(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!
That Funeral Mist record is the business. In a black metal world dominated by the atmospheric, it’s refreshing to find an album so well measured and executed.
I’d be very surprised if Viktoria actually does remind of Opus Nocturne. Perhaps song structures have been ‘stripped down’ but it seems to me Marduk aren’t interested in creating atmosphere anymore, like they did, in fact, do on ON and, to a different degree, Heaven shall burn. Of course, I am basing myself on the two songs that have been premiered so far.
Also, what is, exactly, the difference between Mortuus and Marduk, at this point?
Basically, Im saying Marduk can only recapture my interest with Opus Nocturne II, hehe.
I think the two premiered tracks are the weakest on the record.
I assume you mean the difference between Funeral Mist and Marduk? Because there is actually a band from Sweden called Mortuus who is pretty good, but doesn’t sound like Marduk.
I think Daniel Rosten’s influence on Marduk has gotten huge. Listen to the past few Marduk albums and then listen to the new Funeral Mist. There are certain similar riffs I can hear for sure, which is the sure sign that Daniel is writing a lot of music for Marduk. I love Funeral Mist and Marduk, but sometimes I almost think maybe Morgan needs to hold him back a little.
Ah yes, I did. Mortuus’s Grape of the vine is a fine album.
Well suppose Morgan did, what would we get back? Personally, I can’t really appreciate World Funeral and all that came after that record up to and including Viktoria. (PDM is just, well, redundancy put to music, to my ears.) I just miss the melody and dynamism of ON and the viciousness of Heaven shall burn and the guitar tone on those albums, even though they’re not the same. Im pretty positive, however, that this is due to me really getting into black metal and me seing Marduk many times around the time Heaven shall burn came out.
So for me, I suppose, Marduk is not that relevant anymore…(On a side note:the glorification of war / tough male attitude in general bores me and comes across as disingenuous.)
You make some good points, and I understand where you’re coming from. While I disagree about Marduk being not that relevant, I do get why some people are a little put off by more recent output. Bands and people change and Marduk is no exception. I think what I was trying to say is that I don’t want the two bands to become too similar sounding.
And we certainly agree about the Mortuus album!
Two Marduks/Fun Mists would be too much, indeed, so point taken. Marduk’s relevance is of course a personal matter. I still regard Marduk as a great entry band in the sense that they do represent many elements of what bm is about (incl.some of its controversies). I’ve just come to demand something different/more from bands, so when I want Marduk, Ill go back to the old albums.
I bought the download and have listened to the new Marduk twice now. My fears of it being to similar to the Funeral Mist are unfounded. This is Marduk. And it rules.
Haven’t listened to ‘Hekatomb’ yet, but now that album is climbing its way up my playlist.
As for “Viktoria”, well… in my not so humble opinion “Werwolf” is one of the weakest songs MARDUK have ever released (it’s too simple for its own good but not straight forward/brutal enough)… but after listening to the whole album, one might think that this was the point exactly, because what is to come thereafter, is a Black Metal assault so dark and uncompromising, as if they were still in their early 20s and need to prove their worth amongst the BM elite.
Whoa. Ok you’ve got me seriously excited for this album now.
As the one who posted the little “thank you” about not being “tabloid-esque” and not being “unbearable” (as I called one site, though I contradicted myself in that very post by saying that I wouldn’t drop names…oops), I fully, whole-heartedly agree with your stance as a writer. We’re all free to choose who we do or don’t fill our earholes with. And it’s my personal stance that we should FEEL free. How we use what we ingest is our main prerogative, hopefully not leaning toward personal and societal destruction merely over our chosen entertainment. Having said all that, I’ve listened only once to each of these albums, and find them both very intriguing as black metal statements. The new Marduk seems like it’s going even further back to the “Panzer Division” aesthetic, while retaining the diversity of recent releases. Not sure yet if it’s a clash or a fit, though. As a fan I want to lean toward approval. And the Funeral Mist album is great, if not sounding a little like an obvious solo-album, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Anyway, always, keep up the good work. Like many, I enjoy the atmosphere around here…and the abundance of so many things to explore at my own discretion. \m/