Those of the Unlight
4/25/2008 - Review by: Etiam
Elementary it may be, but it deserves credit for its ambition and obvious passion
Those of the Unlight
Company: Regain Records
Marduk's career spans some 10 full-lengths and nearly 20 years, making them one of the oldest names in Swedish black metal. As they've aged, their name has become synonymous with speed and resiliency at least on par with famed countrymen Dark Funeral. Perhaps even more than their catalogue, Marduk are notable for their consistency.
Despite being the archetypal example of the revolving-door black metal band, each album is balanced and equally driven from front to back. This habit has contributed to Marduk's reputation as predictable or unchanging, but that assessment is only partly accurate; Marduk may exercise little variance in technique within a single album, but across LP's their formula has been known to shift quite dramatically. One such change occurred between the group's debut in 'Dark Endless', which was essentially death metal, and its 1993 follow-up, 'Those of the Unlight', which marks the group's first full foray into black metal and is essentially their second debut.
And in some manners, that inexperience certainly shows. Although the band's arrangements were admittedly more dynamic than most black metal of the early 90's, at this point their songwriting technique was far from mature, and a number of songs are rather aimless (the redundant closure of the title track or the superfluous instrumental 'Echoes From The Past'). It takes distinct breaks from the formula--such as the closing melodic theme of 'On Darkened Wings'--to help the album as a whole seem fresh and dynamic. With these highlights in mind, 'Those...' proves to be a remarkably well realized for such an early effort, combining all the elements so essential to the early Swedish scene. Elementary it may be, but it deserves credit for its ambition and obvious passion.
Following only a year after 'Dark Endless', this album saw the return of Devo, Jocke, and Morgan Håkansson, the band's rock and sole remaining founder, and introduced the inimitable B. War on bass. On might classify this era of Marduk as part Dissection and part 80's thrash (Sodom shirts appear throughout the booklet), with plenty of headbanging riffs and bass breaks. Still, even at this early stage Morgan's distinctive touch is evident and his knack for harmony put to good use. Also notable are the appropriately chilling vocals that hint at Neige-like (Mortifera) shrieks, such as on 'Burn My Coffin', and a surprisingly balanced and modern production quality overall. (Some may be interested to note that 'Those...' was mastered by one "Dawn" Swano.) Though 'Those of the Unlight' is rarely mentioned as Marduk's best work, it boasts a handful of standout tracks and dominated an era where most of Norway's infamous competitors were still in swaddling clothing.