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Have you ever heard the story of the black metal band fronted by a duck? They were a pretty big deal back when they were around. Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you about them.

It all began on a farm just outside the Mexican city of Guadalajara. On that farm lived a man named Juan Hernandez and his son Hernan Hernandez. They specialized in livestock. They had cows, chickens, pigs, and they also had ducks. One day, while tending to those ducks, Hernan found one that was special. It was white, but but the feathers were black around its eyes, which made it look like it was wearing corpse paint. He then discovered it could screech in a way similar to many black metal vocalists.

Hernan happened to be a metalhead, so he got an idea. He told one of his friends about the special duck he found. That friend then got into contact with a local drummer named Juan Garcia, who had recently left his previous band Nocturnal Stalker due to musical differences. He was so amused by the info he had heard that he had to investigate. He went down to the farm, and when he saw that duck, he took an instant liking to him. After making some calls, he was joined by bassist Ivan Lopez and guitarists Emmanuel Perez and Jose Sanchez. The duck was given the name Ojo Negro, or Black Eye in Spanish. Together they became known as Marduck.

At first, Juan Hernandez didn’t like the idea because he wanted Hernan to stay on the farm, but his son convinced him to give him a chance to pursue his dream of being part of a musical act. They then went to Juan Garcia’s house and started jamming in his garage. They were able to record the instrumental work just fine, but the duck had stage fright and didn’t want to screech. Hernan then discovered that he could get the thing to perform its vocals by showing it pictures of female ducks. That’s right. It screeched because it was horny. After three days of practicing, recording, and editing, they released their first single, "On Darkened Duck Wings," on October 1, 2373. No one really cared at first, but then it surged in popularity after various metal web sites started talking about it. Many were amused by the novelty, but there were some who were skeptical, saying that they didn’t actually use a duck. To prove them wrong, the band recorded a video of an improv session. The duck was standing front and center screeching at female duck pictures while the rest of the band was playing in the back. That video spread like wildfire across various web sites.

The band eventually caught the attention of John Herbstone, the CEO of Herbstone Records. You might be familiar with him if you’ve ever listened to the avant garde metal band Dub Dash Quad Tilde. He was a tall, skinny guy with curly blonde hair. He contacted them and offered them a record deal, which they accepted almost immediately. I say almost because the band wondered why a label that specializes in experimental music wanted to sign them. They came to the conclusion that they wanted to snatch them up before anyone else did. So they signed the deal and the label gave them some recording funds. With these funds they went down to La Cueva Oscura, the music studio in Mexico City that was used by all the big name Mexican black metal bands. A few months later, on June 24, 2374, they released Hunters Shall Burn... When We Are Gathered.

That album proved to be really popular. It sold ten thousand copies over the course of a single year, which is pretty good for a black metal band. I managed to snag myself a first edition copy about 20 years ago. It wasn’t cheap, but I had to get it before someone else did. Five years after that, I managed to meet up with Juan Garcia at a death metal festival in Tampa Bay and I got him to sign it. If you look past the novelty of having a duck as a vocalist, the instrumental work is great. It’s full of pulverizing blast beats and vicious riffs. I even liked the cloudy reverb they put over the duck’s screeching.

A year and a half after the release of their first full-length, their fans begged them to perform live. The problem was that the duck screeches when it wants and can’t be bothered to remember songs, so they knew they couldn’t play any of their recorded stuff. It’s for that reason that all their shows were improvised. They played whatever came to mind and let the duck screech its head off. During all those performances, Hernan had to kneel next to the duck and put female duck pictures in front of it. It was very uncomfortable for him, but the adoration of the crowd made it all worth it for him. Their first show was at Fuego Agua, a bar in Mexico City. 200 people crammed themselves into that little space and about a hundred more stood outside. They played for almost an hour and the crowd loved it. They didn’t care if people recorded their performance. They even encouraged it because they saw it as free publicity.

They then toured Mexico for an entire year. People came for the duck and ended up staying for the riffs. The band even managed to open for Misanthropic Hammerkrieg in Tijuana. It was there that they got little Ojo Negro drunk on tequila after their performance. He ended up attacking random people and puking everywhere. Yeah, don’t give alcohol to a duck. It’s a bad idea. Things didn’t always go smoothly, though. During a show in Acapulco, some crazy guy rushed the stage and stole the duck. The band and the rest of the crowd then pursued him all the way across town, beat him to a pulp, and got the little critter back. Once the tour was over, the band took a break. Hernan Hernandez went back to helping his father, but Ojo Negro stayed with the band because he took a liking to them.

