There's black metal, and then there's Marduk. No hockey-rink keyboards. No wailing female background vocals. No slow parts. Just pure pain, from first crushing drumbeat to last. Marduk is like a 1,000-mph version of 1984-'85-era Swans: It is so relentless in what it does that the listener's only option is to curl up in a fetal crouch and hope to survive. The guitars are a buzzsaw slicing through skull and brain, supported by a bassist who (in defiance of black-metal tradition) is not only clearly audible in the mix, but at times actually dominates the songs. The drummer is utterly devastating, sounding more like a piledriver driven by a meth freak than an actual human being with wooden sticks in his hands.
Much more disturbing than Marduk's music, or its face paint, are its lyrical themes. Departing again from typical black-metal territory (Satan, darkness, hell, Satan), it also flirts with fascism in a way not seen since the heyday of Slovenian goth casualty Laibach. But where Laibach was only kidding with albums like Opus Dei and Occupied Europe Tour, Marduk doesn't seem to be joking at all when it releases records named Panzer Division Marduk, decorates its Live in Germania CD with a mammoth German war eagle on the cover, or titles a song "Dreams of Blood and Iron" ("Blood and Iron" being the motto of the Waffen SS). Frankly, it's this evocation of earthly evil that makes these musclebound Swedes probably the scariest black-metal band around.
But what if, like Laibach, they're doing it as satire? It's doubtful, but possible. Either way, someone's going to be offended. With an ensemble this lethal, however, that should be the least of anyone's worries.
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