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World Funeral (Regain/The End)

Marduk wants listeners to believe that it's the most vicious, misanthropic, gleefully evil band on the planet. The troupe's lyrics and satanic/Nazi imagery conjure memories of the storm-troopin' demons from An American Werewolf in London -- though they're actually a bunch of Scandinavian dudes with silly white face-paint and beerguts poking out from leather vests and bulletbelts. It doesn't matter that the fleshy reality doesn't live up to the hellish rhetoric; the music certainly does.

World Funeral is an improvement in almost every way over Marduk's last effort, 2001's La Grande Danse Macabre -- a pretty great metal album in its own right. Self-produced Funeral buries its riffs and pounding rhythms directly between the listener's ears. The mix, by Peter Tagtgren, is more thrashy than black metal (the bass is clearly audible), adding to the power inherent in Marduk's blitzkrieg assault. Movie-dialogue samples are tastefully inserted here and there, commenting on the action, but otherwise, it's pure roaring black metal. Marduk employs no keyboards -- they're not neoclassicists. Their only agenda is brutality, and that singlemindedness serves them very well here. This is a relentless and savage album; Marduk has topped itself once again.

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