horn sections that I honestly couldn’t have cared less for, and some guest/session female vocals by three girls that apparently have only ever been featured on this album when it comes to metal. They don’t sound bad or anything, but they're a strange addition to the track, although not an unwelcome one. The moment that one first track is over is when the album starts to get into its stream of infernal music, getting better track after track, merging the listener in the fantastic world of the devilish music that Marduk is more than well known for. One can tell from the second track alone that the serious black metal listener is going to be getting nothing but what they had been waiting and hoping for from the band.

The overall approach to the music is impeccable. Marduk takes their work seriously, and one can easily tell. The intricate and dirty melodies are spread throughout the release in a very slick and punishing manner, and they’re accompanied by growling vocals and somewhat technical instrumentation that plagues the album of proficiency and mastery.

The guitar work on Viktoria is good, the melodies sound pretty mean and menacing, while still keeping the buzzsaw effect on them that gives them a cold edge and makes their sound penetrate the aural space more by making it more intense overall. The riffs, however, aren’t really evil-sounding as much as they’re battle-like, since all of them have an intentional tonality that evokes images of war, battlefields, conflict, and trouble as opposed to darker or more occult, or depressive tonalities to be heard on other black metal bands, something that at the same time is part of the traditional sound and particular style of the band itself, so that’s a plus in a way.

The drums are excellently performed, and they’re prominent but don’t take too much space, so they provide the music with an extra intensity factor and serve as a great foundation for the other instruments to dictate the direction of the tracks, always standing beside them through faster blast beats or slower sections. Speaking of blast beats, the ones on this release sound very classic and crunchy, and they give the record a cool vibe. They’re actually one of the best parts of the album.

Concerning the vocals, I’m not all for them, to be honest. They’re evidently okay, but there are some sections on which they sound weird and I didn’t like what they tried to do at some points when they sound like they’re being performed through a megaphone. It’s a weird atmospheric filter that they put on them for whatever reason that subtracts from the experience while listening, to me, since I expect to be put in a certain environment that is somewhat broken or sounds less serious when those sections kick in, as they sound too try-hard, basically less sincere than the rest of the vocal work.

The bass is in total consonance with the guitar, so I have nothing much to really say about it other than I enjoy its contribution to the sonic map of Viktoria.

Overall, and to answer some of the questions I formulated through the review, Marduk do what they know how to do best, but I didn’t enjoy this record as much as I could’ve enjoyed it if they had left some of the less interesting, more insincere sections out of the mix and had focused on bringing forth a straightforward effort, as opposed to what we have here: something that sounds good, but feels like some amount of filler went into the completion of the album for the sake of it, something that makes me think less of it, as much as I do like it otherwise. It’s a shame.

Black Metal Victory - 95%

lamb666, June 29th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, 12" vinyl, Century Media Records

I've never made any secret of Mortus era Marduk being my favourite of all. I love all of their albums since Plague Angel and this one is no exception. The opening track Werwolf is a little punky, Although I liked it, I hoped the entire album would not sound like that. Never fear, what follows is very much later era Marduk. The rest of the album is Marduk belting out savage black metal at break neck speed. Clocking in at thirty three minutes this album represents a swift uppercut delivered by professionals.

The unrelenting blasts are carefully tempered by slower and even melodic patches to great affect. Every detail of this album has been carefully crafted. Any filler has been left on the cutting room floor. A good example of this is when Narva comes to a crescendo with forceful drumming and vocals followed by a masterful melodic guitar piece. I defy anyone to resist the urge to chant "hammering - keep hammering" along to this one.

Fredrik Widigs has already proven himself to be and excellent choice of Marduk drummers, but he has really outdone himself this time. Everything he hits he does so perfectly with a style of his own. He really powers a lot of the tracks on this album. Equally effective at high and low speeds his performance is outstanding on this one. The blasting as well as subtle touches on The Last Fallen showcase just what this guy can do. Singer Mortus delivers his usual ferocious vocals and Morgan and Devo turn in the performance of their lives.

