Five years. There hasn’t been this much time between two Marduk studio albums in the 33 years of their existence. Not that the best rested idly in the intermediate period. As always, the band toured relentlessly, and had a drummer and bass player to replace. And there was this little thing called Covid. But finally ‘Memento Mori’ is upon us to deliver the message that we all have to die at some point, spread over ten new acts.
The previous album ‘Viktoria’ was good, but not the band’s greatest. Sure, songs like ‘Narva’, ‘June 44’ and ‘Equestrian Bloodlust’ are very enjoyable, and ‘Werwolf’ seems to have made it as a regular in their live set, but otherwise it didn’t stick as much. It didn’t help that the album was released just after the annihilating ‘Hekatomb’ album by Funeral Mist. Due to vocalist Mortuus’ involvement in both bands, the comparison between the two albums was inevitable and ‘Viktoria’ simply fell short. But not only that, it had to follow in my opinion one of the best Marduk albums, ‘Frontschwein’ from 2015, and didn’t quite reach the same level.
While the band is still looking for the right bass player to fill the vacant spot, on ‘Memento Mori’ new drummer Simon ‘Bloodhammer’ Schilling has taken over the drum seat from Fredrik Widigs. The latter brought a style of drumming to the band that exceeded the intense blasting of his predecessors, introducing out of the box rhythms in fantastic tracks like ‘The Blonde Beast’. That Simon is a more than worthy successor however is immediately clear in the opening track. The variation in drum pace independent of the guitar riffs is impressive and adds a great deal of dynamics to the otherwise raging track. The song fluidly goes into the more grooving ‘Heart of the Funeral’ which then continues into the first single, ‘Blood of the Funeral’. That song is arguably one of the highlights on the album, with frantic riffs that remind me of ‘Cockatrice’ and ‘Shedding Skin’ off ‘Hekatomb’, making this song sound the closest that Marduk has ever been to Funeral Mist. Intense blasting, ominous horns and Mortuus that spews out his guts, ending with a grotesque growl that escalates into one of the best midtempo songs Marduk has produced, the second album single ‘Shovel Beats Sceptre’. While ‘Memento Mori’ is an album that contains many tracks at blazing pace, it’s this more colossal, dragging midtempo song that takes the crown as the album apotheosis. As the songs on ‘Memento Mori’ continue to flow into each other, we are ripped from the midtempo catchiness into the more old school and stripped down ‘Charlatan’ that transitions into ‘Coffin Carol’, a song that at least to me has strong resemblance to ‘Fistfucking God’s Planet’ off the infamous ‘Panzer Division Marduk’ album. Following two strong but not as pronounced songs, the next furious banger is ‘Red Tree of Blood’, which matches ‘Blood of the Funeral’ in violent intensity, and perhaps not entirely coincidental, also includes those excellent ominous horns. That the calmer ‘As We Are’ feels a little tame compared to the violence displayed before it we will have to forgive the band at this point.
By now Marduk doesn’t hold many secrets anymore, and ‘Memento Mori’ is through and through a Marduk record. Yes, it has a few more similarities with Funeral Mist, but at the end of the day that is limited to a few songs. To me, it sits somewhere with ‘Plague Angel’, ‘Serpent Sermon’ and ‘Frontschwein’, which I consider their best records in their period with Mortuus at the helm. I wouldn’t call it the best record they have done, but it certainly has all the right riffs, rage, and intensity we have come to expect from Marduk, and in particular the fans of the band’s work with Mortuus will be very pleased with how ‘Memento Mori’ has come out. And, at least in my opinion, it’s a solid step up from ‘Viktoria’.