Around the beginning of 2377, John Herbstone asked the band if they would be interested in recording a second full-length album, and they accepted. However, he added the condition that they record the thing in Los Angeles. They thought that was pretty strange, but they agreed to it. What annoyed them was that they had to pay for their own housing. To save on money, they all lived in the same apartment. This ended up being a real headache for them because Ojo Negro crapped on the floor constantly. When they got to the studio, Herbstone suggested that their next album would be more financially successful if they had cleaner production. They objected to this because black metal obviously isn’t known for its sound clarity, but Herbstone insisted. They recorded the instrumental parts pretty quickly, but Ojo Negro wasn’t cooperating. They called Hernan and asked him to come help them. They then gave him the money necessary to drive all the way to Los Angeles. Once he got there, the duck was able to screech without issue.

Their second full-length album was called Where Ducks Forever Reign and was released on June 3, 2377. The instrumental work is more refined and the screeches still sound great, but the clean production diminishes their impact. A lot of people still liked it, though. It managed to sell twenty thousand copies, twice as many as their previous full-length. Immediately after its release, the band embarked on an epic tour of the American Empire that lasted for an entire year. They started in California, ventured up through Cascadia, traveled from one end of Canada to the other, went down the east coast, turned around and performed throughout the heartland, traveled down the middle straight to Texas, and then made their way back to California. So much happened during that time that I have a hard time remembering it all. One of the most well-known incidents occurred in Toronto. After their concert, Ojo Negro got into a fight with a bunch of Canadian geese and won. There was also that time in Texas when he got frightened and flew away because people started shooting into the air after their performance was over. They found him a few hours later at a lake being, shall we say, aggressive with the female ducks.

Once they got back to Los Angeles on June 30, 2378, John Herbstone wanted to immediately start work on the next album. Ivan Lopez, Emmanuel Perez, and Jose Sanchez grew to hate how Herbstone was assuming ever more creative control over their music, but they wanted to be civil about it, so they left the band and went back to Mexico. This didn’t phase Herbstone, who proceeded to replace them with session musicians. They recorded all the instrumentals, but Ojo Negro was even less willing to do vocals. Only after they gave him extra food did he shriek. Animals are a lot smarter than we give them credit for, so I’m pretty sure that the duck grew resentful of Herbstone.

After almost two years in the studio, they finally released Instinctus Anatidae on June 8, 2380. People did not like it. The production was too clean, the instrumental work was lackluster, and even the shrieks seemed like they were phoned in. It only managed to sell half as many units as the previous full-length. Undaunted by this, Herbstone suggested they record another album. It was then that Juan and Hernan put their foot down, told him that the band was no more, and that they would no longer record anymore music with him. He then told them that their contract stated that they were obligated to record two more albums. Those two men couldn’t afford a lawyer, so they went online, told people about their situation, and asked for help. Word quickly spread and people started calling Herbstone a greedy businessman. Eventually, Henry Hoot, the King of California, learned of what was happening and intervened. He ordered that the contract be terminated. Herstone said, "You can’t just come in and do that." Hoot replied, "The king is sovereign." And with that, Herbstone begrudgingly terminated the contract and the band went back home to Mexico.

After they left Marduck, Ivan, Emmanuel, and Jose formed their own black metal band called Thou Art Spurned sometime near the end of 2378. After releasing four albums, they broke up in 2386 due to all the members getting married and having to focus more on their families. Juan Garcia got a welding job, but he still found the time to do session drumming for various bands in the Mexican metal scene. Hernan Hernandez went back to working on his father’s farm. John Herbstone spent years rebuilding his reputation after his display of greed, but his label is still around and still putting out weird and experimental music. As for Ojo Negro, he died of old age five years after the band broke up. They buried him near the pond where he liked to chase female ducks.

And that was the story of Marduck, the black metal band that had a duck for a vocalist. Granted, they’re not the first metal band to have an animal do vocals, but they’re the best.


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