With a near 30-year career under their belts, it would make sense to say that Marduk have become a reliable band in terms of new music. In entering their latter years as a band you might find some daring to go so far as to call them “predictable” but Viktoria suggests otherwise. Marduk have never been ones to skate around confrontational topics in their music. Theirs is an unspeakably blasphemous canon and despite the past few years being particularly delicate for how far extreme metal bands can go, Viktoria stays true to an unflinching path.
Black metal has always been the unrepentant bastard brother of the extreme sphere, continuing to push buttons with its lyrical inspiration and output and what-not. It leads to show cancellations, boycots, fan division – all the sorts of stuff that tests bands to see what they’re truly made of. With all that being said, “Werwolf” is a hell of a way to kick off an album. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that Marduk may have just released black metal’s anthem of the year. It’s catchy, it’s evil, it’s epic and it’s about Nazis – how much darker can you get? Beginning with a sinister air-raid siren call and steady double-kick thudding, it’s equal parts grandiose as it is heavy with a lingering, foreboding doom about it. The repeated refrain of “Werwolf!” through the mouthpiece of Mortuus’ shrieking vocals is just so badass.
Indeed, Viktoria‘s momentum doesn’t drop for a single second in the first 10 minutes or so with “June 44” and the awesomely-titled “Equestrian Bloodlust” trading heavily in blastbeats thick enough to froth up a snowstorm. Same goes for mid-album cut “Narva”, a furious offering composite of ample riffage, agonized cries and enough blast-speed to power a small village. And talking of highlights, closer “Silent Night”‘s slow crawl to the end of the record is just effortlessly spellbinding.
Nevertheless, despite only running for a touch over 30 minutes and taking at least half the tracklist up with absolute ragers, this is still their 14th album – the level of experimentation and changing-it-up is kept to a minimum. They’ve honed their craft and Viktoria is a successful summary of what Marduk are all about. It’s not the best of their career but at parts, it’s not far off. The point is you should know what you’re going to get by this point from this band. There’s very little in the way of surprises on here. Sure, it’s still confrontational, challenging, abrasive – all the things you want Marduk to be, however it’s all very much already been and done already over the course of their career. It’s true that there is some forgettable material, but there’s enough on here, particularly as their 14th record, to keep anyone from a long-term fan to a newcomer interested.
Give it your time and it’ll have you throwing your corpse-paint-doused arms to the cursed full-moon in no time at all.
Viktoria is out now.