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It's been more than two and a half years since the last Marduk album, a trend (not in a negative context) that seems to have stuck with the band ever since Mortuus joined in 2004. “ROM 5:12”, the first truly collaborative effort of the otherwise completely new line-up was all but ingenious, a monster which took three years to craft and a most welcome change in the already somewhat stagnating output of the band. All of a sudden, the “Panzer Division” was allowed time to take a breath of fresh air and think things out, and it worked marvellously, even if being “too much black, too little metal”, as genre detractors still living in 1994 often point out. This made it rather impossible to be able to truly predict what the next album would sound like, and with the coming of (this year’s absolute highlight and finest moment, if you ask me) “Maranatha”, speculations of whether Funeral Mist (Mortuus’ side project) influences will finally pour straight into the sound of Marduk were endlessly discussed.
The first thing that really comes into mind while listening to this album is diversity. Indeed, Marduk has never been this diverse. The music itself isn’t that different compared to ROM 5:12, rather a logical step further in that direction, but an “experienced” Marduk fan is still likely to be surprised more than a few times during the first listening session. At times, I couldn’t help thinking “This really sounds like a Setherial riff” and so on. At one point during “Into Utter Madness”, there appears a shockingly melodic riff more akin to melodic death metal than black metal, even if for a short while, while the opening riff of “Whorecrown” could’ve been spawned by Deathspell Omega just as easily. These details, along with the underlying “special effects” and details, such as the neck-breaking sounds in “Chorus Of Cracking Necks”, truly contribute to the overall atmosphere and make for an interesting listening experience. However, it would be unfair not to say that this time around, the trademark Funeral Mist sound is just a bit too present, not that much in the actual riffs, but more in the overall feeling and the structure of the songs themselves. The most obvious example would be “Funeral Dawn”, a track that really sounds as if it’s been lifted from the “Maranatha” sessions and ported directly here. Also, almost every song has an intro of sorts, a feat highly unusual for Marduk. All these elements, coupled with a lacking production (I really can’t escape the feeling that it had to be louder and tighter – I prefer the production of “ROM 5:12” by far) does have a watering-down effect to a certain degree. The band simply seems to drop the momentum at times for reasons unknown to me – just as an example, “This Fleshly Void” has a stunning intro that really makes one expect a relentless and brutal assault to come, only to grow into a rather average riff – it’s details like these that kill off the potential of the album. And bluntly put, while I love the spectrum of sick voices Mortuus is able to vomit out, it’s gone a bit over the top this time around. The tortured rasps may work perfectly within the Funeral Mist context, but the guy really has a tremendous voice without all that extra touch and he shouldn’t refrain from using it more naturally, at least not in Marduk. The lyrical content, however, is the exact opposite, and I find them fitting the music like a glove, unlike some of the embarrassingly primitive and borderline-ridiculous lyrics of the past (“Fistfucking God’s Planet”, anyone?)
All in all, this album leaves an ambiguous, if biased, taste that the band simply had too much to handle this time around, that mere potential was not properly channelled into these forty-or-so minutes of sound. Despite instant “hits”, if I may be allowed to call them that, the album contains, such as the all-too-brutal “Phosphorous Redeemer” and the incredibly catchy, yet 100% evil “Whorecrown”, “Wormwood” simply lacks the feeling of coherence the previous album had too much to be named a mind-blowing release. But on the whole, it’s really good to see this many creative juices flowing in a band that’s been lasting for nearly two decades. They only need a tighter, more precise mould the next time around.
(originally written for www.metal-sound.net)