without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Of course, heavy metal has become a very important part of my life. Okay, let's say it with less pathos: it is an omnipresent element in my leisure time. Sometimes it fascinates me strongly, sometimes it is just there and I wait for a new infusion of extremely exciting metal. Marduk's "Serpent Sermon" holds exactly a couple of songs that have the power to revitalize my passion for the metalized noise in a matter of minutes.
The Swedish trailblazers show again that nearly nobody can stop them as long as they reach their usual level. They rush through every region of this barren wasteland called black metal and their masterly designed tunes deliver the satanic mightiness that makes cathedrals crumble. The tracks are like weapons. But in view of the diversified song formulas I am talking of very different weapons. "Temple of Decay" appears as a slowly rolling tank that comes nearer and nearer in order to crush the listener under its chains. The irresistible riffing knows no mercy, the chorus kills with its murderous melody line and the backing vocals sound like the choir of the damned. Not to mention the simple yet extremely heavy and effective part that sets in at 3:43. Once you have heard this catchy melody, you will not forget it again. Contrariwise, "Messianic Pestilence" follows a totally different approach. Instead of appearing as another steel colossus, it has the form and the straightness of a torpedo. Driven by blastbeats, the song reveals its lethal dose of vehement violence without any detours. Despite the jaw-dropping velocity, the guitar is able to impress with its clear profile. Last but not least, the chorus has a surprisingly high recognition value.
The remaining songs are placed between these extremes and apart from their individual degree of destructiveness, almost all of them possess a unique character. For example, the galloping double bass of the fast-paced "Into Second Death" supports the ingenious leads fantastically and the chorus of the song appears as a black whole which wants to swallow the listener. This song would be the highlight on thousands of albums, but Marduk's twelfth studio full-length does not make it easy for the closely listening maniac to choose his personal favourite. "Souls for Belial", for instance, is another promising pretender to the throne. This orgy of bestiality and brutality is characterized by its hateful, malignant opening that contrasts with the following outburst of fury. Not to mention the diabolic performance of Mortuus, who combines disgust and contempt in a perfect manner. To be honest, the first half of the full-length seems to be a kind of unofficial best-of album, because the opening title track is highly impressive as well. Its pompous and ominous beginning and leaves its mark and heralds greater things to come. The catchy chorus confirms that you have opened the door to hell widely.
Does anybody seriously think that the production suffers from any kind of deficiency? Of course not. Marduk know the business and they have a clear vision of the sound they want to create. The songs burst through the speakers and unleash a black metal tsunami. They pummel the listener with their irresistible relentlessness while shining with the highest possible pressure. This means, amongst other things, that the gloomy and earthy touch of their early productions, for example "Those of the Unlight", does not reappear. Marduk rely on the power of emotionless coldness and the result proves they were right to do so. The professional mix just mirrors their likewise professional status.
The sixth track prolongs the feeling of listening to a best-of album. At first sight, "Damnation's Gold" seems to lie in close proximity to the speed inferno of "Messianic Pestilence". But as the song progresses, it shows some tempo variations that lend it its own identity. Too bad that the following tracks fail to keep this overwhelming level of quality. They are neither ill-defined nor powerless, but the last little bit of ingenuity is missing. Apart from this, you do not need to be a crusading defender of the Catholic faith to realize the ambivalence of a delicate song-title like "Hail Mary (Piss-Soaked Genuflexion)". But I don't want to talk about the conflict between the freedom of art and religious beliefs. What counts is the fact that Morgan's horde is still full of ideas and energy. Because, as we all know, this is no matter of course for bands that have released their twelfth full-length.
The opening track of this album is one of the catchiest songs Marduk's ever done (right up there with "Black Tormentor of Satan", "Accuser/Opposer", "Night of Long Knives" and "Whorecrown") - and you have to figure that by opening up with that, the rest of the album is going to be oddly catchy. Well, you figured right, because Serpent Sermon is probably Marduk's catchiest of the modern era. Morgan, Mortuus and crew came together on this album to make memorable, if samey, tunes, and cram as many riffs down your throat as they can in the relatively short amount of time that encompasses this album.
