PRAISE HELL SATAAAAAAANNN! Subtle as a sledgehammer and faster than a speeding bullet, Marduk are back with 'Live In Germania' proving that real men do it on stage. Heaven burned when Gregory Whalen and Morgan H‹kansson were gathered.
No Sleep Till Helvete
Darkness. Evil. Blood. Chaos. Hate. Brutality. Leather. Spikes. Mayhem (capitalisation optional). Hell. Transylvania. NorrkÓping. All of which combine to equal Marduk. Arguably the most respected Swedish Black Metal band since Bathory, this unholy fraternity has been wreaking havoc for the best part of a decade. Uncompromisingly extreme yet devastatingly precise, their music is the soundtrack to Ragnarok, a one-way ticket to the lake of eternal fire. In a recent Isten, Mikko Mattila kicked around the idea of Marduk being from the "'fuck shit up' school of Black Metal ideology". When I put this to guitarist and founding member Morgan H‹kansson, who also plays in Abruptum, he is at first a little nonplussed ("And just what the hell is that supposed to mean?") But when I explain to him that Mikko probably meant something like Total Attack, he goes on to illustrate the point beautifully:
"Yeah, we're just full power! I hate all this moody shit! Well, of course I like moody things, but the Black Metal scene is now f***ing more wimpy than ever! I mean, all these shitty romantic bands playing so wimpy that I nearly want to puke! The aggression is dead. F***, there is more aggression in Death Metal these days! What happened to Black Metal? It's getting more and more wimpy all the time, with all this melodic shit. It sticks in my throat! Black Metal is meant to be Satanic, but it isn't anymore, it's just wimpy! There are too many of these bands - I won't name any names - that are screwing things up by using keyboards and female vocals. We will never do anything like that. We will only get more and more extreme!"
A progression which has been evident over the course of Marduk's four studio albums to date and which is crystalized on their latest release 'Live In Germania'. As well as providing a detailed overview of the band's discography, the record is a testimony to the sheer violence of the Swedes' live presentation.
"We had planned to call the album 'The Black Years'," Morgan explains, "but then Sodom released their 'Ten Black Years' compilation. We recorded 18 shows on our last tour, and when we came home and listened to it all we discovered that the German shows came out best, so we decided just to use material from Germany and changed the album title to 'Live In Germania'. Germany is one of the best places for us as we have most of our fans there, so you could say it's a tribute to them."
Our man Wagner was so right when he casually observed, roughly halfway through his review of 'Germania' last issue, that "This is Armageddon". Couldn't have put it better myself. Pure F***ing Armageddon!
"Yeah, Pure F***ing Armageddon. I like that," says Morgan. "And believe me, our live shows will only get worse. We have some really good ideas for our next tour, you'll see!"
Ask Morgan to describe a typical Marduk performance and he will sum up the experience with the succinct eloquence of the best party-political soundbite:
"Blood Fire Death."
"That is honestly the best description. Full power! Full speed ahead, you know?"
Take it from me - he is not lying. I know. I've been there, dodging fists and spikes and spiked fists, face-in-sweaty-German-armpit, head-in-bass-bin. Admittedly, Marduk's support slot at Mayhem's comeback show in June was not the greatest gig they have ever played ("Not everything was shit," Morgan concedes, "but for example the backline sucked. We have far better equipment in our own rehearsal room!"), but still - Satan doesn't need a good PA. And it is obvious when a band is in their element.
"I think it's important to play live," the axeman opines. "I mean, Metal was made to be played live. In the studio, you lay down the drums and bass and can sit around and work with everything, but when you play live you are a total unit, everything is together. And when you are in the crowd you feel the full power of the music."
