2. June 44
3. Equestrian Bloodlust
4. Tiger I
6. The Last Fallen
8. The Devil's Song
9. Silent Night
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It's been three years since Marduk’s last full-length bombardment, during which time they’ve become one of black metal’s most controversial bands. Curiously, this feat seems to have been largely accidental, triggered (no pun intended) by a reassessment of their career by a new wave of politically motivated activists who deem their obsession with war and atrocity problematic. With the band having been vocal about such shenanigans, it’s hard not to view the somewhat provocative opener and ‘single’ Werwolf as a finger up to such opposition, the track apparently being inspired by German insurgents during World War II. You can certainly attach various narratives to the band’s war fetishisation and lyrical leanings, but it’s familiar ground for Marduk (and metal) and hopefully listeners can navigate it while avoiding the daft conclusions of either the hysterical ‘ban them’ brigade or that small minority of fans who secretly hope the band share their dubious political sympathies.
In any case, it’s hard to imagine many old-school black metal fans not enjoying the song, and indeed this album. The rocking guitar riffs and simple anthemic chorus (‘Werwolf! Werwolf! Werwolf!’) are a good primer for the album as a whole. Recent records demonstrated a band moving away from their more esoteric mid-00s output and Viktoria cements those intentions. If anything, it’s even more straightforward and stripped down, lacing both the trademark blasting passages and more crawling songs with groove, simple hooks and an apologetically rousing dynamic – not least on the almost clean-sung mid-section on Narva.
Viktoria is a fairly linear affair, but it would be hard to deny the power of the songwriting. Sure, there’s nothing original on show here, but also nothing that feels stale or uninspired and when the dust clears, Viktoria stands as an enraged, aggressive and invigorating listen.