As usual, the lyrics are top-notch, and Marduk paint vivid pictures of pestilence, demons, gods of old, and blasphemy in increasingly clever ways. I mean, even the most immature song on the album still has some cool imagery to go along with it. From "Hail Mary (Piss-Soaked Genuflexion)":
Blessed are you among women
Hook-like genitals digging forth
And blessed is the fruit of your womb
Hook-like genitals digging through
That's some mid era Deathspell Omega psycho-sexual weird blasphemy for ya right there - and it fits within the rather interesting thematic elements of the album. It is indeed a lyrical sermon - divided up into sections preaching the glory of the anti-god, devotion to the dark arts, and a warning against the clever and charming means that the light may use to try to take you away down a path of sheep and fools. "Souls for Belial" is a cry of devotion and reaping, wrapped in a slow, draining anti-riff before moving into frightening speeds and thrashy moments, with Mortuus screaming from his vermin covered pulpit the highest praises for the dark lords.
"Into Second Death" is a galloping, rocking ride that has really fantastic accent leads, adding to the already frantic pace of the song. The mid-paced drumming provides plenty of potent neck-propelling powers, and the chorus and breaks give nice and memorable moments to the singular note riff that dominates the song. The following song is the standard 4/4 slower paced song that's found on every modern Marduk album. But, as unimpressed as that sentence sounds, Marduk have gotten very good at perfecting this formula. The bass does these little walking moments that give a weight and accent to the main riff, and the build-up and harmonies found on "Temple of Decay" are really top-notch, especially when the song really kicks in after the three minute mark. There's an awesome riff that belongs on ceremony of Opposites as well as Those of the Unlight here and you can't help but grin at the clean vocals layered behind Mortuus's delivery. Probably one of the most memorable and hook-filled songs Marduk's made in years.
The album's first revealed track, "M.A.M.M.O.N" is still as effective as it was upon first listen, especially with the droning riffs over the constant double bass. It's a nauseating effect without turning into a overly mathematical noise/anti-riff fest. The albums closer, at seven plus minutes, looks like it will be just a tad too long, but between the rocking beginning, and extremely head-bob inducing riffs, it goes by as quick and enjoyably as the shorter, more succinct compositions.
I really don't have much to say about this album other than praises, and that's is a solid Marduk album that will definitely scratch that itch for melodic, but frantic and effective black metal. As usual, the crew sounds tight, natural and relaxed, and Morgan is still coming up with loads of riffs, which is still impressive every time a new album drops. If anything, between this one and the next album, Marduk has established a wonderfully consistent pattern of making music that will undoubtedly please all but the stingiest of black metal fans. Yes, it's overly catchy and sometimes a bit formulaic, but there's a reason why these riffs will randomly pop in your head, and that certainly isn't a bad thing.
While Wormwood was an album that dragged on for too long with few really captivating moments, Marduk's recent EP, Iron Dawn displayed a step in the right direction personally, with the band regaining the ferocious charm that made the band instantly one of my favourites when I first heard albums like Panzer Division Marduk and Rom 5:12. This year sees the band finally releasing the follow up to 2009's Wormwood, their debut with Century Media Records, Serpent Sermon.
I vaguely remember the band mentioning how Serpent Sermon will sound different from what was on Iron Dawn, and how I was initially slightly disappointed with the news. Fortunately, there is nothing much to be disappointed with on Serpent Sermon. Right from the start of the album, the shift in the band's sound is extremely evident. While albums like Rom 5:12 and Wormwood had a somewhat death metal influence in the playing style, on Serpent Sermon the band takes a more bleak approach, and that abrasive death metal style is noticeably reduced on the album, most obviously in the guitars of the album, with guitarist Morgan favouring a trebly trem-picked style for the most part. Mortuus, who has preferred a gruff, low pitch growl all along not only in the previous albums, but also on his Funeral Mist releases, takes on a different approach this time, and though the tortured, gargled style is still present, he registers a higher pitch this time, giving the music a rather different feel yet without losing that aggressive touch in Marduk's music.
Furthermore, there is also a slightly more epic approach in terms of the songwriting on Serpent Sermon. There seems to be an increased emphasis on the melodic side of the band's songwriting, as evident on the chorus of the title track Serpent Sermon and this certainly is something fresh in the band's recent catalogue. This is of course not to say that the ferocity in the band has reduced, as the band still mostly goes at a breakneck speed, what with the blistering and furious blasting of drummer Lars, as he presents some of his fastest works with Marduk on this record, at times reminding listeners of the good blasting moments on Panzer Division Marduk.
