We here at TMO have been graced with many re-releases of albums and the like featuring Morgan Håkansson lately with everything form ABRUPTUM to the early MARDUK albums landing in our ever-growing promo pile. Luckily there’s been no sighting of any DEVIL’S WHOREHOUSE re-issues (I think the world can be spared that…). So, here we go with MARDUK’s ’94 effort “Opus Nocturne”…
I must admit that MARDUK only became a vital act for me after they released the great “Heaven Shall Burn…” Everything before that is serviceable but not really worth losing your head (or ears) over. Their early stuff might have bustled the bushes a bit but with albums like the aforementioned “Heaven…” and especially “Nightwing” they burned the fucking house down. And just on a side note: the new opus “Rom 5:12” sounds killer!
OK, so it’s 1994 – DARKTHRONE had just put out the grim-as-fvck “Transilvanian Hunger”, MAYHEM’s “De Mysteriis..” finally dropped and IMMORTAL were still destroying everything in their path with “Pure Holocaust”. In neighboring Sweden MARDUK released… this. I don’t know if it’s just me but this album is far from an essential Black Metal listen. “Opus Nocturne” (meant to imply the sounds of the night) is a very average release from a band that would go on to much better things just a few years later – the 9 songs here (this re-issue includes a few more rehearsal versions as bonus material) are mostly fast-paced, blast-beat driven Black Metal that feature melodic touches that are, unfortunately, buried underneath all the fuzz and blasting. After the obligatory organ intro proceedings are kicked off with “Sulphur Souls” and it is an instantly forgettable track. The riffs are unassuming and the drums are run-of-the-mill. Not a good start. Things get marginally better with the following “From Subterranean Thrones Profound”, a 7 minute journey of dark tremolo picking and subtle but effective little bass runs. It goes on a little too long for its own good but it is not too bad at the end of the day.
“Autumnal Reaper” is a shorter, more direct song with some of the catchiest riffs on the album but it all whizzes past in no time. “Materialized In Stone” is another good song and the main reason for this is its slower tempo (allowing more of the emotional tone in the riffs to shine through all the mire) and the inventive tom fills courtesy of Fredrik Andersson. From here on the album falls into a singular groove with none of the remaining songs really being able to stand on their own. The title track is a semi-instrumental that features the odd clean spoken line and the closer (“The Sun Has Failed”) has a reasonably OK main riff but nothing to back it up. The songs have a solid foundation but the band just needed to inject more spirit into the songs. Now they just all kind of fall flat and as such they definitely don’t have replay value.
The production is a bit shoddy but the instrumentation is audible enough (a plus point is that the bass is not drowned out), and Andersson is a monster behind the kit. Like I said these songs just don’t move me in the way I want (and need) Black Metal to move me. It’s all very orthodox fare and unless you’re a MARDUK fanatic I really can’t recommend this to anyone.
Mission status: objective not met… yet.
(Online June 3, 2007)