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Marduk has caught a lot of slack over the past decade or so for being the 'mediocre' black metal band, despite years of hard work and touring. While I can't deny that the band has released a great deal of 'just alright' albums, they do have a few black gems shining in the backlog (I actually like Panzer Division Marduk). That said, 11th album Wormwood has been quite the surprise! The Swedes seem to be branching out into a truly grimy and hypnotic direction here, picking up where Rom 5:12 left off.
This is still black metal, of course, and it's still Marduk; but for once, the band's blasting ferocity is not always the forte on this album. It happens, and it happens fairly frequently, but some of the best material you will find on Wormwood are the slower tracks. "Funeral Dawn" is a slow march with very sparse, loose percussion and some excellent, grim melodies that bite right through the rhythm chords. "This Fleshly Void" succeeds due to Mortuus' strained, garbled vocals over a dusty black blast beat which guitars that reak of the churning of graveyard soil. "To Redirect Perdition" is slow and disgusting, flowing black/doom rhythms again carried by the incomparable vocals and some nice 'choral' samples. "Chorus of Cracking Necks" alternates between all out blasting frenzy and some minimal, dank guitars and breakdowns. The closing track "As a Garment" is another bizarre and mesmerizing slow piece.
The album has an oppressive atmosphere to it created through the use of the echoed vocals and keeping the guitars thin as they race through the razor-edged compositions. New drummer Lars Brodesson remains faithful to the band's momentum but I really admit to liking the simple percussion used in some of these tracks. I'm not sold that it's Marduk's best record yet, but it is certainly the most interesting thing I've heard from them and I hope they continue along this path.