For the most part though, despite the slight change in playing style of the band, the song structures still remind fans and listeners of the band's style on Wormwood and Rom 5:12, with the most obvious being songs like Souls for Belial. Hail Mary even brings in riffs and progression that is somewhat similar to Cold Mouth Prayer, and the slower tracks like Temple of Decay once again reminds one of songs like Accuser/Opposer and spoil the nice tempo and momentum that the band has built up with the previous tracks.
Overall, Serpent Sermon does have its moments, and possibly contains some of the most powerful and intense moments in Marduk's recent history. Though there are times when songs and riffs sound familiar and reminiscent of songs on Rom 5:12 and Wormwood, Serpent Sermon would certainly appeal to fans of later Marduk output.
Hailed as being one of the premier groups when it comes to anti-Christian black metal, Marduk are back at the helm of their Panzerkampfwagen and ready to decimate all who lay in their path. The band has gone through some variable sound changes throughout their 22 year career, but have always been able to keep a foothold in the barbarity of it all. While I know that the last few Mortuus-era albums have been received with split impressions, I have always been a fan of Marduk throughout their illustrious career, and I was eagerly awaiting their brand new offering, “Serpent Sermon“. A few weeks ago they decided to be giant cockteases and released a music video for ‘Souls For Belial’, and while it did take a few listens to grow on me, my anticipation was growing by the minute.
If there is one immediate difference I have seen in “Serpent Sermon” than from the bands other output, it is that this album isn’t as straight forward as one may think. Marduk has created a sound that is much more atmospheric and progressive, mainly relying on Mortuus to draw in the listener… at least that’s what they want you to believe. ’Messianic Pestilence’ comes forth with a fury that only black metal can provide and grants the wish to those who crave a more traditional sound. Even when moving onto ‘Souls For Belial’ for the 800th time I am very happy to see the variation that Marduk is incorporating into their music.
I already mentioned that some may be thrown off by the direction Marduk has taken with “Serpent Sermon“, but this is what makes it exciting, for you are not given just another black metal album. Of course there are going to be the usual mainstays of black metal throughout the album, but the creative liberty the group has taken just works. Mortuus does not just screech in a hail of cacophonous lyrics, but instead uses different shrill approaches while you are pummeled by the rest of the group. For instance, ‘Into Second Death’, ‘Temple of Decay’, ‘M.A.M.M.O.N’, and ‘World of Blades’ take a turn towards more controlled and melodically “epic” territories, and Mortuus takes advantage of the atmosphere and gives a chilling performance, even if he does sound like Shagrath (Dimmu Borgir) at times.
Now, just because I am focusing a lot on elements that we might not have expected from Marduk does not mean you won’t get a healthy dose of blastbeats and razor sharp riffing. ’Messianic Pestilence’, ‘Damnation’s Gold’, ‘Hail Mary (Piss-soaked Genuflexion)’ and ‘Gospel of the Worm’ are crafted with nothing more than blazing hatred. In fact, ‘Damnation’s Gold’ may be my favorite track on this album because not only does it do an excellent job of keeping with Marduk‘s older style, but they also do an amazing job putting in their newer ideas, too. No matter which style one may prefer, there is going to be something that is tailored for everyone on “Serpent Sermon“.
When it comes to negatives on this album I am extremely hard-pressed to locate them. I think Mortuus is turned pretty high in the mix throughout the album and sometimes it seems like he is drowning out everything else so he can get his diverse vocal style out there. On the flip side I think the snare is too low in the mix, especially during the faster sections because it gets buried underneath everything else. Normally I would label the bass as being a problem, but Devo’s bass lines are surprisingly audible and work very well within the rest of the band, particularly during ‘Damnation’s Gold’ and ‘World of Blades’.
When everything is said and done, Marduk took a chance with “Serpent Sermon” and I commend them on wanting to do something different. Not only that, but everything on here is crafted and put together so well that I really had to nitpick in order to find faults with it. The diverse approach that the band took in their writing was nothing short of spectacular and executed near flawlessly. I believe this is Marduk‘s best work since “Panzer Division Marduk” and is definitely my favorite black metal release of 2012 thus far.
