Genre: Black Metal
Label: Century Media Records
Since 2009, Marduk have been releasing an album every three years and their most recent efforts have been under Century Media Records, the biggest label they’ve been in so far. Following that pattern, the new album “Viktoria” is released as a follow up to 2015’s “Frontschwein”, when they also released a few minor releases of old live recordings from the 90’s. With 2011’s EP “Iron Dawn”, the band added on the infamous “Panzer Division Marduk” catalog from 1999 with additional, fast paced war themed compositions and since then, it seems like the band has expanded on that side of theirs more, with two full albums with an only main concept on war from the previous century.
Despite the controversy that has risen from their artwork and lyrics, Morgan has never shied away from his interest into the battles and the firepower of WWII. “Viktoria” is aligned to this lyrical framework and only lasts thirty two minutes, in contrast to the longer, fifty two minute “Frontschwein”. The first glimpses to the record were given from a couple of early released singles, the opening track “Werwolf” and “Equestrian Bloodlust”.
I was very much taken back when I first listened to those two and in fact I had to turn them off before even finishing at the beginning, creating a main issue of distrust I had when I first had the whole album in hands. Even now, along with some other moments in the record, I still think these are the weakest songs in a relatively unsuccessful release. Marduk maintain their distinct sound and the formula of high speed intense tracks along with significantly slower ones in between. However, “Viktoria” depicts an overall step down of the band, as they suffer a bit in all of their characteristics (except maybe the vocals of Mortuus, who does his best again).
First and foremost, the production seems to be less edgy and less harsh, which does not serve the purpose of the band well, as even the aggressive tracks do not really deliver any of the needed aggressiveness one would expect, especially from Marduk. Compared to the productions of both “Serpent Sermon” and “Frontschwein”, “Viktoria” has a more polished sound that has stripped the tracks off their power, it will have you thinking how come you don’t feel the punch in the gut even at the record’s peak moments.
By listening to tracks from the previous albums and this one back to back, it is rather obvious how Marduk have given a softer record (production wise that is, and not so much music wise). Most of the tracks would fit as unreleased or b-sides in a bigger compilation, yet it had me wondering how the chose thirty minutes of material, and this was the best of it to present in their album.
It’s very fortunate that the drummer Fredrik Widigsis fired up through most of the record and at times saves the day, when the rest of the instruments fail. In terms of the guitar lines, most of the tracks I feel I have listened to before from Marduk (don’t tell me “Silent Night” doesn’t remind you of their recent slow tracks at all) and each one is focused on a handful of underwhelming melodies.
Some tracks try to carry “Viktoria” as far as they can, but they do not make up for the bigger part of the record. “Narva” is a legit Marduk track in terms of guitars and tempo, featuring a rather memorable riff and a great melodic part in the middle, that brought some Marduk atmosphere to the Marduk album. A feature that has completely been left behind by the band here, sadly. The second track “June 44” is also from the same steel, while the self-titled track features some nice bass lines. On the other hand, a confession would be to say that “Tiger I” is one of the most one-sided and boring tracks Marduk have ever released, which fairly stands for the last track in “Viktoria” as well.
“The Devil’s Song” had a simplistic but effective introduction and it brings some pleasure to listen to it, but it brings me to the next point of the record, which has to do with the lyrics. Marduk have suffered an aneurysm or something by writing such goofy titles for all their tracks, and the whole album’s lyrics are not as good as what we are used by them. Tracks like “Silent Night”, “The Devil’s Song”, these are real titles now? Hopefully, they stuck to names like the city Narva in Estonia (probably referring to the battle of Narva in 1944) and the German tank Tiger I, direct WWII references. “Narva” also has the only lyrics I liked in “Viktoria”. It’s a pity how interesting the subjects here are.
There has been some talk regarding the first track of the record“Werwolf”, which has divided the fans into haters and lovers, it is brought up here because it is a clear failure in terms of lyrics (and it is a compositional failure too), despite the fact that girls singing the chorus is a great idea I approve of.
Furthermore,from the cover it seems like they didn’t spend enough time on it, even though it’s minimal style might attract some of their fans. It’s good to keep in mind that the cover of “Serpent Sermon” was also minimalistic but also had merit, however Viktoria’s cover is too plain and dull.
By adding all these aspects together, it can be assumed that this record is a minor setback for Marduk, who have had a good streak of late albums the last decade. “Viktoria” is a somehow flat record, lacking any atmosphere, with a few good moments only and it actually is the first war-themed Marduk album I didn’t like. After many listens, I think I got used to it and liked some parts more, but comparing with recent stuff it is not at full strength at all, right.