10/31/2008 - Review by: Etiam
Live metal albums are tricky business. Considering the sheer output of decibels that is critical to the live heavy metal experience, getting high-fidelity tracking on a limited budget (almost always the case) presents manifold issues. Of course, even if one does manage to coax a clear mix from the master tapes, that's no guarantee that it will convey the show's atmosphere, which is the most critical element of all. These concerns are multiplied when the band is performing black metal--a genre so reliant on atmosphere that the line between sound 'so bad it's good' and unmitigated dreck is sometimes nonexistent.
In this respect, if few others nowadays, Marduk are breaking the mold, since 'Warschau', recorded in 2005 in the same city, is the band's third live album. Commemorating the band's 15th anniversary, 'Warschau' boasts a surprisingly good mix that is not too dominated by any one instrument (e.g. often deafening drum triggers), and actually features better production than the band had on some of their early studio work. The bass is slightly less audible, but Marduk always did have a loud low end, and any four-string representation on a live metal record is more than standard.
'Warschau' was taped during the tour cycle for the 'Plague Angel' LP, and consequently features a heavy sampling of its songs. This is a little inconvenient, since few would cite 'Plague Angel' as the band's foremost release, and less room is left for earlier works. The tracklisting breaks down as follows: one from 'Nightwing', 'La Grande Danse Macabre', 'Panzer Division Marduk', 'Dark Endless', and 'Opus Nocturne', three from 'Those of the Unlight' and 'World Funeral', and a whopping six from 'Plague Angel'. None, it is interesting to note, from 'Heaven Shall Burn...' (and also none, of course, from 'Rom 5:12', which was two years in the band's future).
Aside from track listing, another paramount element of live recording is the crowd noise, which on 'Warschau' is rather limited. At some points we can clearly hear the shrieks and chants of 'Mar-duk!' that were surely continuous throughout the night, but in this perennial paradox of live records 'Warschau' errs a little too much on the side of caution. Yes, the crowd is present, but they lack the full-throated sound that gives the best live records their ambiance, and when Mortuus croaks, 'Are we awake tonight, Warsaw?', the lack of audible response is uncomfortable.
As for the band's performance, the members are generally in synch, their performances mostly crisp, and only rarely do they waver around their tempos once the concert passes the 45 minute mark. At the head of the mix, Mortuus sounds absolutely wretched, both during the songs and in his terse addresses to the crowd. Despite Legion's extensive contribution to Marduk's catalogue, most agree that Mortuus is a superlative pickup for the band, and on cuts old to new he proves his worth. His shriek is a bit less ghastly than Legion's, but the malice and pestilence in his voice are perfect for Warschau's grim militancy. In fact, 'Warschau' may be considered a re-recording of sorts for the earliest material with an updated and more experienced lineup.
Though interesting to collectors, this 're-recording' perspective is not all good. To return to 'Burn My Coffin': the song has been shifted up a few steps, the solo has been totally excised, and although it is longer than the original studio version, this is due to a prolonged interlude before the next track. Altogether, 'Warschau' is a decent representation of the band's works, but, frankly, who needs 17 straight tracks (and 68 minutes) of Marduk? Around 'With Satan and Victorious Weapons' (track 12), the show flags a bit in intensity and freshness, and the song progressions begins to sound a little random. For devoted fans of the band, 'Warschau' will no doubt be a grand repast, but for the rest of us it is merely superfluous.
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Cover Link: http://www.spirit-of-metal.com/les%20goupes/M/Marduk/Warschau/Warschau.jpg
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