Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last, oh…half-decade or so, you’ll be well familiar with the introduction of forward-thinkingness into black metal, and the bands (be it Nachtmystium, Deafheaven, you name it) that have helped breathe new, previously unforeseen life into the genre. And then, there’s Marduk, obstinate as ever, still firing off the classic, grim-and-frostbitten tropes like it’s 1993 on their new album, Frontschwein.
I’ll be honest, trying to review this thirteenth outing of blast-beat after blast-beat, riff after tremolo-picked-riff—and of course the customary, occasional dash of “whatthefuck?” thrown in for good measure—got difficult after a while. It’s not great, but nor is it horrible. I guess, ultimately, the worst thing I can say about this is that it’s another Marduk album. But that might also be the best thing I can say about it, too. Anything in between? You’ll have about as much luck pulling anything of real substance out of me as the band did pulling anything of real substance onto Frontschwein.
So instead, I’d like to present to you a retroactive live-blog of my attempts to listen to the album earlier this week. Here goes:
- 0:29 (‘Frontschwein’) “Holy wow, they kept the blast-beats out for almost a whole 30 seconds! This is an enormous upset of sorts!”
- 3:20 (‘The Blond Beast’) “What the hell is that beat? Save the mmm-tss-ahh-tsss, mmm-tss-ahh-tss beats for the dancefloor, dudes.”
- 7:45 (‘Afrika’) “Hmm, seeing a lot of tweets about this new Liturgy song. Let’s check it out.”
[pauses Spotify player, listens to ‘Quetzalcoatl’]
- 12:30 (‘Afrika’ – still paused) “…what the fuck did I just listen to? What on earth are those vocals? I haven’t heard any of their old stuff…does it all sound like this? Let’s see…”
[brings up Spotify, searches for Liturgy, plays “Aesthethica”]
- “I feel like I’m listening to a cassette tape being fast-forwarded. Okay, fuck every part of this—I actually want to go back to Marduk now…”
[brings “Frontschwein” back up in Spotify]
- 13:04 (‘Wartheland’) “So this refrain part in ‘Wartheland’ is strangely anthemic-sounding. This would be the highlight of the album so f…”
- 13:09 (‘Wartheland’) “Oooooooh, a new Charli XCX video. Gotta watch that.”
[mutes Spotify, opens YouTube, watches video for “Doing It”]
- “Nice, this was one of my favorite tracks on Sucker. But…what the hell is a Rita Ora? I don’t remember her being on the album version of the song. Let’s ask the Twitter.”
[sends tweet as video continues to play]
- “Ah, that was fun. Okay, back to Marduk, I guess.” [unmutes Spotify]
- 20:37 (‘Between the Wolf-Packs’) “Oooh. Oooh. I actually kind of like this one.” [restarts track] “Yeah, I’m actually not going to say anything bad about this one, cause it’s kinda cool. Well done, Marduk. Didn’t see that one coming!”
- 26:46 (‘Nebelwerfer’) “DEAR GOD, HOW LONG IS THIS SONG? WHEN WILL IT END?”
- 29:46 (still ‘Nebelwerfer’) “Welp, I’m hungry. Let’s go grab lunch.”
[takes off headphones, sits down to lunch]
- 48:26 (‘503’) “Oh hell, did I not pause this? Shit. Well…do I go back and listen to the songs I missed?”
- 48:41 (‘still ‘503’) “…nah. Let’s just get this over with.”
- 52:36 (end of ‘Thousand-Fold Death’) “Well, that was strangely exhausting.”
At the end of the day, with as far as black metal’s come in the years since Marduk became a household name, coming back to them now for something new feels like jumping back to coach after having flown first class. It’s not that anything here is particularly awful, just that with so much being done in the genre these days, hearing something so blatantly, shamelessly straightforward just feels like a bit of a drag.
Oh well…at least it doesn’t sound like the fast-forward button broke.
Frontschwein is out now on Century Media Records. For more information on Marduk, visit the band’s official website.
Live. Love. Plow. Horns Up.