Released: 2015, Century Media
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
After the commercially successful “Serpent Sermon”, the Marduk horde is back in 2015 with their 13th assault called “Frontschwein”. The cover artwork clearly reveals what is lurking behind this new album. 16 years after their cult classic “Panzer Division Marduk”, Morgan Håkansson has written a new concept album about World War II, focusing on some battles that occurred during this historical period. At the time of its release, “Panzer Division Marduk” was groundbreaking as it was considered by many critics and fans as a masterpiece of brutal black metal. However, it was also highly controversial due to its lyrical content and to Morgan’s declarations to the press at that time.
Apart from the lyrics and imagery, “Frontschwein” remains different, so do not expect a sequel of “Panzer Division Marduk” here. The songs are less violent than in the last years, which is a good thing as I was completely bored by the brutal approach of their black metal style. While most of them are very fast with many blast beats, we can still find some interesting mid-tempo tracks (“The Blond Beast”, “Wartheland”, “Nebelwerfer”). But let’s start with the bad news first.
The production is simply pathetic, none of the instruments are highlighted by the raw sound they’ve created for this release. What a waste! This sound definitely doesn’t fit with their compositions. I really miss the better sound we used to get from their early albums. Concerning the vocals, Mortuus has nothing exceptional to offer and will never reach the level of its predecessors as Legion for example. Let’s be clear, since Legion left the band, the impact of Marduk’s music decreased strongly and will never be the same. Mortuus is not a bad vocalist. His vocal performance is average and represents what most of all black metal singers can do.
The good news is that Morgan is still strong after almost 25 years of career! Inspired and aggressive, the riffs are without any doubt the best feature of this artillery. “Frontschwein” would have been a disaster if his guitars weren’t the pillar of their compositions.
I would like to highlight the fact I’m currently reviewing the promotional version of the album which omits the bonus track “Warschau III: Necropolis” (available in the limited Mediabook CD edition only) unfortunately. It’s a pity because the very good Swedish Industrial/Martial Ambient band Arditi has contributed to the creation of this additional song. As I’m an Arditi fan, it’s likely that my opinion of the album would have been more positive if I had the opportunity to hear that track.
For your information, the vinyl edition of “Frontschwein” will contain an extended ending version of “Thousand-Fold Death” and a different drum arrangement on “503” (which is actually a continuation of the song “502” from “Panzer Division Marduk”). That’s a despicable choice from Century Media who clearly want to make more money by forcing the fans to buy both CD and vinyl editions so they can get the complete works. With a far better production and vocalist, “Frontschwein” could have been a great album but it’s not the case. Despite this, Morgan’s solid performance still deserves respect and attention from his die-hard fans.