As you probably know, Swedish black metal veterans Marduk today unleash their latest opus Viktoria upon the unsuspecting metal public. But enough with the pleasantries, Viktoria is out today, and it’s the latest in a long line of very questionable expressions of far-right sympathies on behalf of the band.
In the current political climate, Marduk, arguably one of the biggest and longest standing black metal acts around, would never outright condone Neo-Nazism or reveal sympathies or beliefs to that end, but a look at the tracklisting for Viktoria seems to betray some considerable sympathy for the Nazi war machine, and this isn’t the first time the band have done this either (more on that in a sec). SORRY, did we just say sympathy? We meant deeply researched historical analysis. Of course, appropriating the Iron Cross for use in photo-shoots is, of course, an integral part of any and all historical research and nothing at all to do with veneration of the Third Reich. However, in 2007 the band did pretty blatantly venerate Nazi war criminal Reinhard Heydrich on ‘The Hangman Of Prague’.
From the get-go, Marduk’s latest album (the follow up to 2015’s Third Reich-themed effort Frontschwein) is named Viktoria and features a cover in the style of a 1940s Nazi propaganda poster. The album incorporates songs with titles such as ‘Werwolf’ (which implies a STRONG HISTORICAL INTEREST in the last ditch SS units who stayed behind to attempt to resist Allied occupation in Germany after hostilities ceased in July 1945), ‘June ’44’ and of course, ‘Tiger 1’. All of these song titles perhaps represent an unbalanced historical interest, specifically in the downfall of the Third Reich (specifically references to Operation Werwolf and D-Day) and in this fashion perhaps Viktoria is a musical manifestation of that timeless black metal trope of violent, nihilistic defeat of the human spirit.
Whilst out of context, it might be permissible to give Marduk a pass and perhaps just leave them to it, because as we all know, Neo-Nazism is a personal freedom and an ideology enshrined in free speech (as many on the far-right would have us believe), in context, Viktoria is yet another nail in the group’s Iron Cross-adorned coffin. Marduk’s saga of problematic veneration of the Nazi war machine began almost 20 years ago. In 1999 the band released Panzer Division Marduk – arguably still a fun album to listen to, if you remove the problematic appropriation of the Nazi war machine into the context of a pulverising satanic armoured division, hellbent on, at one point, ‘Fistfucking God’s Planet’ (violent pornographic imagery is a must-have in edge-laden black metal). Since the release of this album, the band have since been fighting off accusations of far-right sympathy left, right and centre.
Whilst this next point is a somewhat contentious one, and admittedly, is the result of an unofficial hack (and, admittedly, the one source we have is not well verified), it is an interesting one in the context of the narrative and, if true, it’s arguably the biggest finger pointing at Marduk. To put it briefly, the names of two of Marduk’s current members appeared on a leaked distro list for the Neo-Nazi Northern Resistance Movement and whilst the purchase of questionable holocaust denial literature could (not that it should) be explained away as research or as an interest in “history”, the purchase of leaflets proclaiming that “”Swedish people” must reclaim power from the “global Zionist elite” is a pretty damning verdict. It’s also revealed in this article that the band’s Morgan Håkansson runs their business through a delightfully-entitled company known as ”Wolfschanzze” – a namesake taken directly from that of Hitler’s Eastern Front command bunker.
Next and more verifiable in our long list of times Marduk appear to have had far-right sympathies, is the rather troubling revelation that Marduk’s support act on their latest tour was none other than Infernal War, a Polish black metal band with a similarly complicated history – except for the fact that they, in a previous era, weren’t as good at (or as interested in) hiding their far-right sympathies. Interestingly, when they were pulled from the tour over aforementioned far-right sympathies, the owners of The Dome, who recently played host to a festival headlined by islamophobic merch-peddling black metal horde Taake, said they didn’t want to host a gig at which Infernal War played. So apparently official resistance to Nazism in the scene doesn’t apply to headlining acts.
While it’s up to you, the reader, to decide whether or not Marduk are genuinely Neo-Nazis or not, there’s one fact here that’s undeniable: the ambiguity of the band’s “historical” leanings is a marketing tactic – the group don’t want to alienate the large right-wing-nutter/black metal is all about evil!!1!1!1!!! TRVEKVLT demographics (of which there is some significant overlap), but they also don’t want to jeopardise the money-making venture of being one of black metal’s biggest touring bands. This is exhibited by a pattern of far more subtle behaviours; from taking a band with a Nazi past on tour, to basically referring to protesters who got them taken off the bill in Oakland as “idiots” whose actions were “retarded” without actually addressing the problem of their use of far-right imagery, or that of racism, to the constant references to the Nazi war machine in their music and publicity. If they aren’t Neo-Nazis, Marduk are definitively riding the ambiguity behind their constant flirtations with Third Reich symbolism for all it’s worth and are profiting from doing so.
It’s wrong, and whilst not every single person involved in the release of Viktoria is behind the message of the album – be they a press agent, a distributor or even just a prospective consumer, everyone has a responsibility to stand up and challenge this. Did Donald Trump get into power purely through fascists and Neo-Nazis voting for him? No. But now children are being imprisoned and separated from their families in large-scale detention facilities. Trump gained power through a far more subtle embrace of far-right politics and imagery.
At best, Marduk are profiting from a similarly subtle embrace of far-right imagery. Obviously, comparisons between Donald Trump and Marduk are tenuous. Marduk are not going to turn around tomorrow and start enacting policy, or influence the fragile geopolitics of the modern world, but – much in the same way small things build up to show a pattern of far-right sympathies on their part – the band are a drop in the sea of people currently courting far-right imagery and edgetivist controversy for profit. If you were intending on buying Viktoria today, you should have a long hard think about what you’re putting your money towards, and about the future that we, as humans, are building.
Viktoria is out now on Century Media. Think before you buy.
Words: Rich Lowe