An unswerving commitment to blasphemy and extremity combined with a relentless touring schedule and a steady stream of recordings has helped establish Sweden's Marduk as one of the better-known bands on the Scandinavian black metal scene. They began as more of a standard death metal band with a black metal influence, but have come to be known for their style of extreme black metal, which tends to focus on themes of warfare and anti-Christian sentiment and is characterized by relentlessly fast drumming and blurred walls of guitar. The group formed under the leadership of guitarist Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson in 1990, with vocalist Andreas Axelsson, bassist Richard Kalm, and drummer Joakim Grave rounding out the lineup.
They released their controversially titled demo tape Fuck Me Jesus in 1991. Soon after, a second guitarist was added in Devo Andersson, while Bogge Svensson replaced Kalm on bass. Using this lineup, Marduk recorded their first official album, Dark Endless, which came out the following year on No Fashion Records. Unhappy with No Fashion, the band made the jump to the French Osmose Productions imprint, releasing Those of the Unlight in 1993, this time with Grave on drums as well as vocals and a new bassist in B. War. For their following release, 1994's Opus Nocturne, Fredrik Andersson was brought in on drums, Devo Andersson was dropped, and Grave was resigned to vocals. (Meanwhile, Osmose set about releasing the Fuck Me Jesus demo in 1995, at which time it was banned in seven countries.)
The lineup shuffling continued with Grave's subsequent departure, at which time he was replaced by Legion (formerly of the band Opthalamia). With this new lineup, they issued their most well-received album, Heaven Shall Burn...When We Are Gathered, in 1996. This CD was followed by a concert recording from that album's tour entitled Live in Germania, which showed that they could indeed sustain the nonstop blasting intensity of their records without any studio assistance. (They did use a second guitarist, however, in Peter Tagtren of the death metal band Hypocrisy.)
Subsequent releases included Nightwing (1998), an album partly inspired by the life Vlad Tepes, aka Dracula, and Panzer Division (1999), a war-themed concept album and their last CD for the Osmose label. Following their split with Osmose, Marduk set up their own label, Blooddawn (distributed in the U.S. by Century Media), releasing the double live CD Infernal Eternal as well as a new studio album, La Grande Danse Macabre, in 2001.
In 2002, Emil Dragutinovic replaced Andersson on drums, and the following year the band released the more midtempo World Funeral, which was seen by some fans as an attempt to break into the mainstream. Devo returned to the band in 2004, this time on bass, and later that year Marduk released the more religiously themed Plague Angel, a theme the band would continue on their 2007 follow-up, Rom 5:12. Their 11th album, Wormwood, appeared in 2009, followed shortly by Serpent Sermon, which arrived in 2012. The overtly military-themed Frontschwein, harking back to Panzer Division, arrived in 2015. The following year, the band had to postpone their U.S. tour after being denied entry visas; when the tour finally went ahead in 2017, their Oakland, California show was cancelled after the venue was targeted by Antifa protestors. Undeterred as usual by controversy, they soldiered on, going back in the studio for 2018's Viktoria, a raw, back-to-basics black metal album that saw them going even more old-school than ever. ~ William York