Marduk- Iron Dawn

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Marduk has a tendency to be known as one of those black metal bands that only goes full steam ahead on every release, but in recent years they have branched out a bit. Rom 5:12 and Wormwood both found the long-running Swedish black metal group slowing things down at key moments to build a thick and oppressive atmosphere in between their usual blitzkrieg assaults, and it made a strong impression on me. 2012’s Serpent Sermon found Marduk returning to the faster blasting while still incorporating some noticeable variation to their songwriting, continuing to demonstrate that they can still offer enough substance. In between Wormwood and Serpent Sermon, they released a three-song EP titled Iron Dawn, which I missed out on back when it originally came out. This quick thirteen and a half minute release comes closer to Panzer Division Marduk and the war themed black metal these guys were known for previously, and in the short release format provides a quick burst of intensity while avoiding the usual issue of repetition.

The first two tracks on Iron Dawn go for all out violence and speed, hitting the listener with some of the fastest blast beats that Marduk has done in recent memory. It’s a return towards the pure assault on the senses type of black metal where the blasts only let up for a brief minute to throw in a quick transition or two. There’s a very similar construction between the two pieces, and the end of the first blends right into the second which can sometimes make it hard to tell when you have switched over to another song. On a longer full length this could be an issue as repetition would set in fairly quickly, but on the shorter EP format it works in Marduk’s format as you could take “Warschau 2: Headhunter Halfmoon” and “Wacht am Rhein: Drumbeats of Death” as one piece and find a lot to like about it. I have to give the nod to the latter though, as the brief melodic transitions that throw just a hint of thick atmosphere into the warlike assault really got under my skin. “Prochorovka: Blood and Sunflowers” is where the instrumentalists slow things down slightly and go back towards the thick, oppressive tonality from their last two full lengths. It didn’t stick with me quite as much as the previous two songs, but does demonstrate that even on an EP this isn’t a band that simply goes for the same exact riff over and over again.

Mortuus has been a great addition to Marduk since Legion’s departure in 2003, and over the years his vocals have started to hit some higher registers and become even more deranged and intense. Iron Dawn’s faster assault gives him the perfect backdrop for this, and in addition to his usual mid-range pitch there are some abrasive snarls and downright scary sounding pitches that he utilizes throughout the three tracks. Mix this with some well integrated sound clips that add to the war atmosphere and you have an impressive vocal performance that instantly catches the listener’s attention. Some of the additional nuances that Mortuus would make greater use of on Serpent Sermon are present here, and it continues to be interesting to see his screams get only more aggressive and bone chilling as the years go on.

I wouldn’t recommend Iron Dawn as a good entry point to anyone new to Marduk’s black metal assault, as the recent full lengths offer more substance and variation, but for established fans that may have missed out on this one when it originally came out in 2011 it’s a worthy listen. The group has been able to channel their war themed black metal from years ago and integrate some of the newer elements that were present on Rom 5:12 and Wormwood to deliver a quick, abrasive assault on the senses. It’s a great example of how to do an EP right, as the shorter length lets Marduk take the intensity to its maximum level without dragging things out for too long.

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