Opus Nocturne

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Marduk has always been the Swedish blastaholic cousin of the '90s Norse underground scene, the group stripping itself down to the four basic elements of extreme metal -- drums, guitar, bass, tortured rasps -- while staring down their crooked, stubborn, corpse-painted noses at all the black metal pantywaists cradling their keyboards and speed-limit signs. Obviously, restraint was an underutilized entry in Marduk's dictionary, and the band's hard-headed approach resulted in many albums like Opus Nocturne (the third full-length in a seemingly endless discography), which offers a few inspired moments -- an anthemic riff here, a bleak lyrical turn-of-the-screw there -- amidst a blurry avalanche of blastbeat-ridden deathrashola. Grandiose midtempo slog "Materialized in Stone" and artsy-fartsy, classically influenced, spoken word number "Opus Nocturne" (a bit of a stretch, yes, but admirable within the context of Marduk's output) are the standouts here, while "Sulphur Souls," "Autumnal Reaper," and too many others race by like highway traffic, occasionally meriting a reactionary nod or shrug, but little else. Sure, Marduk is worthy of some acclaim, having carried the flag for no-bones-about-it, punch-in-the-nose black metal since the early '90s, but the band always struggled to put together a consistently memorable album -- especially one that didn't use blastbeats as an ever-present creative crutch. Opus Nocturne, unfortunately, is no different.

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