If chainsaw riffing, blastbeats and viciously delivered vocals are your thing, accept no substitute. Those expecting Opus Nocturne part two will keep having to wait. For a band on their fourteenth album to be this relevant is almost unheard of. Doubtless the continued use of world war two lyrics will gather more attention from some corners than necessary. Personally I find it refreshing. I have at least five hundred albums with purely satanic themes and to be honest it is good to hear black metal bands expanding beyond that.

Blitzkrieg - 90%

Felix 1666, June 24th, 2018

The antique drama has always fascinated the audience and the rise and fall of the National Socialist movement of Adolf Hitler was probably the ultimate, most devastating and most criminal perversion of its script. This might be a reason why the horrors of World War II are still present, at least in Germany, but also in further parts of Europe. And the sheer size of the military, ideological and moral disaster of uncle Adolf and his dubious circle of friends seems to be a never ending inspiration for the extreme metal scene. Sweden was not really involved in the European catastrophe of the years 1939 to 1945, if we leave the constant delivery of ore to the Third Reich out of consideration. Anyway, even the descendants of the more or less neutral observers are not able to close the book called World War II. Marduk's "Viktoria" proves evidence.

The iconic artwork is Marduk's answer to "Slaytanic Wehrmacht" shirts and "Heydrich" stickers. It relies on the aesthetics of the German propaganda and makes its mark. Its simple and clear message lies in close proximity to the glorification of the German Landser and the music does not leave much room for interpretation as well. The Swedes love to play with fire... Either way, air raid sirens welcome the listeners and pull them directly into the combat. Marduk invite the hordes to a feast that connects "Frontschwein" with "Panzer Division Marduk" and the German title "Viktoria" - instead of "Victory" - seems to indicate that there is an inner coherence between these three works. "Werwolf" with its merciless aggression and the hysterical choirs sounds like the forgotten ninth piece of their black metallic "Reign in Blood" from 1999, while "Tiger I" presents a riff which picks up the vibrations of songs like "Wartheland". In addition, parts of "Equestrian Bloodlust" are similar to some of "Blooddawn". So what? The nine cannon crackers commute between high-speed eruptions and sinister slowness, but one thing is for sure: the material is a pure slap in the face without extraordinary effects, without frills and without experiments. Marduk deliver pure insanity and it is not only the short, Blitzkrieg-compatible playtime that builds a bridge to their most stubborn album so far.

What about the individual performances? Mortuus conveys the maximum quantum of hate, aggression and contempt. His vocals would turn the old grandmaster of hateful speeches and king of propaganda, Dr. Goebbels, green with envy. Morgan delivers the whole spectrum of black riffs, sinister leads and every now and then he intersperses triumphant lines ("Narva" and "The Devil's Song"). Devo's bass guitar is fine, but not responsible for spectacular elements, while Fredrik sometimes seems to have more arms than an octopus. I always enjoy the mega-fast sections of Marduk very much and "Viktoria" does not need to be asked very long in this context. It fails to show new sound facets and the lyrical themes are anything but original. However, this is not the crucial fact. What really counts is that Marduk still (or again) celebrate an utterly atrocious style of extreme metal which evokes much more emotions than the approach they presented on rather slow-moving albums such as "Rome 5:12" or "World Funeral". A ponderous killer like the closer "Silent Night" does not cause any damage, quite the opposite, but the pure essence of Marduk comes to light whenever they accelerate speed.

That's the reason why bullets like the excellent "Narva" make my day. Their unrelenting vehemence will not disappoint any fan of Marduk, and the same goes for the production of the album. From my point of view, the sound engineers have done a more or less flawless job. The album sounds powerful and marginally mechanic. It spreads a cold aura and the ironclad guitars are the main reason for this. This sound fits the lyrical topic. Speaking of the lyrics, Marduk supply, among other things, old Wehrmacht or Nazi slogans like "sweat saves blood" ("Schweiß spart Blut") or "fast as greyhounds, tough as leather and hard as Krupp steel". The latter described the propagated conditions for the German youth and I will never understand the cynicism of asshole Adolf who sent this promising youth on the battlefields. However, it's too late... but now it's time to listen to a great work: "Viktoria", an album like a successful Blitzkrieg without any major flaw. Germany has lost the war, but 73 years later, I feel like a winner - and I definitely don't need another drama of this kind.