(In this post Andy Synn combines reviews of the new albums by the Swedish black metal bands Funeral Mist and Marduk.)
One of the commenters on one of my recent columns made mention of our avoidance of the tabloid-esque, clickbait culture which seems predominant among so many blogs/sites these days. And while I generally agree with (and appreciate) that sentiment, I would like to clarify one thing.
Because while we do our best to avoid sensationalising or proselytising, that doesn’t mean we’re ignorant of, or afraid to address, the various issues, questions, and controversies, which frequently permeate and surround our beloved scene.
My own approach, which is still being refined with every review and every article I write, is to inform, rather than dictate, so that our readers are given the right context in which to make their own decisions. I, for one, don’t believe that listening to a band is necessarily the same as endorsing their worldview, but I also don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with making a personal choice not to support a band either.
Whatever your decision, though, I can say that both these albums offer some extremely good Black Metal, although both are successful for different reasons.
On the one hand we have Hekatomb, the new album from Funeral Mist (the solo project of Marduk frontman Mortuus), which succeeds not just through its sheer savagery – although that is a major point in its favour – but because of the multitude of unexpected twists and clever arrangements concealed within its forty-three minutes.
Songs like “In Nomine Dominus” and “Within the Without”, for example, are some of the tightest and most technically adept Black Metal tracks I’ve heard in some time, with every slashing riff and every strafing drum pattern deployed with scalpel-sharp precision and laser-like focus, while the insidiously infectious rhythms and ravenous hooks of “Naught But Death” are a perfect counterbalance for the battering blastery of “Shedding Skin” and “Hosanna”.
Then there are the more artfully abrasive numbers like “Cockatrice”, “Metamorphosis”, and “Pallor Mortis”, which find Mortuus (or Arioch, as he calls himself when working with Funeral Mist) indulging in some of his darker, doomier, and more atmospheric impulses alongside his ever-present assault of raging riffosity and blistering vocal vitriol.
Ultimately though, no matter how heavy, how aggressive, how groovy, or how brooding, these songs are, none of them are just one thing, and the whole album presents a version of the Black Metal template which is just as creatively vibrant and vital as it is undeniably vicious and visceral.
By way of contrast, the no-frills, no-filler, approach displayed on the new Marduk album (released tomorrow) may not offer quite as many exciting twists and turns as Hekatomb (which, I have to stress, is one of the best Black Metal albums of the year so far), but is still an admirable addition to the band’s already loaded back catalogue, whose blend of menacingly melodic riffage and stripped-down song structures is highly reminiscent of the group’s early years circa Opus Nocturne/Heaven Shall Burn.
Of course, it’s not a complete throwback– Mortuus’ cadaverous snarl situates things firmly in the modern era, while the drumming of Fredrik Widigs has a serious post-Panzer Division feel to it – but there’s still something endearingly unpretentious about the way in which each track is built around a central hook or idea and delivered with such a surprisingly youthful sense of energy.
And while it may be a simpler and more straightforward album overall, at least when compared to the record above, it still offers a nice amount of variety, with heavy-calibre pounders like “Equestrian Bloodlust” and the title track sitting side-by-side with brooding bruisers like “Tiger I” and “Silent Night”, or spitfire anthems like “Werwolf” and “The Devil’s Song”.
So you can definitely chalk this one up as another win for the Marduk war machine, and be satisfied that the band definitely aren’t out of ammo just yet!