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Review by Fernando on August 8, 2023.
Marduk, there’s very little to say about these black metal titans, who for over 30 years have remained steadfast and true. Surely at this point they don’t need any introduction, although, as it happens for any band that has been around for this long, there will be hardcore fans, and then fans of specific eras. I bring this up because by next year, the “Mortuus era” will be the band’s longest, as lead vocalist Mortuus aka Daniel Rostén is the band’s second longest running member after the band’s founder and guitarist Morgan Håkansson. And without further ado, we come to Memento Mori, the 15th full length by the band, and released via Century Media.
Given how long Marduk has been around, anyone familiar with them can expect what the band does best, blisteringly fast and unrelentingly aggressive. The band’s presentation is also very well established, as they’ve usually switched back and forth between albums focusing on pure blasphemy and satanism, or recounting the horrors and cruelty of war and destruction. On Memento Mori, however, Marduk are actually featuring a much different approach, this album is a bitter ode to death, from funeral rites, to the maggots of the soil and the cold of the grave, all filtered through classic Marduk styled blasphemous darkness. The entire album’s atmosphere and presentation is fully realized and cohesive from beginning to end, which is in line with the band’s work since their frankly underrated masterpiece of the Mortuus era; Rom 5:12, and after two consecutive war themed records it also feels like a breath of fresh air.
In regards to specifics, all the hallmarks of classic Marduk are still present and accounted for. If you want speed and brutality, you got it, the lead single ‘Blood Of The Funeral’ and its preceding sister track ‘Heart Of The Funeral’ pack an excellent one-two punch that display how Marduk can still rage on with unswerving sonic violence. However, and if you’re like me and enjoy the band’s more off-kilter and atmospheric side, this album will also appeal to you as the band also display more dynamic compositions and passages with some added sound effects to enhance the songs and atmospheres. In many ways this record is very sonically reminiscent of the aforementioned Rom 5:12, but with the technical aggression of albums like Frontschwein and Viktoria, however it is the first time that a Marduk album feels different and in a good way, they certainly still display all their strong suits but they also show a level of technical refinement and proficiency that wasn’t really shown in their previous records, but then again, releasing two records with a similar theme and sound, and after a period of adjusting to a new vocalist and then settling on a sound. All that to say that this is the first time in a very long time that Marduk sounds fresh and as if they closed the door on an era whilst welcoming a new one, at least sonically.
On more technical terms, the most impressive aspect of Marduk’s songwriting is how after 30 years, and with Morgan, their main songwriter, pushing 50, can still play this fast and this intensely. Obviously the band has never wavered in finding drummers that sound more like machine guns than people playing blast-beats, and that continues to be the case, Simon Schilling, previously of Belphegor is yet another worthy drummer to add in Marduk’s long list of superb percussionist, and it's good to hear the man obliterate kits on record ever since he joined the band in full capacity back in 2019, you only need to hear for yourself how much of a beast he is in all of the albums’ ten tracks. Morgan continues to be a master of fast riffs as well as hiding melodies and hooks within his blisteringly speedy shredding, and of course frontman Mortuus is still one of the best black metal vocalists of the past two decades, the man’s vocals still sound as demented and despotic as ever, be it here in Marduk, or in Funeral Mist, the man is simply unmistakable and unmatched and is worthy of being counted among other emblematic black metal vocalists. And of course, the production work of Devo Andersson is excellent as expected, even though the man is no longer with the band, he still gets Marduk on a fundamental level to the benefit of each song and the album as a whole.
The only major complaint that I have with the albums is that some songs abruptly end, particularly the second track ‘Heart of The Funeral’ (which is also the shortest), ‘Shovel Beats Scepter’, ‘Charlatan’ ‘Marching Bones’, and by that I mean the songs just stop, and it gave me severe sonic whiplash, on one hand I can appreciate the band not wanting to overstay each song’s welcome, but having a hard cut and with very intense and aggressive music can certainly take me out of the experience, especially when contrasted with how good each song opens and crescendos, and it’s especially noticeable with the songs that have more developed closures. It will certainly be a matter of preference but those abrupt endings kinda rubbed me the wrong way, but it’s a good thing that the rest of the songs and the album as a whole is so fully engrossing and substantial.
