Marduk – Viktoria (Century Media)

Monday, 18th June 2018
Rating: 7.5/10

By all appearances, Swedish black metal mainstays Marduk are averse to change. Their brand of streamlined, practically no-nonsense black metal has often placed them at the front of the Satanic charge. They are anything and everything to black metal at once, maintaining their paint-caked appearance while adhering to the sonic norms that got them off the ground circa 1990 anyway. Therefore, Viktoria, like its 2015 predecessor Frontschwein, is basically a basic shoulder-charge into the pack, separating the men from the boys, the weak from the strong…you get the idea.

Founding member, primary songwriter and guitarist Morgan Håkansson is not as obsessed as speed as he used to be — anyone remember 1999’s Panzer Division Marduk? These days, Håkansson is in or around black-thrash territory, like on opener “Werewolf,” a decidedly old-school BM take right from the cold dead hands of Euronymous-era Mayhem. Whereas the throttling “Equestrian Bloodshed” and “The Last Summit” encapsulate virtually everything Marduk has made a career out of (speedy pairings in the land of no-atmosphere), the album’s peak moments come via the down-and-dirty “Tiger I” and closer “Silent Night,” which finds Marduk hauling out a slow, grueling cadence and dissonant chords.

Generally speaking, Marduk always delivers, save for a few bumps in the road during the last decade (La Grande Danse Macabre comes to mind.) Viktoria, though, is meat-and-potatoes Marduk that demonstrates the Swedes still have no time for fuss — they never embraced it to begin with. Why start now?

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