Viktoria, with its spectacular minimalist cover, is a middle of the road, though in the fast lane member of Marduk‘s discography. It is a reflective riff of repetition that pummels you through eight of its nine tracks with the basal hypnotica using seven notes to the measure to get you from start to end in satisfactory fashion. Marduk’s picture sits beside the definition of black metal in the Encyclopedius Chaoticum.
That picture has been there for 28 years and through Marduk’s 14 album zig-zag toward the eastern front. The Swedish quartet has dabbled in the tedium that blights black metal: devil’s wings and plague-ridden scenes, etc., but found its wheelhouse in the reportage of the first half of the 20th century’s great unpleasantries, specifically the European theater of WWII.
Devo on bass, Frederik on drums, Mortuus (Viktoria‘s cover designer) on comic-book lead vocals and Morgan on sturmgewehr guitars, Viktoria is genre-specific professionalism, conceptual, brand aggrandizing and interesting product. Guitars trample the time-honored ground of string instruments-as-machine-guns, drums blast beat their Russian rocket launcher beats, the bass thrums with the rhythm of hob-nail boots marching into hell and the vocals do their crypt-kicker best to be oh-so-scary.
Marduk gets itself out of the rut on tank-tracks like “Werewolf” and “Tiger I,” Viktoria‘s best number, by exercising its imaginative side above the common chops. Mortuus steals the album’s best moments by exposing his vocal cords to upper and lower registers of the human voice, coming back to “Tiger I” as an example. Viktoria does have the arc inherent to a better-made album. It builds, it peaks and it slides down into the ninth track, “Silent Night.” It’s always good to survey the damage before the war crime trials start.
It’s also good to reflect on an album like Viktoria that might have been better if made by a hungrier band. But for Marduk, who have a legacy to maintain, an expectation to be met and a reticence to have any particular album prairie-dog its head above the rest of a long discography, Viktoria takes what chances it can without throwing a tread. For the black metal connoisseur, it’s a bayonet twist in the chest instead of the standard Satanic birdshot blast.
(released June 22, 2018 on Century Media Records)
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Listen To Marduk – “Werewolf”