MARDUK…a band who needs no introduction to the legions of Black Metal fans out there, have set forth a new set of war anthems in Frontschwein, out now via Century Media Records. This is the band’s first completely war-themed album since 1999’s Panzer Division Marduk and boy oh boy is it an asskicker! Everything you could possibly want in your Black Metal albums is right here: blast beats, tremolo speed picking, raspy, echoed vocals, and subject matter dealing with some of the worst human conditions out there. Throughout their career MARDUK have never put out a bad record, and they certainly have no intention of starting with this one. I can almost hear my good friend Conan sharpening his sword in agreement.
The blitzkrieg begins in earnest with opener and title track “Frontschwein” as it lays down wave after wave of suppressing fire while heaving grenades in your direction. One or the other is guaranteed to blow you away. Morgan plays the guitar like a man possessed not only on this track but pretty much the whole record. The tempo and groove of “The Blond Beast” had my little ears standing on end as soon as it kicked in, Devo’s bass and Widigs’ drums making it almost fucking danceable (I’m not lying, and this is NOT a bad thing!) as Mortuus screams for blood. “Afrika” blasts away like a thousand Claymore mines being set off in succession; it just doesn’t stop. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! For four minutes! You might need a minute to recover after that one. Might I suggest pulling the car over?
Next comes arguably my favorite song in “Wartheland”. I love the slightly slowed tempo coupled with the almost tribal drums and Mortuus’ vocal line really nails it on every level. This one warrants several listens in a row before moving on. Machine gun fire, both literally and musically opens “Rope of Regret” another track looking to kill anyone and everyone in sight. Deeper, darker growls accent the trip-hammer of the music and the whole band is wrecking shop throughout. More stellar blackened riffs from Morgan’s arsenal fly out in “Between the Wolf Packs” and “503” with the former being the more bombastic and the latter coming at you slowly, like it has all the time in the world. Speaking of, if I had to pick another favorite it would be “Nebelwerfer.” It’s a slow grinder, but everything about it is just HUGE. The vocals, guitars, bass, and drums seemingly leap off the page to slap you in the face repeatedly until you submit. And you will…
“Falaise: Cauldron of Blood” is similar in speed and angst to the first half of the disc. I swear this band has an endless supply of musical bullets. Then they seem to grind things completely down, almost to a crawl with the sprawling, eight-minute “Doomsday Elite” featuring some spoken word passages early on. It oozes along for about 1:30 in a bit of classic war misdirection. As you’re getting lulled in, you fail to realize you’re being outflanked and when the cold hard reality sets in, they have you surrounded, emptying magazine after magazine into your eardrums! Closing things out is all-out rager “Thousand-Fold Death”, Mortuus seemingly speaking in rapid-fire tongues at certain points, the group barreling through walls as only the MARDUK Panzer Division can.
The first great Black Metal album of 2015 has arrived. Frontschwein is an instant MARDUK classic, and they have not only raised the bar, but set it almost impossibly high while throwing down the gauntlet to their peers. Let’s see who dares to pick it up.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM