Sunday, March 1, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Marduk 'Frontschwein' (2015)

I'm enjoying reviewing while I listen to the albums for the first time, perhaps there is more authenticity in my immediate stream-of-consciousness comments; my excitement and feeling are more accurately captured. At the very least, this gives you, the reader, an idea what it's like to hear an album with me; tons of yelling out and fist pumping, head banging, complaining, commenting, monologues, etc. It's an interactive experience. Anyway, here we go:

1. Frontschwein- opens with guitar riffs reminiscent of the style found on 'La Grande Danse Macabre' followed by a drum march, the vocals kick in and interplay with the guitar riff as the drums kick it up a notch in speed. There's a quick break like the enemy breaking the lines and the song blasts back into the melee with a new riff, returns to its original strategy with the opening riff, plays with it and leaves it for dead.

2. The Blond Beast- this riff sounds very little like Marduk, instead it sounds like some militant punk chord progressions, sped up occasionally to blacken them up a bit. The drums stay VERY slow for a Marduk song, what might constitute a dirge compared to their normally blistering pace. Mortuus' vocals sounds like he's gargle/barfing blood and offal so major bonus there! The guitar does eventually tremolo-out the riff to further darken the song. I can't help but bop my head along to this one. By the way, the song is NOT pro-fascist, the lyrics all speak to the horror of war and either clearly state the futility of war or at the very least present an impartial description of war atrocities and events of WWII. I'd be highly pissed if this album was pro-fascist!

3. Afrika- the riff shifts like the sands beneath Rommel's treads here, with incessant blast beats to drive the engine of destruction. So far, this feels the most like the 'Panzer Division Marduk' album that this album is clearly the companion of/sequel to.

4. Wartheland- the riffs are slightly less characteristic of Marduk; not quite as variable or razor-sharp. Still good riffs, just a departure (but not from the mortals, heheh). This song has great arrangement, stays mid-pace mostly but speeds or slows it down slightly as it plods along to keep it interesting and keep your head nodding (along, that is, not asleep).

5. Rope of Regret- opening a machine gun fire sample, the song blasts out with some VERY classic Marduk angular, fast, and sharp riffs. Mortuus drops the vocals to a deep bellow then back up to a near-spoken croak. The excellent riffs return over a drum beat that uses bursts of blast beats varied with some double bass pounding paired with slow cymbal hits. Good song variability. Nobody matched Morgan's guitar riffs with insane drumming quite as well as Fredrick Andersson but this current drummer brings an interesting style to Marduk in his use of slower (slow for Marduk) and 'broken' blast beat (blast-pause-blast, repeat) drumming.

6. Between the Wolf-Packs- The main guitar riff, once it drops, it pretty catchy. It speeds up a bit, becoming more melancholic, then returns to the main riff (the melancholic part sits between the 'wolf-packs' in riff form, appropriate as this song appears to be about homeland Germany as its two major fronts collapsed). There is a slight pause then the song kicks back in for a refrain of the main parts of the song. END SIDE A.

7. Nebelwerfer- opening up the B side with a song about a chemical mortar launcher, this song starts off huge and slow, almost doomy. Certainly majestic. Mortuus commands over this moody guitar rabble with some heavier echo. The chord progression stays decidedly majestic and very slow. This and "The Blond Beast" are sticking out the most in my memory so far for being different and effective. Is that a synth I hear??? Nope, just some guitar with an effect on it to make it sound very dry. At about 3:20-something the pace picks up a bit, slows again quickly. This really feels like it could be the anthem of an undead corps of doom-bringers. Primitivity wins the day for this song.

8. Falaise: Cauldron Of Blood- a similar riff, slightly faster, to that of "Nebelwerfer" opens the track, very quickly drops into the hyper-riffs I love from Marduk over blasting drums with fast fills. WHOAH it breaks into a strange slower bit with a bit more melody. THEN smashes back into the chaotic fray of the previous riff, develops it a bit. That was a FAST bridge, like it was the a mobile unit or on fire or both, haha! I'm getting a definite Finnish Black Metal vibe off the main riff, specifically Sargeist. The guitars take a backseat to allow Mortuus to bark, then breaks back into the more melodic "bridge" part. Very neat, followed with 2-3 chunky and majestic chord plucks, ala later Bathory to close.

9. Doomsday Elite- moody, nearly formless guitar sounds bordering on noise start this track off, with a sample I can't quite make out over it. The guitar speeds up and the drums drop in with some incessant snare smashes. The guitar does a fill, then in screams Mortuus before the riff mutates, the song drops off into silence for a fraction of a second and then blasts back into the foray fully armored and at high speed. One more break of silence then the riff mutates again, is a bit faster. I'm digging the guitar riff. The guitar switches back to the 'main' riff as Mortuus continues to spew hymns of doom. A drum fill slows it very temporarily and the mutated previous riff returns and develops. I can hear bass finally! The riffs start to become more dissonant and chaotic like the opening of the track and the sample I can't make out returns. The music returns to its speediest incarnation, breaks for more vocals, drum fill and return to speed, again. Ok this is cool but it's about time to end the track boys. They don't, but the bass takes a turn playing the lead riff which is cool. I wish it happened sooner in the track (really in the album for that matter), to finally bring the boys back home and end the track.

10. 503- Sharp riffs open up to be met by a loud, slow drum beat like the timpani setting the shambling pace for dead armies to swarm over the heavens. The riffs stay sharp but the song beat stays slow, creating some tension. The drums speed up a bit, the bass drops in and the song takes a majestic tone over the darkness, like the Panzer tank actually appearing on the horizon to meet its shadow. The guitar riff has developed a bit but Marduk are keeping it simple on this one. Not working as well as Nebelwerfer but good. As I write this, the track takes a slight melodic edge, then returns to Mortuus barking and the timpani slows. NOW the track is just timpani and bass as Mortuus continues to list locations ravaged by Panzer attacks. The drums pick up pace a bit again. And... the song closes out.

11. Thousand-Fold Death- opening with some near ambient guitar sound, the track abruptly moves into overdrive and feels VERY 'Panzer Division...' in style and speed. It stays relentless with some guitar development in a descending chord that works well followed by some tremolo and the introduction of more majestic riffing that adds a great element to the song. It picks back up with a sense of urgency, bends the strings to break. We get only fast guitars with fast vocals from Mortuus sounding like he's trying to out-do Slayer, then the drum blast drops back in and the track returns to a majestic and fast riff, then a slow and majestic riff. We get a short fake-out ending then the majestic riff drops back in with the bass sounding loud and proud to back it up and build up troop morale. Catchy as Hell's own Platoon ditty!

PHEW! I survived that combat rather well. Final thoughts: great album, there's lots to digest here. This feels like a mix between the more experimental and overall slower stuff Marduk's done since welcoming Devo back into the fold on bass this time, however there's also a noted return to the raw and intense Marduk of earlier days. I'm interested to see what this line-up brings us for the next album, and I hope to catch Marduk live to see it all in action!

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

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