Overall, Marduk have actually managed to release a late career great, the band successfully ironed out their biggest strengths to make a new and fully realized sound, while there’s still some minor kinks that can be easily improved, it doesn’t take away from how after 30 years, these Swedish death-mongers still have more war to wage and death to deliver in a tight and concise 40 minute package.
Best tracks: ‘Heart Of The Funeral’, ‘Blood Of The Funeral’, ‘Coffin Carol’, ‘Year Of The Maggot’, ‘As We Are’
Rating: 8.5 out of 101.00k
Review by Felix on August 2, 2023.
Authority, legend, institution? Anyway, Marduk are back and they have a clear order for us: Memento Mori. Okay, I promise we will remind us of our own mortality, but before we do this, we want to take a deep dive into the new, after five years of silence overdue full-length. First of all, I miss Devo Andersson as regular member of the line-up, even though he seems to be still involved in the band. Now the authority, legend and so on has become a three-piece and, by the way, the drummer has also left the band and was replaced by a guy from Germany. This satisfies my Teutonic heart, but let’s come to the main thing, the ten fresh compositions.
Good news, fantastic news! The Swedes do not go back to comparatively lame works like Wormwood or World Funeral. Instead at the latest with the funeral double blow on positions two and three, there is such a heavy punch in the face that you could think the Panzer Division is rolling again. These tracks follow the speedy approach of the opening title track which presents a slowly growing beginning and turns out into a double bass inferno with many high speed brutalities and alarming guitars. (I almost thought the victorious werewolf was active again…) Of course, some mid-paced or slow tracks of Marduk’s enormous back catalog hit the mark, just remember the Heydrich-related stompers 'The Blond Beast' or 'Funeral Dawn'. Not to mention 'At The Death Head’s True'. But Marduk are still at their most irresistible when they play themselves completely murderously into a speed and blood frenzy. Darkness it shall be, if I am not mistaken. As a marginal note, Morgan had the eponymous classic probably in mind when he composed the beginning of 'Charlatan' – it’s good to know that blast beat drumming is still not forbidden. The following 'Coffin Carole' confirms this golden insight.
Memento Mori is not “only” a high-speed orgy. We do not have to wait for the relatively mild, mercilessness of fate accepting yet still strong finale called 'As We Are'. A gloomy hymn has entered the fourth place on the tracklist. 'Shovel Beats Sceptre' is not only a casual title. The song emanates fatal vibes and reminds me (again) of 'Funeral Dawn' – please forgive me my temporary fixation on Heydrich. Yet regardless of the tempo of the single songs, Marduk can rely on their outstanding skill: I do not see many bands on my (of course limited) metal radar that find a better, smoother way to combine merciless melody fragments with extreme, uncompromising belligerence. If this description lacks precision, the perfect 'Heart Of The Funeral' explains within 143 seconds what I mean. But it is not the only track that teaches us how easy it is to understand the brilliance of the Swedish (and German!) trio. The guitar lines of 'Marching Bones' also reach dizzying heights. It seems as if Marduk gets better and better the older they are. No surprise, because Morgan has finished his first five decades on earth and so he belongs to the “best agers” now. A very good, productive and creative group of smart, wise and good-looking people; I speak from experience (even though I wish I would not!).
I have listened many times to the album now, which is, of course, spotlessly produced. From my point of view, everybody who finds a bad track is nothing else but a cultural peasant. Even five years after Viktoria, I still have a couple of tracks from this album in my personal heavy rotation and I did not expect an equally strong work. But Memento Mori appears like a certificate for the absolutely outstanding skills of the band. I gave 9 points for Viktoria – today I know this was not enough for this killer. Memento Mori is not better, but I guess that 9.5 comes much closer to the rating this album and Viktoria deserve. Authority, legend, institution? Well, just Marduk. Enough said.
Rating: 9.5 out of 101.00k
Review by Vladimir on August 1, 2023.
