Marduk: Swedish black metal hits Australia

I’m a firm believer in unplanned fun. That is, the less expected a night, event or catch-up is, the greater the likelihood of it turning into a memorable occasion.
Such was the case very recently when I found myself in the city and decided to catch a gig headlined by Swedish black metal masters Marduk. All unplanned of course.
I had been in the CBD to celebrate with my day job work colleagues (yes, I have respectable day-time employment ). The team would be moving back to our now-refurbished suburban office after three or so months of temporary work in the city, so I’d organised a table for a dozen people at Mrs. Parma’s restaurant. This place easily has the best chicken parmas in Melbourne — and a magnificent assortment of micro-brewery beers to boot — and after polishing off a Mexican parma (my favourite) and finally managing to sample the splendid 3 Ravens beer I’d heard so much about, a few of us hardier folk decided to kick on. As soon as we left, we found a bar almost directly next to where we’d just come from, but a few glances between us quickly resulted in a decision not to enter.
To quote a certain popular meme, one does not simply enter the first bar one finds when ‘kicking on’ for the night.

So we bypassed that one and ended up at the Hofbrauhaus, where along with some fine Bier, I felt like a small part of my life had now been successfully fulfilled after I sampled the peach, chocolate and plum schnapps.
Sensing that the night was drawing to a close and feeling pretty good about everything so far, we bid our farewells and I headed to the train station. That’s when I spotted some long-haired, black-clad, bullet belt-ridden freaks — not an unusual sight in the city, but there were quite a few of them here, forming a line outside the well-known concert venue that is the The Hi-Fi bar.
Why of course, I remembered. Some Swedish black metal dudes were in town. And they’d be performing. Live. Playing Marduk's new album, 2012’s Serpent Sermon. Would it be… worth catching them live perhaps?
I will preface this by saying that I’m not much of a Marduk fan, at least in the sense that I own and know only one album in the entire Marduk discography: Heaven Shall Burn… When We Are Gathered (along with the accompanying Glorification EP).
So I’m not a huge fan in the sense that I don’t know that many Marduk songs.
On the other hand, Heaven Shall Burn… is one of my favourite metal albums of all time. Released in 1996, it has some of the best black metal I’ve ever heard. Tracks like Glorification Of The Black God, The Black Tormentor Of Satan and the simple-yet-utterly-awesome (and exceedingly difficult to pronounce) slow epic that is Dracul Va Domni Din Nou In Transilvania — these tracks rock my socks of every time I hear them, though I’m sure the true kvlt haters out there will disagree.

The best Marduk album I’ve ever heard. It’s also the only one I’ve ever heard.

So basically I love this one release and don’t know any other Marduk albums. Since I also love a lot of black metal in general I figured I’d call a mate, Nick, to find out if, just on the off chance, he might be attending tonight. It turned out he was, so we caught up five minutes later and I was at the door shelling out cash for a ticket.
But then… I quickly realised that I was confronted with a problem. As mentioned previously, I’d come directly from work. Here I was at an extreme underground black metal music gig and I was quite literally the only person there dressed in business shoes and corporate slacks. At least my (I’m told) expensive and genuinely non-knock-off Tommy Hilfiger polo shirt which I wear on special occasions (like social events with work colleagues) was black. Nonetheless, my heavy metal cred wouldn’t cop this for long. I quickly bee-lined to the Marduk merch table and acquired an Australian Tour Marduk shirt, which incidentally, in a dejected gesture of defeat, I exchanged five minutes later for the next size up. I might have to cut down on those lovely Mexican parmas…

The first band on the bill played what you might say had an ‘acquired’ taste. Ignivomous played not so much a blend but more of a solid brick of unrelenting, fast, never-ending brutal death metal. Every track was a plutonium-heavy rapid assault which, while I don’t mind in reasonably small doses, wouldn’t suffer from the addition of some variety, hinted at in the occasional creative riff change. Here’s some Ignivomous live video from a previous gig if that’s your cup of tea.
Next was Order Of Orias, a band I’ve seen several times and which I’ve blogged about previously. I rather like Inverse, Order Of Orias’ 2011 debut full-length album. It conveys a strongly fatalistic and malevolent atmosphere (remarkably, said to have been produced on a shoestring budget), even though I’ll concede that I probably couldn’t name most of the tracks from the album if I heard them come on my playlist. I just like chucking on this album — the operative word here being album, rather than individual tracks — and soaking up the bleakness as a whole, which is why at the time of writing this band ranked number 46 on my personal Last FM chart stats out of almost 1600 artists.
As they came on stage their opening track was preceded by an interesting (pre-recorded in this instance I think) somewhat ambient-leaning instrumental track. Nick pointed out that this was from new or in-progress material that he’d heard, describing some of it as “coming from outer space”. I agreed, and if this brief preview is indicative of material to come then surely there’s something here to get excited about.
Then the ‘real’ playing started. They were as tight and heavy as the last time I saw them, while vocalist Anthony, boot perched on the foldback, roared ferocious invocations, as if summoning some elder evil force. This is a band that I’d really like to think is going places. Literally in fact. Last year they played the DeathkultOpen Air festival in Germany. Hopefully when a new album comes out they’ll be doing more of that.

