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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