And let the infernal battles, well….. continue. Album number 13 and MARDUK are still up to the same old hellish raw and filthy war metal shtick with FRONTSCHWEIN (German slang for grunt, front soldier or even better “taken as chump for the man”). MARDUK is one of those good old Swedish extreme metal bands that pretty much followed in the footsteps of Darkthrone (even starting off as a death metal band), but while that band moved on, MARDUK made it a mission to continue the early 90s sound of second wave black metal. That is both its weakness and its strength. I can think of no other black metal band that stays so true to that early 90s sound, upgrades the production and enough subtle variation to keep it just interesting enough to sustain my interest throughout the entire album but yet still keeps you feeling that you’ve heard it all before, but still very happy that you just did!
So here we are 25 years after their formation. MARDUK started out wanting to be the most blasphemous band in the world and here we are in 2015 and i can confidently say, they are not the most anything band in the world EXCEPT for consistency. However despite never being the most original of black metal bands in the universe, MARDUK finds a way to keep their music tight, even-keel and predictably intense. This is the kind of music that black metal purists who can’t move on will eat up like Oreo cookies blessed by Satan himself. And i can’t really blame them. MARDUK have stuck to their game without resorting to adding folk music, symphonics or some other hybridization and while almost every other black metal act of the early 90s has either folded or changed their sound drastically, MARDUK seems to be the most focused band in that universe where every album churns out one formulaic track after another adding just a tad of originality to the aggressive raspy vocals (only), highly distorted guitar riffs and steady drumming with blastbeats as the highlight.
Alright, if you know MARDUK at all, you know FRONTSCHWEIN. So what’s new? Well, nothing really but as i listen to this album i just don’t care. Somehow they successfully siphon my consciousness into retrograde territory and i actually like it. They add just a pinch of progressive time signature changes and song structure variations to throw you off on the first listen but everything is by the book albeit excellently executed not only by the superb musicianship that performs these tracks but by the modern day production that successfully makes this both seemingly refreshing and new but also dated as well. In other words it sounds like an early 90s album that has had the utmost primo remastering job… EVER! After a stable lineup for a few years this album also sees the changes of drum duty guard with Fredrik Widigs replacing Lars Brodesson. As with any MARDUK album, don’t expect anything innovative in the least but do expect a classic second wave black metal sound with all the modern day production icing on the cake. If this is your black metal fantasy come true then look no further than FRONTSCHWEIN to fulfill these wishes for it really does deliver. While i find originality to be one of my most desirable traits in musical development, i have to admit that i surrender to such well performed retro metal that may check off all the boxes but psychoanalyzes my desires to such a depth that i find myself unwillingly captivated by its gravitational pull. Yep, 4 stars. But remember that my will has been hijacked :-o