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"And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter." (Revelation 8:10, 11)
Before starting this review, I must confess something that might upset and anger the most elitist of Marduk fans : I never had the guts to listen to this band. Why? Not because I detest black metal at any rate. I have to look for something outstanding in metal music, whether it would be black metal or any other sub-genre. My first experience with the Swedish warlords came with their album World Funeral , back in 2003. The sound wasn’t of my liking. In fact, I considered it to be rubbish, especially with the intolerable, despicable vocals of their former vocalist, Erik “Legion” Hagstedt and the suffocating, over-cacophonic production.
Nevertheless, a second chance had to be given in the form of credibility... somewhat. Out comes Rom 5:12 in 2007, a real full-length experience from my part, an enduring one that paid off at the end. I was stunned by the changes this band have gone through with this album, specially from the tortured and anguished religious blasphemy of Daniel “Mortuus” Rosten whose vocal range is pretty impressive, going from wails to whispers and culminating into gnarly shrieks (kind of a Swedish version of Attila Csihar), the extremely audible bass lines from Magnus “Devo” Andersson, the slick yet abrasive riffs of Morgan “Evil” Steinmeyer Håkansson and the impeccable, yet dirty drumming from the session drummers (E. Dragutinovic and A. Gustaffson). Its production was a step-up from the previous albums, as far as I can tell. Swampy and dirty, yet coarse and straight-forward as always, adding some more experimentalism and injecting new blood into Marduk’s veins, specially on the song “Accuser/Opposer” with some surprisingly effective clean vocals. Not only was Marduk reborn musically, but also thematically as well with Rom 5:12, embarking on a more biblical and atmospheric path.
Two years later, Wormwood is released and things are seemingly getting more and more interesting from here on in. Marduk have indeed done the unthinkable once again and just like its predecessor, this album is pure religious madness. The album title takes its influence from the New Testament Book of Revelation and it has undoubtedly more than just a conceptual link. The whole atmosphere of this album is poisoned, doomed and intricately raw.
Starting with the short and direct “Nowhere, No-One, Nothing”, it’s obvious that Marduk intend to crush your ears in cacophonic fashion after the silent distortion and wails that begin this dangerous journey. Harsh, fast-paced riffs from Morgan, furious drumming from the newcomer Lars Broddesson, audible bass lines from Devo (who also produces the album) and as you expected from Rom 5:12, rotten vocal dementia from Mortuus himself are more than rewarding. “This Fleshly Void”, “Into Utter Madness” (containing the most infuriating and otherworldly tremolo-picking that I have heard from a black metal band so far) and “Chorus of Cracking Necks” follow in similar fashion, even though the tempo shifts are different from one another.
Nevertheless, when I mentioned that the band found new ways to explore their usual cacophony, I wasn’t lying. In fact, listen to “Funeral Dawn”, a nearly six-minute militant march that can only be directed towards death. The pound-by-pound drumming, the wailing dictations of Mortuus, the agonizing riffs and bass lines and the screeching, disorienting atmosphere explain this aspect and make the song more unique and distinguished from the rest of the album. Counting “Unclosing the Curse” as a simple, yet unorthodox transition, the album has some other highlights of its own. “Phosphorous Redeemer” is a catchy and razor-sharp number that has an arsenal of bombastic riffs, ever-infinite blast beats and sickly vocals. You expect, somewhat, a familiar Marduk trademark. “Whorecrown” is a little bit more technical and unpredictable, even for Marduk standards with the scintillating, almost Deathspell Omega-esque cristallized riffs and with the numerous shift changes. Also, I might add that the bass is stellar on this song. It complements everything else. Regardless, there are some slower-paced songs that appear on Wormwood such as “To Redirect Perdition” and “As a Garment”, which is a pleasing ending to such a feverish album.
In the end, Marduk have reshaped themselves for the better with this newest effort and the preceding one before it. With a decent amount of experimentation, they obviously put their past behind them and for the better, all credit going to Mortuus for his exceptional abilities as a vocalist and a lyricist as well. Only time will tell where will they boldly go next.
Standout Tracks : Nowhere, No-One, Nothing, Funeral Dawn, This Fleshly Void, Phosphorous Redeemer and Whorecrown