Swedish black metal veterans Marduk are one of the most popular extreme metal bands, and while sticking to the black metal genre throughout, their discography can be divided into three eras based on their approach to the genre. The first three albums (and hints of it on the fourth) were more old school with the songwriting and had darker undertones. The Legion era albums is when Marduk developed the bludgeoning artillery style, and they are also the most divisive when it comes to reception by black metal fans. Mortuus era albums toned down the incessant blast beating madness and brought in more dynamism in the songwriting, with some Funeral Mist influence being apparent.
Marduk’s upcoming album ‘Viktoria’ continues the same sound of their recent albums, with ample variations with tempo and melodies glazed over the riffing. The production, clean as it is, works too. Now, a couple of tracks are really unlike Marduk, and while I closed to such experimentation, the experiment did not yield to satisfactory results in my opinion. Parts of the album see Marduk taking a patient approach to building the tracks to climax, with erratic success. The album length is considerably short, running upto around 32 minutes, and the aforementioned patient approach would imply that not a lot of ideas reached its deserved conclusion, and leaves you wanting for more. There are hints of the Swedish black metal riffing ala Watain in the mix as well.
The opening track, “Werwolf”, is the single that has been released, and it is easily one of the weaker tracks on the album. It is a huge digression from Marduk’s natural path, and while it could have worked if it was a shorter track used as an intro, this just seems ill-fitting in the album. Once past that, the real Marduk begins with “June 44” ripping through immediately. It is also one of the stand out tracks of the album. There’s considerable amount of blackened doom elements in the album, something that was difficult for me to get over with. Tracks like “Tiger I” and “Silent Night” slow down the album to the point of being unrecognizable as a Marduk album. Some riffs surprised me a bit, like the mid-sections of “Narva” and “The Last Fallen” and the melodies in “The Devil’s Song” have a tinge atmospheric quality to it, and that gives a nice touch to these fast paced tracks. Very unlike classic Marduk, but it works.
Overall, some tracks on ‘Viktoria’ are better than others. I like the direction Marduk is taking with the tracks that I’ve mentioned that I favour, and regardless of how loyal they are to their older sound, more exploration on it would be welcome. When it comes to the slower and mid-tempo tracks though, I would want to give those tracks a miss when I revisit this album. There still is a decent amount of material for their fans here, although they would want more of it for sure.