Originally written for Metal Blast: http://www.metalblast.net/2012/06/marduk-serpent-sermon/
The sound of Marduk began to envolve since Mortuus joined the band in 2004. This album is no exception of this, you can notice some similarities with Wormwood.
The production is great, clean but not sterile (something that tends to plague modern metal albums), Devo did a good job with mixing, it changes as the songs demand it. Drums can be properly heard, the guitars sound as they usually do, the bass guitar has a supporting role but you can hear it.
Mortuus delivers as he usually does, no real surprises in his vocal work. You won't be disappointed.
The album starts with the title track which has an amazing riff during the chorus, outstanding indeed. Fans of the Iron Dawn EP (and Panzer Division Marduk obviously) will like the majority of the tracks, the album is really fast apart from some sections. Into Second Death reminds me of some traditional rock/metal songs, it's catchy as hell. Temple of Decay is the slowest track and it has a strong religious feeling to it. As you go on with the album, you suddenly realise why M.A.M.M.O.N. was the first track released. It's the best song of the album and gets stronger among the other tracks, as put in context. World of Blades is another slower song, with the bass having more role than in the previous tracks. The ending of this song (and the album if you don't count/have the bonus track) is just magnificent. The bonus track (Coram Satanæ) could fit any of the post-imprisonment Burzum releases, the songwriting is similar.
According to a recent interview with Morgan (on Metal Storm), everyone of the lineup took part in the songwriting process. This made the album more distinctive, more atmospheric at some parts, some people compared it to the works of Deathspell Omega.
This might not be the best album of the year but it surely is a candidate. Go get it. Now.
(originally written for http://csehszlovakze.blogspot.com)
Few extreme bands can manage to renew themselves artistically over the course of their careers, and those who try are often judged harshly by fans. Yet this is the risky bet that Marduk, the well respected Swedish band, did by firing their charismatic vocalist Legion and replacing him with Mortuus, also leader of Funeral Mist. The effect of this change was not yet apparent with Plague Angel (2004), an album entirely written before the arrival of new vocalist, but was striking with Rom 5:12 (2007), which transformed the sound of these brutes from Norrköping. Integrating the murky and unhealthy world of its new singer, Morgan (guitar and composition) wrote a destabilizing record for anyone following the band since its inception. It was indeed best known for his direct and brutal approach, very close to death metal. Now relying more on moods and atmospheres, while maintaining a very aggressive tempo, the band launched Wormwood (2009), an album that confirmed their new musical direction. So, three years later, after having brought death and desolation in countless tours, Marduk released Snake Sermon (2012).
The album begins with the title track and its catchy chorus. This is a nice introduction, well composed and accessible, which will surely be fully appreciate live. Short and direct, Messianic Pestilence follows immediately and recalls the heyday of the most brutal albums of the group. It knocks to hurt! Souls for Belial, first song released as a single, is itself a pure product of the Mortuus era. After a groaning introduction, a deluge of decibels smashes the eardrums. Generally blasted, this song also has slower passages, during which the singer recites his words with his inimitable gravelly voice. This is undoubtedly the best track on the disc. The journey continues with Into Second Death, which relies on a fast rhythm, but groovy, like hard rock played at full speed, giving a very interesting result, rather rare in the band’s discography. The atmosphere becomes heavy and the tempo slows with Temple of Decay, dark and desperate song that marks – in my opinion – a turning point in the album. Indeed, Damnation’s Gold is a tune a bit too long and without rhythm, which lowers the interest of the listener. Faster, Hail Mary (Piss-soaked genuflection) can raise a little ear, but it does not stand M.A.M.M.O.N, poorly written and syncopated song that deviates too much from the usual efficiency of Marduk. Gospel of the Worm still straightens the bar with the effectiveness of its boisterous rhythm section. The concluding parts, World of Blades and Coram Satanae (bonus track), both built on a mid-tempo air, are unable to calm down my questions about this album.
Started fast, Serpent Sermon runs out of steam at mid-term, resting progressively on average songs, considering the high standards set by the band itself. Only a few tunes manage to really rise my enthusiasm, all others simply scratch my mind when listened absently. This thirteenth album from Marduk is not a disappointment, but it is not a great vintage. 7/10
Initially written for metalobscur.com