Australian black metal. Or blackened thrash. Or… hell, I can’t keep track of what the kids call it these days.
Order Orias. Live at Marduk. Surely you can tell from the high quality phone pic?

The curveball performance for the night was Portal. Despite the fact that there's a relatively long Wikipedia entry for Portal, an attempt to describe this band’s performance with mere words wouldn’t do justice to what actually occurred. It’s black metal. Death metal. Crazy metal. The below photo, thankfully of a slightly higher quality than the above pic, may give you some idea of what it was all about.
You totally had to be there.

I counted two eight-string guitars. Black hoods on all the members. A five-string bass. Mad drumming. The vocalist’s crazy headdress. And that totally dissonant and crazy, tempo-changing, blast-beatingly over the top dissonant sound that, combined with the intense volume, transformed the whole spectacle into a creeping blanket of occult noise.
Also, did I mention that they did their entire performance in that attire?
Yet despite the cacophony there appeared to be some intense musicianship going on here. Alas, if only I could hear it! I closely watched one of the guitarists and his hands slid up and down his instrument like some deranged octopus. “There’s some technical shit right there,” Nick pointed out.
The video below might somehow convey the overall effect, despite the loud volume completely obliterating the audio on my phone. I do feel that if Portal’s stage presence had been any less over the top then it’d be easy to dismiss them as laughable and gimmicky. Which admittedly, to some people, may very much be the case.
As it was, for those who dig it, the combination of technical musicianship (whether that’s your cup of tea or not), extreme volume, and impossible-to-look-away-from stage presence combined into what may best described as an overwhelming force that twisted things into another dimension.

Black metal TISM.

Finally Marduk hit the stage. Or rather, assailed it, blasting away and playing furiously to a whole bunch of songs that I would have almost certainly appreciated even more if I recognised even one of them. Alas, not a single cut from Heaven Shall Burn… When We Are Gathered was played that night. Still, I wasn’t complaining.
Mortuus, Marduk’s vocalist, showed himself to be an accomplished front-man, invoking the crowd into not so much a frenzy, to use that old cliché, but rather, a decent and vigorous amount of movement and head banging for those at the front and centre who chose to do so.
It was a contrast to the comparatively sedate motions of guitarist Morgan. You wouldn’t think he was the band’s founder and sole continuous member since Marduk’s uniquely-named first release (find it here — note: the album artwork at this link is NOT even remotely worksafe), or that he was a talented multi-instrumentalist. It didn’t stop him from playing all those killer black metal guitar riffs though.
It was also good to see this stompin’ evil Swedish black metal band show what resembled a sense of humour. At one point, Mortuus commanded the crowd to make some noise. The response was instantaneous, but he pulled a face and did a so-so gesture with his hand. He then commanded the crowd to try again. No, it wasn’t the funniest of stand-up comedy routines. But in comparison, the previous band performed an entire set draped in black hoods. So at least there was something resembling rapport…

Marduk live. Black metal goes Down Under.

The gig ended with an encore and as we stepped outside I instantly regretted not bringing ear plugs. For a full day afterwards all sounds were draped in an uncomfortably familar and unhealthy muffled filter.
So I went home, content in the knowledge that, at least for this week, I’d done my bit for heavy metal. I went to the gig. I supported the local Australian metal scene. I bought the World Serpent tour shirt. I even got a Marduk patch to add to my Iron Maiden jacket.
My only regret? Other than neglecting to use earplugs and suffering from tinnitus all weekend?
That awesome Mexican chicken parma. Much as I love ’em with all my stomach, they forcibly make themselves felt again the next day.
Not everyone has this reaction I hope (I’m not very big on chilli and spicy food) but in my case I’m certain it’s due to those jalapeno slices. I find them hotter than the blasphemous hellfire found in so many Marduk lyrics. And I got to relive — or is that relieve — it all again the next morning right after my first coffee…

1 comment:

  1. Wicked, thanks for sharing man, we didn't get any of those OZ support bands here by the way.
    I really want to try that damn chicken too :p \m/