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Marduk's strength throughout their career has been their unwavering stubbornness. The long-standing Swedish outfit has released a steady stream of uncompromising records and EPs, each one holding fast to Marduk's ideal: spewing forth the ugliest, fastest, nastiest, most blasphemous music humanly possible. Unfortunately, this admittedly admirable goal gets in the way of actual songwriting, the band often preferring to take the blastbeat trail straight to Hell, or nowhere -- whichever comes first. Still, Nightwing is a solid, if often unengaging, listen, worth your time only if you follow along with the lyrics, which offer an intriguing, strangely poetic journey into dark mythology and historical fiction. It's the delivery that lacks punch; too many blurry, simplistic, lightspeed riffs and a monotonous vocal performance take precedence over any potential songwriting dynamics (which the lyrics almost demand). One often wishes that more of Nightwing were like "Slay the Nazarene," memorable for its repeated refrains, and "Dreams of Blood and Iron," which downshifts the tempo for a few minutes, making room for some strong, melodic lead guitar. But for the most part, riffs, verses, choruses, intros, and outros are interchangeable from song to song (possibly album to album, in Marduk's case), and ultimately lack definition. Admirable only for its overall audaciousness, Nightwing is, at best, a fair "true black metal" album (read: no keyboards) with decent production values, but ultimately plays second (or third) fiddle to better releases by fellow Scandinavian hellraisers Mayhem, Emperor, and Immortal.

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