Marduk

support Attic + Unlight
author AP date 11/12/19 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

A year of concerts comes to an end again, and in a stroke of irony — given that the month is December — the bands on the bill represent the unholiest corner of metal. Indeed, the genre does not get much more controversial, let alone extreme than Marduk, who, over the past few years, have become one of the prime targets for Antifa thanks to their lyrical universe and a 1995 interview in which guitarist Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson unapologetically owned up to an anti-immigration standpoint. But despite a feeble attempt by Antifa to pressure Pumpehuset into canceling the band’s concert tonight, the venue’s downstairs room looks to be nearly at its maximum capacity when I arrive, with perfectly ordinary metalheads with no other motive than to appreciate the trio of blasphemic artists on the bill.


Unlight

The first of these, Unlight from the Schwarzwald region of Germany, have the appearance and sound of a pretty classic black metal band of the Norwegian school of thought, albeit, as it turns out, with a solid helping of thrash metal influences loaded into their songs as well. As the title track to the group’s 2016 album “Antihelion” is aired, I am reminded of Aura Noir in particular, with drummer Lord Grond laying down a blistering rhythm and the two guitarists, Blaspherion & Raptus, whipping out a mixture of neat, scaling melodies and dense chug-based riffs. But while there is nothing wrong with the music or the way in which it is delivered, Unlight do have problems getting the audience onboard except for a couple of standout tracks toward the end, one of which mimics the epic proportions of an Amon Amarth piece coloured black. Most of the band’s music is too traditional, and too derivative of the genre’s greats to win over hearts and minds here, but fortunately, in spite of the generic nature of music, the German quartet have an ace up their sleeve: the aforementioned Lord Grond. In virtually every song the band airs here, it is the quality of his fills, as well as the combination of velocity and complexity in his patterns, that ensures Unlight are able to maintain a high standard throughout and avoid transferring into oblivion as soon as their concert has ended. The band has existed since 1997 and have seven albums to their name thus far, yet I have never come across them before tonight… which might be a consequence of their holding too firmly onto convention and tradition instead of attempting to forge their own fortune with a unique and interesting take on black metal.

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Attic

Next up is another German outfit with less years and fewer albums to their name, yet they raise the bar already with their opening track. Attic are not really a black metal band at all; their style is rather inspired by the likes of King Diamond, Mercyful Fate and, to an extent, Powerwolf. The melodies, often built from twin leads played by the two guitarists, Tim Katteluhn & Max Werner, have the epic sound of heavy and power metal, yet the tone is quite dark and themes the band explores have to do with horror, occultism and satanism. With scented candle crowns on stage and vocalist Meister Cagliostro’s wearing corpse paint as the only member, Attic are clearly not trying to obscure their influences, and indeed when the fantastic “Satan’s Bride” off the group’s début album, 2012’s “The Invocation” is aired, no one can be left doubting that these Germans are happily and shamelessly idolising the aforementioned King Diamond. But while none of this is particularly original, Attic nonetheless manage to entice nigh everyone in the room, thanks to their flamboyant, theatrical showmanship and well written songs. Katteluhn & Werner, as well as bassist Christoph Erdmann, wield their axes with the same kind of bravado as their counterparts in both Slægt and Tribulation, while Meister Cagliostro’s ghostly movement, demonic howls and addressing the audience are like pages out of King Diamond’s performance manual. “This next one is a cosy little song for your evening prayers…”, he snarls eerily before “There Is No God” off 2017’s “Sanctimonious” is aired, unleashing another barrage of heavy metal excess unto an audience who are clearly loving every bit of it. I am, too — against expectation — and I suspect it is because Attic have succeeded in creating a mixture of heavy and power metal that is extreme in spite of its melodicism, and dramatic but never pompous. A positive surprise which drives me to make a note of keeping an eye on this band in the future.

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Marduk

With camouflage netting covering the amp stacks representing the only semblance of theatrics on stage, Marduk have made it clear they only know one way: to play black metal without any apologies or embellishments. “Panzer! Division!…”, roars vocalist Mortuus as the quartet emerges from the darkness, and the audience immediately responds with “MARDUK!” to signal the onset of “Panzer Division Marduk”, the eponymous opener from the band’s revered 1999 album. It is delivered in an absolutely blistering rendition, and all of the four musicians look like they could kill, with pure antipathy emanating from their corpse-painted faces. Together with the subsequent “Baptism by Fire” off that same record, it produces a ferocious start to a concert in which mercy is neither given nor expected, as Marduk invite us into their world of devastation and darkness themed around the Germany of World War II. Black metal has taken an interest in experimenting in recent years, but this Norrköping-based mob is having none of that, preferring instead to challenge the very definition of extreme with drumming so fast, and guitar riffs so jarring that the likes of “The Levelling Dust”, taken from 2007’s “Rom 5: 12”, sound borderline inhuman. Truly, Marduk capture the spirit of black metal from a time when it still was considered dangerous and thereby something of an acquired taste.

Bearing witness to the commanding and nigh demagogic showmanship of Mortuus and the rest of the pack certainly lends some backing to the idea that black metal in its true form still remains ugly and threatening. Even when the bulldozing approach is tempered somewhat to make way for a sardonic disco beat by drummer Simon ‘BloodHammer’ Schilling in “The Blond Beast” (off 2015’s “Frontschwein”), it feels like at any moment, murderous desires might overcome one or all of the musicians, and send one of the attendees here to the undertaker. It is an ominous atmosphere then, but it seems to instill in the crowd an atmosphere of roaring ecstasy, especially when older tracks like “Wolves” from Marduk’s 1993 album “Those of the Unlight”, not to mention “The Black…” off 1992’s “Dark Endless” are aired in the end of the onslaught. It is thus not only the theme of Marduk’s lyrical universe that has a militaristic feel about it; it is also the music itself, which often sounds like the battlefield in an all-out war, with Devo’s bass guitar mimicking the deep rumble of explosions and BloodHammer’s drumming honestly sounding no different from automatic gunfire most of the time. With so much of the new black metal bands focusing on nature and nihilism, an inventing ever more melodic approaches to realise these themes, one sometimes forgets that ‘trve’ black metal still exists. It is thus good that we have bands like Marduk to punish us for our trespasses.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Panzer Division Marduk
  • 02. Baptism by Fire
  • 03. Werwolf
  • 04. Of Hell’s Fire
  • 05. The Levelling Dust
  • 06. Cloven Hoof
  • 07. Throne of Rats
  • 08. Burn My Coffin
  • 09. Equestrian Bloodlust
  • 10. The Blond Beast
  • 11. Into Utter Madness
  • 12. Wolves
  • 13. The Black…

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