Label: Century Media Records
Date: September 1st, 2023
As one of black metal’s best-sellers, undisputed classics and founding fathers, Marduk has delivered time and again. However, amazingly, I fail to bring upon my memory an instance in which the public was so unanimously glorifying a release, as it is a case with “Memento Mori”. It brought my own hopes up, though the first glance upon the very titles of the second and third track on this record called for caution. “Marching Bones” also brought recollection with the Swedes’ past (were they bleached really good before going for a march?). Inspiration blow-out after more than three decades? Possible, but let’s see.
Right off the bat, there’s the title track which demonstrates the well-established Marduk ferocity, their trademark. Just so you know where you’ve landed. Followed by the “funeral duo”, these tracks are clear indicators of a band set in its way. The idea of unrelenting violence prevails, though with clear direction, straightened by the instrumentation which is an indicator that we’re dealing with an experienced group. The pieces that comprise these songs are quite catchy, though for the most part scathing along the “less is more” principle.
Where it gets really interesting, is the second single off “Memento Mori”. A stunningly cinematic “Shovel Beats Sceptre”. Along with the somewhat less successful “Charlatan” which dawns at its finale, these are carrying the weight of the album. Not that they are the only two worthy of second thought, because the record is creatively spread out quite even. They are the ones which best portray what “Memento Mori” is all about. Fragments of theatricality present on these slow-burners run along the entire album, albeit better hidden behind the primordial fury Marduk always stood for. It is my belief that the Swedes haven’t made such an impact with a track for at least a decade. They’ve done slow, heavy and cryptically diabolical songs before, but this one is an absolute priority when figuring out how to make black metal in such a way that blast-beating is not the key ingredient. Not to mention the eerily grandiose lyrics. Though, this grueling approach to poetry has long been a strongpoint for Marduk, so it comes as no surprise.
The story of this album doesn’t end up on track five, of course. We’re just half way through, but the truth is that these five tracks represent almost everything Marduk has to offer on “Memento Mori”. Traditional crushers and deep, brutal, necrotic hearses. With a special attention to be paid on these “hourglasses”, ticking away warningly. These are present for quite a while in Marduk’s productions, but they seem perfected now. More cinematic approach to classical black metal’s backdrop wins over any and all who waver.
However, the second half of the record gives a few neat touches to the whole. Even as the “Charlatan” gains velocity while reaching its climax, “Coffin Carol” drags us into the slaughterhouse kicking and screaming. But that one is not the one I want to elaborate on. Namely, I would like to point out “Marching Bones” which is sort of combining the two aspects of the record I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Dried-up, skeletal theatrics and brutal aggression, all in one venomous bite.
Not far behind, “Year of the Maggot” continues on the similar path, but with infinitely catchier guitar line hammering the coffin lid. Death metal floods in, making the track a pulverizing blow. And yes, I’m calling it a blow in particular, because the drums are playing tricks on a mind already set in its way.
Another honorable mention is the epitaph of “Memento Mori”. A record that clearly revolves around a concept of reminding oneself of his/her own mortality, deservedly ends in an epitaph that reads: “As you are, we once were – as we are, so shall you be.” I suppose these are just guitar effects I hear, but they sound a whole lot like a harmonica. Whatever the case may be, they fit like a glove to a stroll down a forgotten cemetery that ends in Mr. L. G. Petrov calling us from beyond. Yes, you read it correctly, the legendary Mr. Petrov appears as additional vocalist and if that particular part doesn’t give you the creeps, then nothing ever will! What a moment!
Thus, Marduk reminds us that we are mortal. Dust to be. Yet, “Memento Mori” is one for the ages. Swedes have upped the ante and more than delivered. Unbelievable for a band in its fourth decade of existence.