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Marduck: Frontschwein

Muscular return from Swedish BM veterans

There are few bands in the upper echelons of the black metal pantheon that have released as many albums as Marduk, a fact that is testament to both their longevity and their impressive work ethic.

Quality is often a victim of productivity in metal circles, but in the case of these Swedish pioneers the standard of work has remained impressively high throughout their 25-year career – save of course for a fairly well-documented dip during the early 00s – and Frontschwein is thankfully no exception to that rule.

This being a Marduk album there are of course certain other points that go without saying: yes, this album is almost unrelentingly aggressive, yes, this is black metal without any deviation into other genres and no, there’s no augmentation from synths, orchestras, industrial elements or folk instruments. Put simply, Frontschwein is a formidable, yet accessible, beast of a record. The Mortuus-era Marduk reached the peak of its experimental phase with 2009’s Wormwood, an album that could almost have been released under the frontman’s Funeral Mist solo project. The follow-up, Serpent Sermon, contrasted dramatically, offering a Watain-esque assault. While this record has tempered that album’s more overt sense of groove, it remains both straightforward and surprisingly easy to listen to; the production is clean and sizeable, the riffing largely angular and satisfyingly chunky, the songs direct and to the point and reasonably varied. The opening title-track for example is quintessentially Marduk, blending a waspish high-end hook with a furious wall of blasting and an earnest and melodic guitar refrain. The second song, The Blond Beast, is sheer stomping attitude, a heartbeat rhythm backed up by a swaggeringly confident guitar riff and again balanced by a slightly darker refrain. Third song Afrika (lyrics not available at time of writing, but an intriguing title to be sure) is the band in full-frontal blasting mode, a blur of drums laying the foundation for slightly slower yet equally possessed-sounding riffing. And so it goes on, each track referencing different moments in the band’s career yet containing a red thread that ties it all together. There are few frills here, but the quality more than separates this from the many clones out there.

Via Century Media