When someone mentions Swedish black metal, one of the bands you think about will obviously be Marduk, and that’s a fact. They’ve been around since 1990, they released a total of 15 full-length albums, conquered the world by storm and above all else they still remained one of the strongest names in black metal. You have to admit that it is more than just an impressive feat, especially for a band that’s still relevant as they were 30 years ago. Marduk is set to release their fifteenth full-length album Memento Mori on September 1st via Century Media Records, which was already teased with their latest single 'Blood Of The Funeral'. This year sure seems like a very packed one, but the fact that Marduk, Baxaxaxa, Taake and probably many other black metal bands are releasing their new albums on the same date is just crazy. I guess that’s going to be one hell of a way to start off September. Marduk’s previous album Viktoria from 2018 was a solid entry in their discography, although nothing too special to be honest, but upon hearing their new single I felt like they were going back to 2004 in the days of Plague Angel, which I must say had me more than curious to know what the album will sound like. Without further ado, let’s get into the morbid funeral bowels of Memento Mori.
As the first track 'Memento Mori' slowly builds up the atmosphere, hellfire starts to rise with blast beats, tremolo picking guitar riffs and the bloody misanthropic harsh vocals of Mortuus, all together striking with a beast-like aggression. The aforementioned 'Blood Of The Funeral' still rips like when I first heard it not long ago, and it’s still one of the strongest tracks on this album, but the fourth track 'Shovel Beasts Sceptre' is one heck of a song that really burns its own flame. The track is just full of darkness and intimidating atmosphere that was wonderfully expressed with its slower tempo, and I would probably go as far to call this my personal favorite from the album. Other tracks such as 'Marching Bones' and 'Year Of The Maggot' should also be highlighted for their attention-worthy and headbanging moments which simply ooze with strength and firepower. If you thought that the enjoyable stuff would stop at some point, you’d be wrong, because the closure track 'As We Are' is just damn powerful and misanthropic for a final track, utilizing a slower tempo with melodic guitar solos, before closing the album with blasting guitars and drums at the very end, serving as a tremendous payoff to this insane joyride.
The songwriting on this album is the traditional formula which the band has been incorporating for the past 20 or so years, where the album’s majority is consisted of aggressive tremolo picking, blast beats and harsh screaming vocals, but there are also some instances where they incorporate these effective slow and mid-tempo moments in their songs, which gave some dynamics to the album’s entire output. This album overall is that classic Marduk which you have probably guessed by now, but it certainly isn’t a bad thing by any means, considering that this is what you’d expect from a band that built their signature sound from these aforementioned traits. It certainly succeeds at being a great Marduk album, which provided tons of interesting moments in their songs and didn’t drag for too long before your balls dropped to the ground. I understand that many people find Marduk a very one-dimensional and boring band, but I honestly think that many of these people overlook the fact that not many other bands which are just as old as Marduk are capable of composing anything attention-worthy or expressing any kind of emotions. Marduk certainly doesn’t want to reinvent themselves and their style of music, they do what they do best, but I think that their minimalism and creative drive is always pushed to the maximum limit where one can find so much more underneath the surface.
Something that I like about the album a lot beside its plethora of great songs is the macabre funeral aesthetic of their album cover, which was wonderfully combined with the music and the general mood of each song. Memento Mori’s sound production by Devo Andersson is just as great as it was on their previous albums, but I think that the best points should go to Devo’s bass playing on this album, because it really has an incredible volume and expression to it.
As I previously said, there are many people who will not be surprised with anything that Marduk releases next because everyone has become familiar with their sound, but that doesn’t mean that whatever they do can’t be effective or great. I personally found Memento Mori to be far better than Frontschwein and Viktoria, and it is a chef’s kiss. Ever since they released Viktoria in 2018, they certainly used these next 5 years effectively to write one heck of an album that will certainly take the world by storm and outmatch its two predecessors. Even though I haven’t been listening to Marduk for some time, I have to say that this album certainly does make me smile and I think there is a lot to appreciate here.
Rating: 8.8 out of 101.00k