Marduk - Frontschwein [Century Media Records - 2015]What better way to kick off a new year than with a new Marduk album? And better yet, these Swedes have returned to the WW2 theme teased at by their 2011 EP Iron Dawn, a theme most fitting for black metal if there ever was one. The name Frontschwein (literally “front pig”) is an old German term referring to soldiers on the frontline and gives you an idea of what to expect: pure fucking war.
Frontschwein begins with one of the strongest one-two punches I’ve heard in years with “Frontschwein” and “The Blond Beast”. The title track opens up with exotic, slithering tremolo riffs before charging into battle with Marduk’s signature warlike sound: razor-sharp riffs, drums more punishing than an 88 Flak, and Mortuus’s unmistakable snarls. “The Blond Beast” follows up to the devastating blitzkrieg with a more moderately paced march to war, with a focus on cruel, icy riffs over the constant, martial drum beat. The impact this track has in the studio version is immense; I can only imagine how crushing this will be in a live setting.
Tracks like “Afrika” , “Falaise-Cauldron of Blood”, and “Between the Wolfpacks” follow modern, Mortuus era Marduk’s venomous black metal pattern to a T with nonstop energy. While these tracks aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, they don’t do anything we haven’t heard Marduk do before and don’t really add anything to the album. On the other hand, the few standard tracks allow the highlights to really stand out. “Wartheland” with its monolithic, sweeping riffs that cut down everything in its path is a definite high point of the album. “Rope of Regret” is another standout track with deliciously evil melodies slicing through the air. “Doomsday Elite” deserves special mention too. At eight minutes it’s the longest track on the album, and while the first half takes a while to warm up, its second half is an immense display of inhumane bile and scorn.
Marduk gets some flak for being a nonstop blastfest but that belief is misguided on Frontschwein. While there are plenty of tracks that follow this style, slower tracks like “The Blond Beast”, “Nebelwerfer”, and “503” break up the potential monotony nicely, as well as the previously mentioned “Doomsday Elite”, which has an unusually progressive buildup for Marduk.
Frontschwein is probably my favorite of the more recent Marduk releases, but it does suffers from being frontloaded in terms of quality tracks. The album is a blur from the title track through “Nebelwerfer”, but stumbles with “Falaise-Cauldron of Blood”. The epic “Doomsday Elite” salvages the second half, but the final two tracks have the album leave the battlefield limping rather than marching victoriously. It’s just a shame the band wasn’t able to keep the quality up for the entire runtime. Still, the entire first half is flawless and that alone warrants a look. While Frontschwein isn’t the album it had the potential to be, it’s still worthy of attention and kicks 2015 off promisingly. Tyler L.