The sentiment that a Metal band that don't play live ain't no Metal band at all has oft been expressed round these parts ('sup Andrew?). To a degree, I can go along with that. No matter how cool it is to sit home with 'A Blaze In The Northern Sky' coming at you over your headphones, I personally would much prefer to be screaming for 'In The Shadow Of The Horns' down the front at an actual Darkthrone show (even though the band did play a one-off 30 minute set in Oslo back in '95). Misanthropy only gets you so far. Indeed, Black Metal's widespread absence from the gig circuit is probably one of the main reasons why the rest of the "proper" Metal scene finds it so hard to take the music seriously. Morgan agrees:
"Bands that don't play live often have some very bad excuses. The truth is that most Black Metal bands suck. That's the way it is, and it's totally horrid that there are so many bad musicians in the scene. Most of these bands don't play live simply because they can't handle their instruments. These days people drown their music in effects that they cannot reproduce live. They can only work in the studio when they can use keyboards and get in session musicians to do everything for them. I mean, we would never record anything on album that we cannot play live, and that's the way it should be! Of course, some bands have specific reasons why they don't play, but most of the time they're just talking shit."
Like "We don't want any trendy kids at our shows..."?
"Yeah, well, if they don't want to play in front of trendy kids, it's the same trendy kids who buy their albums, so it's a load of shit!"
What about Abruptum?
"That's a totally different thing, but that could also be performed live. It would be one of the most unpleasant experiences ever."
Morgan doesn't do pleasant, see. Ain't in the Marduk vocabulary. They're all nice guys, of course, but only towards people like you and me. As far as they're concerned, the rest of the world can f*** off. Understandably, the normal everyday folks of NorkÓpping are not exactly held in high regard by the band and vice versa.
"We usually hang out by ourselves and rehearse a lot," the guitarist explains. "There's not so much to do here. Fortunately, we have some quite good surroundings here. Lots of thick forests, old graveyards and ruins. Usually we just go out into the countryside and drink somewhere."
Are your surroundings a source of inspiration?
"No, I wouldn't say that we are one of those 'woods' bands. I certainly don't get any inspiration from sitting in a forest and looking stupid! Of course, the inspiration that is everlasting is the hatred of Christianity and all it represents. That's a never-ending source of inspiration for us."
Do you honestly think it's such a problem that it has to be crushed?
"There will always be a problem as long as there are Christians."
Will there come a time when there will be an actual conflict?
"No, I think Christianity will eventually end by itself. But when I say we are waging a war against Christianity, I mean a symbolic war. You can never go to war against Christianity. Of course you can try, but it'd be pointless. You can only do it symbolically and awaken people's minds. At least if 20,000 people buy our records they will be inspired to do something about it. Spreading the message is about as much as you can do for the time being."
And spreading the message is what Marduk do best. It would be foolhardy to assume that 'Live In Germania' is in any way an opportunity to step back and take a breather. This is no stop-gap release to keep the record company happy and the fans contented ÷ la 'Decade Of Aggression' or 'Entangled In Chaos'. The Marduk juggernaut continues to hurtle along the highway to hell at 666mph, despite the difficulties the band have experienced in finding a permanent second guitarist. Aided and abetted by their producer Peter T—gtgren on recent tours and with a view to recruiting former Necrophobic/Dark Funeral six-stringer David "Blackmoon" Parland at some point in the future, the band will enter The Abyss studio as a four-piece next month to record their fifth album. Scheduled for a winter release, the opus will, according to Morgan, pick up where last year's 'Heaven Shall Burn... When We Are Gathered' left off.
"Musically, the new material is quite similar," he reveals. "But it's a step forward - more aggressive and faster, as usual. The next album will be called 'Nightwing' and it will be divided into two chapters. Chapter One will contain four tracks. They are traditional Marduk songs, very fast and aggressive. Chapter Two will be the continuing story of the track 'Dracul Va Domni Din Nou In Transilvania' from 'Heaven Shall Burn'. That will be four or five songs. On the 'Dracul' track we told the story of Vlad Tepes' first seven years of life, and this will be the continuation of the story until his death in 1776. It will be very massive. We also have some heavier parts on that one, but those will be compensated for by the album after that..."
Which will be called 'Panzer Division Marduk', unless I am very much mistaken.
"Yes! That will be the most extreme album ever released! Total aggression, full speed ahead! No heavy parts, no double bass drum, just fast! That will be a real statement for what we are all about."
Darkness. Evil. Blood. Chaos. Hate...
Sweden's Shadow Records are in the process of releasing the Marduk back catalogue as limited picture discs and plan to issue the band's 1991 EP 'Here's No Peace' on mini-CD and 10" picture disc.
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