Marduk has been on the frontlines of black metal since their inception back in 1990. Originally starting to be “the most blasphemous band on the planet”, they cranked albums with a total blast and burn type attitude. Relentless tremolo picking with machine gun firing drums for the duration of each 30 minutes that an album would take up, eventually meeting at that climatic 1999 record, Panzer Division Marduk. However, two albums later the band would make a pretty dramatic shift in approach to song writing as they appeared to take the foot off the gas pedal for a few tracks on the World Funeral record. This change in direction has remained constant and, in my opinion, achieved perfection on 2012’s, Serpent Sermon. Now for the 14th time in full length form, Sweden’s herald Satanists are back with the masterful, Frontschwein.

They say a fine wine gets better with age and that’s something that can be equally said about Marduk. As much as I’m a fan of the blistering intensity with any lack of forgiveness that is the Panzer Division album, I have grown to appreciate the band a lot more when they backed off a little. Songs like Christraping Black Metal and Fistfucking God’s Planet will always be good tunes to go back in for that unapologetic feeling but I feel that Marduk truly shines when they slow the pace down. Songs like Bleached Bones and Night Of Long Knives up until the more recent World Of Blades have been some of my favorite songs and they are ones that don’t rely on going 250bpm’s. And that sentiment is present for this record as well. While songs like the album’s title track and the ferocious Rope Of Regret will satisfy the listeners desire for the music equivalent of a battering ram, it’s songs like Wartheland and Between The Wolf-Packs where the band truly crushes. Both tracks plod along at a mid-pace that gives way for more developed riffs and allows for a more experimentation with eerie melodies. With Mortuus sounding like a demon with blood dripping out of his mouth for every syllable, it’s these slowed down songs that he gets to truly command the mic. His words are more drawn out and that makes each sound he makes stay with you longer and forces you to feel the evil.

Much like the growth in songwriting, the lyrics have even progressed a ton since the early days. It’s not all “Fuck Me Jesus” and “Hail Satan” on this record as it hasn’t been for most of the past few records. Although explicit anti-Christians, Marduk appear to be experts on the bible and have used it as inspiration through its heavily violent themes and incorporated those tales into their own lyrics. Kind of like showing the hypocrisy of the “peaceful” religion that Christianity tries to portray itself as. However, on this outing, for the first time since Panzer Division, this album is mostly a war themed full length. It’s a much different animal than the previous records that relied on talking about all things religion based. It’s a refreshing directional change and although a familiar topic in World War II, these lyrics are far more developed and mature than previous albums. It’s not so much just about shouting the lyrics as it is about telling the story.

Frontschwein may not be my favorite record in the band’s storied history but it’s certainly a really good one. It continues on most of the ideas that Serpent Sermon presented but at times the band seems a little less into it as they did on their previous outing. However, even when I get the impression that they might be half phoning it in, they are still doing it better than most of their peers and definitely better than a lot of those who try to immolate them. In Frontschwein, Marduk continues to prove they are an absolute force in the black metal community.