I feel that launching frantically into this bands’ new opus, ‘II: Campaign of Extermination’, with as little pomp or prose as possible is the best method of conveying what is a brutal, relentless, and yet melodic and thoughtful complete total-war assault on the senses. Prepare for a riff-by-riff recap of a frenetic aural bashing that’ll leave you with PTSD and a bloodthirsty grin.
Wasting no time in coming tearing out of the blocks like a greyhound with a chilli pepper crammed in its holiest of holies, Blood of the Wolf kick you hard enough in the teeth to send you off-balance, losing your footing. Before you’ve had stock and regained composure, frenetic double kicks, solid snare, and blackened tremolo kicks your feet back out as a Cannibal Corpse-style slowdown and palm mute attack encircles you as you lay there helpless.
Vocals roar into being before you while a valiant, guttural echo similar to that of fellow blackened thrashers Deströyer 666. The old-school death metal echo feel of the production gives wide breadth to these vocals, atop tremolo riffs with smashing blasts. So much so, you’ll be interrogated and beaten into submission, dragged along with the cavalry, pleading for a quick death.
‘THUNDER, THE DRUMS OF WAR!’ they cry, showing your allies that they fear. This is a war of musical attrition, and you’d best hope your senses and psyche are heavily bunkered against their genocidal fervour.
Title track Campaign of Extermination fires a salvo off, straight into blast-beats and a thrashy dual tremolo riff. Lesser known but ever-present, the engines of the rumbling bass underpin the tracks with solid, watertight pace; scraping tank treads through the ruins. Crashing cymbals, rolls and blasts signify a break from order and a renewed fury.
‘Our campaign of extermination!’ is screamed. All is lost for you, my friend. You are slowly being buried alive under an avalanche of shrapnel-sharp riffs and rhythm-section mortaring.
Beneditio Ultionis: Their Blood for my Glory grins, blood-drunk and lusting for the crushing of human bones with an evil-sounding arpeggio and power chord chug. Sharpening and followed by steady drums, bass, and tremolo, this is the first time the pace relents in what feels like forever.
The Wolf makes it clear they aren’t faffing about with Metallica’s extended use of simile and narrative to paint a picture of the horrors of war. Welcome to true war hell. Continuously cavernous and ever-present, relentless double-bass clicks speed ever faster towards the end, perhaps to signal the next salvo. When does the torment end?
Too late. We have reached the apex of bloodlust here. Erupting Volcanic Wrath does what it says on the tin, beginning with a full-on assault into blasting territory and desperate, higher-fretted chords. A brief segue into more melodic thrash metal-style tremolo ensues, albeit, still at hyperspeed. It’s almost like Marduk decided to incorporate some thrash stylings into a new album without sacrificing one trace of viscosity while doing so. A short breakdown reprieve with tremolo and stop/start drum and bass. Phew. Deeper growls and fast palm muting indicate the ride’s not over. I can’t take much more, I am shellshocked.
The Sword is my Light and my Salvation gives some reprieve. A steady kick drum and a very early ’80s thrash intro into that melodic blackened riff, it’s that subtle descent known well in everything black-tinged. Long scream and blasts kick up, backing screams against open harsh roars – they’re not just back on their feet, they’re pelting forward and baying for blood once more. Could almost be taken from Amon Amarth’s faster stuff, really – barbaric in fervour.
Staccato chugs turning on a dime then introduce Scorched Earth Ceremony. A very Teutonic thrash romp. No reprieve, and straight back into blasting and snarling. Driven mad by my captors, I get a second wind. I feel a hundred feet tall. Am I losing the plot?
Honestly, I began getting worn down and inattentive by the endless barrage of riffs by this stage. That’s the point, though. With a whole band firing heavy machine guns, there is a clear war of attrition here against the listener. They’re here for victory, not for diplomacy, and that includes the listener.
With Fire and a Thousand Flashing Blades reinforces this determinism. Decidedly more black metal in nature, we find a fun interplay of tremolo and slightly higher rasping. Sort of like a Panzerchrist and Dew-Scented combo ration pack. Sneaky, dissonant chords here and there amongst the endless assault and – wait, what?! Finally, a solo! We knew they’d be capable, tapping aplenty with some slowed leads.
The smoking, charred ruins of the fields, rivers of blood soaking scorched earth. A Sermon of Slaughtered Foes begins your demoralised lament. Rest, an acoustic sounding clean riff and… violins?
A deep roar. Gruff bellows and high rasps indicate the final mop-up of any survivors. As the final chords ring out into the song’s starting point, it fades out slowly. The gun pointed square at your forehead. Bleak, huh? Well done for having kept your resolve through a senseless onslaught, now face your death with valour.