IN BATTLE, In Battle (1997, Napalm)
A skull floats through a cemetery, possibly haunting the burial grounds and its groundkeepers who could not actually bury him because his entire body was so damn big. Unless this skull somehow grew to become as wildly out of proportion as pictured. The ghost-skull is so laughably big, I picture him clumsily knocking around from headstone to headstone like a pinball slamming into bumpers. “Oops, sorry!” “Excuse me!” Or maybe he’s not haunting at all, but instead trying to eat that big headstone. Why the carved sliver of bone lodged vertically through the nose and coming out the roof of the mouth? Might be a toothpick and, lacking hands or pockets, this is where he has to put it. What a totally great album cover.
On their first album, Marduk were apparently quite a big influence on these Swedes, as this 12-song album blazes by in a flurry of hyperspeed drum beats, blurry guitar hurricanes and seething vocal screeching. Prototypical pure Swedish black metal. Marduk, Setherial, Blodsrit, Dark Funeral…you know the deal. But In Battle does have some differences. A song such as “Ruler of the Northern Sphere” features an almost folk-like melody, giving the material a sliver of depth, and “Doom of the Unbeloved” revolves around slightly slower (or, less fast) and more hypnotic spaces that recall the sound of classic Norwegian black metal. Overall it’s well-played and genuine, yet despite the attempts to inject some variety, it gets pretty boring after a couple songs.
— Friar Wagner