Like Darkthrone, Marduk started off as a death metal band, before switching styles to the infamous “norsecore” sound of the 90s. Unlike Soulside Journey, however, Dark Endless has never met real acclaim, but I believe the time has arrived to appreciate this album as a proud death metal classic in its own right. Dark Endless carries the unmitigated fury and energy that would come to be seen as the Marduk trademark, but the techniques employed here bear more in common with contemporaneous European death metal, as well as the hyperblasting but always melodic activity of Kataklysm‘s albums with Sylvain Houde.
It has been very long indeed since I last heard Dark Endless, but this album today presents a fascinating instance of two styles brought together with near-perfection. Like Soulside Journey, perhaps like Hypocrisy‘s Osculum Obscenum, the death metal on Dark Endless is of short phrases assembled in a call-response framework, but an intelligent combination of atonal and consonant motifs gives this music the moody and mystical quality so distinctive of the best European death metal of the time. Opener ‘Still Fucking Dead‘ greets the listener with a György Ligeti-like psychologically volatile vibe, an atmosphere which is regularly suggested through the album by the intelligent, sublimated use of synths and harmonics.
Where fast black metal – of the Norwegian and Swedish type, anyway – differs from death metal is in the use of more pronounced whole tones, in the longer length of individual, open-ended phrases, and in the suppression, if not outright eradication, of death metal’s call-response aesthetic, instead replaced with repetition of mentioned phrases. Dark Endless achieves this balance and handover between the two competing genres in a way that doesn’t give short shrift to either form. Nothing about this album feels manufactured; its fury is genuine and revitalizing to hear today, its writing revealing a maturity and skill that has for various reasons become obscured in the genre’s annals.