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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 line-up change that introduced Mortuus gave Marduk a whole new lease on life after World Funeral, which saw them treading familiar territory, albeit in excellent form. Whereas neither the thicker, nastier sound of classics like Those Of The Unlight and Opus Nocturne, nor the infamous heads down blasting of Panzer Division Marduk really seemed to sum up what the band was capable of, Plague Angel, written prior to Mortuus' arrival but bearing his vitriolic vocal stamp, seemed to epitomize everything the band was capable of and stood for.
Now after two slightly more adventurous outings in Rom 5:12 and Wormwood, Marduk make a more conscious attempt to sum themselves up, and sum up black metal in general for that matter. The ever-modest press release that accompanied Serpent Sermon stated an intention to perfect a sub-style of black metal with each and every track.
Now I'm not always sure what they're going for here (mostly sounds like Marduk... probably better than sounding like a bunch of other bands anyway) but each song has its own vibe. But musically, a follow up to the catchy, simple, brutal Iron Dawn EP. There's plenty of hyperblasting, vicious stuff here - more than of late. The title track admittedly bears heavy Watain influences in its primary riffing structure, and a great deal of the Nordic-heroic black metal blare that Marduk helped create in the chorus (refer to Germany's Negator et al). It's the most Swedish song you'll hear all year, basically. But not the most Marduk song. 'Messianic Pestilence' could be from Panzer Division if it weren't for the occasional departures from blasting for some sinister double kicked sections. But 'Souls for Belial' is the first song to come along that really has me believing these guys are out to end the world, having left it with one final up-yours. Terrific headlong riffs and exhilarating pace changes chocka, simple as fuck in its composition but undeniable in its memorability. Instant Marduk classic. 'Hail Mary (Piss-soaked Genuflexion)', 'M.A.M.M.O.N.' and 'Gospel of the Worm' sate your appetite for such blasphemous rushes later on, although these don't quite notch up to 'Warschau 2: Headhunter Halfmoon' or 'The Hangman of Prague'
They've set out to conquer all though remember, so the album does feature some slower blackenings, the cracking closer 'World of Blades' serving to bring the album more in line with grimy epics like 'To Redirect Perdition' and the brilliant 'Imago Mortis'. 'Temple of Decay' is like a sorrow-drenched, doom metal take on something like Carpathian Forest's 'The Well Of All Human Tears', and another standout. 'Into Second Death' revisits anthemic death marches like 'Funeral Dawn' to break up what is mostly a frantic, jangling, Darkthrone homage.
Mortuus' vocals are as hate-filled, gargled and weird as ever, probably my favourite Marduk vocalist. The way he twists his malevolent voice gives a few songs that might otherwise seem par for the course just the vinegar needed to really hit the mark. The production is more in line with Iron Dawn, not quite returning to the digital and dense sound of World Funeral, but certainly it has more in common with that or a band like Endstille than with the more hollow and raucous sound of the previous two albums.
The hysterical, charging blasts of songs like the title track and 'Souls for Belial' are fantastic in their own right, probably less musically accomplished but more immediately re-playable than the unnerving whine of recent standouts like 'Limbs of Worship' or 'Chorus of Cracking Necks'. The epic bits are more than alright as well, bringing the oppressive doomsday sermon of Marduk full circle. There's nothing I skip. Though sacrificing a bit of complexity, which some might bemoan, the band has come up with an accessible and carefully chaptered book of hate, your partialness for which is assured if you've enjoyed any Marduk outing of the past 13 years. Did they managed to best every other black metal band in every other field though? Nah. Plus they forgot to do their take on the '90s when everyone went orchestral or industrial, and the early-mid 2000s when there were 8 million depressive suicidal bands coming out.
Also, try and get the version with the morose epic 'Coram Satanae' included at the end. Why it isn't in the main track list I can't fathom - it rules.
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