Released in April 1998, Nightwing was the last album from Marduk that I was able to enjoy, until recent years. Like its predecessor, it was recorded in Tägtgren's Abyss Studio. This L.P. features a lot of the flaws that would be more greatly emphasized the following year, while still possessing enough of the band's original qualities to make it worth listening to. It also seems to be the final album to have more of a campy atmosphere, rather than the darker themes that would be explored later on.
The music is not the best that they had ever written, yet the production actually makes it seem worse than it is. The slick and modern Abyss sound is one of the worst things to happen to Black Metal in the mid-to-late '90s. Bands like Marduk, Dark Funeral and Immortal flocked to this rotten studio and got a sterile production job for their efforts. While the truly worthwhile compositions managed to rise above this, in some regard, even the best songs were partially crippled by the terrible sound. It would appear that Marduk had always suffered from lousy producers and sub-par mixing. Evil's songwriting deserved much better, certainly. On Nightwing, the pummeling drums take over and the guitar melodies are much harder to distinguish. It is almost as if Tägtgren tried to smother the very best riffs, rendering the finished product almost lifeless.
Whether mostly due to the production or just lazy songwriting, Marduk's fifth full-length suffers from a real lack of memorable riffs and songs, in general. The first few songs, "Bloodtide", "Of Hell's Fire" and "Slay the Nazarene" seem to run together, with a lot of the pointless blast beats and meaningless guitar riffs that would define the band's middle period (though the first track offers more variety and more thoughtful arrangement, about halfway in). The most memorable song on the album is probably the title track, yet this is largely due to the fact that they ripped off the Subspecies theme and built the song around that. While it was very awesome to hear this being used by a Black Metal band, it still says a lot for the lack of creativity in that the best melody on the whole record was borrowed from something else. Furthermore, the subsequent riffs do nothing to build on the atmosphere created by this main theme. In fact, they almost seem to contradict the dark feeling that the song begins with. Songs like "Dreams of Blood and Iron", once again, demonstrate what a terrible vocalist Legion was, as he could never shut up long enough for the riffs to take full effect. This is a problem with a lot of bands; trying to fit in more lyrics than are necessary and drawing too much attention to the vocalist, rather than doing what is best for the song and the atmosphere that it is trying to convey. This song is also notable for ripping off a Bathory song title and using a lead solo that is very similar to something Quorthon would have done.
Nightwing is a rather boring and uninspired album, especially when compared to Marduk's earlier output. It has its moments, with decent riffs and ideas scattered throughout the record, but can be considered only lackluster at best. It says a lot that the best song on the album is a re-recorded version of a track from Opus Nocturne and that the most memorable riff was taken from a low-budget horror film. While this isn't horrible, you are better off sticking with the first few albums.