So much has already been said and written about the ridiculously-great ‘Memento Mori’ in the five months or so since its release that it appears almost pointless or futile adding to the universal chorus of approval at this belated (or any other) stage. Then again, as death is the destination that ominously awaits us all as the final act of the dark and delirious danse macabre so powerfully and poignantly evoked hereon, isn’t it all a waste of time and energy, ultimately? Or is the opposite the case? Either way, I have been transfixed, disturbed and consoled in equal measures by the monumental 15th Marduk full-length since it worked its way into my collection, so why not document it?
Of course, in 34 years of existence, Marduk has transcended the underground to emerge as one of the most recognisable, influential and adulated Black Metal bands in the world. Deservedly so, too. The Swedes will go down in history not just as pacesetters but as an enduring force of immense restless energy, creativity and appeal. Amazing to even contemplate that, so deep into their immense journey, the newest release could be their finest to date, but this is a distinct possibility that’s certainly up for debate.
The Mortuus era of Marduk is now 20 years old and counting, a fantastic period that already includes no fewer than seven albums, each one of these a masterpiece in my humble opinion. The youngest spawn from this brood, ‘Memento Mori’, is the one that has resonated with me most, becoming instantly familiar, impacting on myriad levels – musically, philosophically, lyrically and also in terms of the artwork and imagery. From start to finish, the panzer division is at full potency, annihilating all in sight with an uncanny artillery of precision and power than few bands if any can match.
As a continuous piece (which is how every record should be consumed), the album devastates and delights amid a tempestuous blitzkrieg of mercurial Black Metal majesty, but each of the ten death psalms is also a wondrous event in its own right. The mix of violence and immediacy is just perfect, so the record is memorable as fuck and also seems to get better with each repeated listen. When you have been listening to Black Metal for over 30 years, it’s not often that you encounter a new release that’s utterly irresistible in every way. Yet here we are…
Dealing not with fantasy or the devil or hypothetical / metaphysical events or issues, ‘Memento Mori’ focuses fiercely on the most real and horrific subject matter of the lot, one that is a common source of inspiration in Death Metal and Black Metal and which impacts upon all of us: the transience of all living things, the unpredictability (and volatility) of life and the onrushing approach of death. As we get older, death creeps ever closer. It is waiting to claim its victory and cannot be beaten.
Accompanied by stellar artwork, the death-march lyrics are absorbing, fascinating, depressing but also paradoxically uplifting. No song has ever channelled the sinking feeling of time and life slipping away move effectively or evocatively than ‘Shovel Beats Sceptre’ and it is fitting too that this deeply thought-provoking contemplation upon mortality should conclude with the pungent and poignant graveside ode to decay that is ‘As We Are’. So shall you be,