Essential Black Metal Listening: MARDUK Opus Nocturne
As February is upon us, it's an excellent time to reflect on Black Metal History. Black Metal, the subgenre that is still bringing surprises today as more bands experiment and challenge the traditional sound and purpose of black metal. It's always good to kick back and enjoy a traditional album that was created by the "most blasphemous band in the world".
Marduk needs little introduction to most metal fans. Formed in 1990, and still active today, Opus Nocturne is their third album that was released in 1994. Opus Nocturne is arguably one of the band's best albums released, and although the band is still putting out solid music (my review) Opus Nocturne remains a cornerstone in the timeline of black metal. Given the fact that Marduk is from Sweden, their quality of black metal is rarely questioned. With lyrical themes of anti-Christianity, Satanism, and, later in their career, the third Reich, it's no wonder the dark atmosphere created is so authentic.
The lead guitar is the driving force on this album. Before Marduk adopted the blistering blast beats we normally hear today, we had dark prologues of wondering eerie riffs that led the listener to the destination the band hoped for. A dark, depressing, and hopeless state. An excellent example of this is the title track "Opus Nocturne". Many leading guitar segments are extremely fast, while others are rythmatic, and accompany the drums while adjusting to the altering tempo and eventually leading away to climatic riffs while all being distinguishing and original.
The drums sound excellent, and the toms especially have an odd, but catchy sound to them. From blast beats to endless fills that will demand replays, the drumming delivers that dark, rolling atmosphere when coupled with the guitar and harsh, agonizing vocals. This delivers an unparallel mood. The vocals were performed by Joakim Göthberg, who also performed on the drums. They are less harsh than some of the other vocalists Marduk has enrolled, and one of my personal favorites when it comes to black metal.
If you have read other black metal reviews I have written, you know I'm fairly picky when it comes to the production of the album. This, in my opinion, can make or break the album. Where too many times, production is made to define the sound rather than accompany and contribute to the sound. Opus Nocturne does an excellent job in using the production to contribute to the sound and mood of the album. Far too often, I have heard music that sounds as if it were tape recorded and every instrument was playing at once. Yes, I get the minimalistic approach and the pride in individuals making their own cheap music, going against the norms etc. A properly produced album can go a long way in setting the mood, and this is where Opus Nocturne excels.
This album is an excellent choice when looking for some classic black metal to enjoy. It holds its own against the plethora of imitators and will continue to be a timeless album. Lock yourself in the cellar, and crank Opus Nocturne to get the full experience.