Marduk have certainly done the rounds of the Black Metal scene, being well-known for their uncompromisingly heavy albums and occasionally too-provocative Third Reich-esque iconography. Their latest album ‘Viktoria’ on first glance seems to contain all the necessary ingredients for a Black Metal album, but that’s just it – it’s very much an album by the recipe book. While enjoyable enough and without any real clangers, the album just doesn’t seem to add anything new to the Marduk corpus.
Werwolf provides the climactic opening to the album with Fredrik Widigs’ pounding drums, accompanied by heavy riffs courtesy of Morgan “Evil” Steinmeyer Håkansson and an air raid siren. The rhythmic Black Metal approach of fast-paced drums and guitars is unmistakable, and it feels like there is even a touch of Dimmu Borgir as the track thickens with the introduction of backing vocals. It’s a promising start, but one that remains, to an extent, unfulfilled.
Rapid-fire drums, and a typical Black Metal guitar tone open June 44. In this track as with many others, the riffs become a little repetitive, though there is eventually a darkening of the mood. Widigs’ drums are the stand-out element of this track, and again this is repeatedly the case throughout the album. The track picks up some gravitas towards the closing, but is on the whole one of several largely unremarkable tracks.
While Equestrian Bloodlust is a little more interesting and varied, particularly once again with Widigs’ efforts, there is little to note in this track, particularly in terms of the guitar tone. Things slow down into a heavier, more lumbering track with Tiger I. The track takes its time and has more breathing room, though it does launch into faster sections from time to time. Unfortunately however, even here the riffs remain overall cyclical and repetitive.
Narva picks up the pace again, and this track sees some welcome variation in the guitars and overall song structure, with plenty of changes in pace and tone in addition to a great bassline from Magnus “Devo” Andersson. However, the power and gravity ultimately remain best communicated through Widigs’ drums. The cool, headbanging bridge to this track is one of the standout moments of the album.
The riffs of The Last Fallen almost harken back to Venom. There is a bit more atmosphere to this track as things slow and darken a touch, but the more typical material continues to dominate. Nevertheless, there is a discernible sense of drama and urgency through the incredibly fast drums and steadily building guitars, somewhat reminiscent of Cradle of Filth. In its best moments, this is one of the more engaging tracks on the album.
The title track Viktoria, while certainly dark and fast as Black Metal ought to be, ultimately comes across as a bit droll in the context of the album, particularly as the title track. The slow, discordant bridge with its prominent bass is an interesting touch, building more of the atmosphere and discomfort that should typify Black Metal.
The long, riffing build-up into The Devil’s Song leads into a track that feels a little murky and underproduced, perhaps in an attempt to capture a bygone “true kvlt” Black Metal – there is just a hint of a feeling like the instruments were submerged during recording. The song itself is fairly strong, pumping and energetic with plenty of aggression, but also some underlying grandeur.
Album finale Silent Night opens with a strange, unpleasant droning sound, which is slowly eclipsed by slow drums and riffs. There seems an intentional attempt to keep the listener off balance in this track with some incongruous guitar tones that make it hard to settle into it. Mortuus’ vocals are tortured and filled with anguish, while the overall atmosphere is pained and haunting in its parody of the hymn by the same name.
At times ham-fisted and at others limp-wristed, it doesn’t feel like Marduk were particularly engaged in the process of putting this album together. Even the relatively short length may indicate a reticence to have gotten particularly involved. Overall, while there are some peaks of interest in the album, and it is a perfectly reasonable listen as generic Black Metal goes, Marduk fans may reasonably have expected more from this offering.
MARDUK’S ‘VIKTORIA’ IS RELEASED JUNE 22nd. PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY HERE!