Album Title: Viktoria
Label: Century Media Records
Date of Release: 22 June 2018
At the outset of this review, I feel it is necessary to admit that I have never been that big a fan of Swedish black metal band Marduk. They are a band with which I am passingly familiar but that has more to do with the length of time that they have been around than anything else. I mean, it would be almost impossible for a fan of extreme metal not to know anything about a band that has been plying its trade over 28 years.
I’m probably not the best person to offer a review then, on Marduk’s 14th release, ‘Viktoria’. However, as I listened to this record, I was confronted by enough positivity that I felt it only right and proper that I pen a few words as to why. After all, I like to offer credit where credit is due.
One of the big problems I’ve always had with Marduk has been the tendency to sound a little samey. I know that the band has gone through a few distinct phases over their career which has influenced their sound but by and large, I have tended to think of Marduk as being a little too one dimensional. Not enough variety features within their music – at least, that’s my personal opinion.
With ‘Viktoria’, I have been left surprised and pleased to discover that I can definitely hear more variety within the music, with slower passages intermingling with faster, more bruising sections. I can also hear melody within the music, something that I felt was always lacking, at least in the past. This is by no means a soft record or one that has been overly diluted, it is just more interesting as far as I’m concerned.
The air raid siren that introduces the opening salvo, ‘Werwolf’ is unsurprising, given Marduk’s fascination with all things World War II. What is surprising to a certain degree is how gritty and dirty this two-minute composition is. There’s a vague hint of Watain to be heard as the guitars of Morgan and Devo scythe in a slightly looser, more punk-esque fashion than I was expecting.
Arguably, ‘June 44’ is more out of the more ‘standard’ Marduk mould, thanks to faster, sharper staccato riffing and blastbeats courtesy of Fredrik Widigs all over the place. And yet, there is room built in for a change in tempo and intensity, creating a little more in terms of atmosphere. Equally, ‘Equestrian Bloodlust’ takes a break from the all-out frenetic pummelling of blastbeats and breakneck riffs to introduce some nice drum rolls and a hint of groove.
I’m not a fan of the slower, doomier ‘Tiger I’, even though I applaud the Swedes for mixing things up a bit. The idea in itself is a good one, sadly undone by the stench of monotony that pervades. The song never really goes anywhere or offers listeners a pay-off for their patience through the repetitive early stages.
Into the second-half though, the album delivers some of its best material. ‘Narva’ is suitably intense with plenty of extreme drumming and incisive riffing. However, there’s a hint of melody interwoven into the fabric of the track, as well as a touch of groove from the midway point. It isn’t long-lived, but the impact is sufficient, making me more than content to repeat the song.
Then there’s the penultimate track, ‘The Devil’s Song’ that pushes the melodic intent of Marduk to a level I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. I may be completely mistaken, but when the rather overt melody is draped over the song after another frenetic, uncompromising opening, I find myself thinking ‘this is new’. I really like this song and it easily pushes the aforementioned ‘Narva’ as my favourite on the record. The slower, stomping closer ‘Silent Night’ is also a great song, full of sinister malevolence and a much better example of what Marduk are capable of when they take their foot off the accelerator and veer into doomier climes.
Naturally, there are a few gripes with ‘Viktoria’ which I’m duty bound to highlight at this stage. First off, there’s the truly terrible album cover which almost put me off listening at all, so uninspiring is it. Then there’s the overall length which, at just over half an hour feels a little miserly. It wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t a couple of filler songs, but as it is, it could have done with being longer.
So, overall, despite a number of misgivings, I like ‘Viktoria’ much more than I thought I would. It is far from perfect and won’t probably be guaranteed regular spins long-term in the Mansion of Much Metal, but it has awoken more of an interest in Marduk than ever before. For that reason, it must be a classed as a reasonable success.
The Score of Much Metal: 7
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:
Midas Fall – Evaporate
The Sea Within – The Sea Within
Haken – L-1VE
Follow The Cipher – Follow The Cipher
Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor
Ihsahn – Amr
The Fierce And The Dead – The Euphoric
Millennial Reign – The Great Divide
Subsignal – La Muerta
At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
Hekz – Invicta
Widow’s Peak – Graceless EP
Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik – Hugsjá
Frequency Drift – Letters to Maro
Æpoch – Awakening Inception
Crematory – Oblivion
Wallachia – Monumental Heresy
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
MØL – Jord
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse