Sonically, Marduk's fourth full-length album, Heaven Shall Burn...When We Are Gathered, was a step forward for the Swedish black metallers; this 1996 session boasted a cleaner, sharper production than their three previous albums. But stylistically, Marduk were still Marduk, and that meant an unwavering commitment to pummeling, skull-crushing black metal. Marduk had no interest in expanding their stylistic horizons, and they sounded like they were oblivious to the possibilities of the more nuanced and rapidly growing symphonic black metal style (black metal's equivalent of melodic death metal). Heaven Shall Burn does not run away from Marduk's limitations; in fact, it celebrates them, which is a big part of the album's charm and explains why black metal purists hold the disc in high regard. Purists, it has often been argued, are the folks who do everything they can to hold a genre or style of music back creatively, but purists -- on the other hand -- will respond that they are the ones who fight to keep a genre or style of music from becoming watered down. And while it is silly and small-minded for black metal purists to trash Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir for not sounding exactly like Marduk, there is no question that Heaven Shall Burn offers an exhilarating and inspired, if predictable, dose of hammer-to-the-skull bombast. When Regain Records reissued this album in 2007, several bonus tracks were added; although the credits don't mention when or where they were recorded, they are presumably demos and will interest Marduk's fans (even though they lack the stronger production of the main tracks). Better sounding and more consistent than its predecessors, 1996's Heaven Shall Burn was Marduk's best album up to that point, limitations, predictability and all.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson