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Crushes My Soul! - 88%

pinpals, October 30th, 2012

One night I was intoxicated and pissed off and I wanted something pummeling to listen to so I could live vicariously through the music. I had heard the name Marduk thrown around and even though I generally hate black metal, I looked them up on Spotify and listened to Wormwood since it was the first album that came up on the list. To my surprise I enjoyed it enough (for reasons beyond the fact that it was insanely heavy and intense) that I wanted to listen to it again the next day. And the next. Coincidentally, I was in a record store later that week and found the CD used and at quite a decent price. It was obviously the will of some deity (most likely Tiamat or Ba'al).

One of my biggest criticisms of death and black metal is how one-dimensional bands' songs and sounds tend to be. Yet Wormwood defies this (and other) genre stereotypes with mostly fantastic results. Generally in heavy metal, the slow songs or "groove" songs of the album tend to be the worst and most boring ones. However, on Wormwood, "Funeral Dawn" may be the centerpiece. There is one central slow riff that is repeated, but the riff is so good and the atmosphere that they create around the song is so potent that I find myself getting lost in an almost trance-like state until the song ends. "To Redirect Perdition," in a similar manner, shows that metal does not need to be hyper-fast to be heavy and intense.

Another thing that drives me crazy about a lot of death and especially black metal is the reliance and expectation of low-budget and/or poor sound. If Wormwood had poor sound, this would have been a far less effective album. Thankfully, the instruments are crystal-clear but super-heavy. Even the bass is audible, which is great because Devo writes some great bass lines that do more than just follow the guitars. He even has a couple of solos and he really adds power to the entire album. The production does a great job with adding effects and other things, like that bell ring near the beginning of "Phosphorous Redeemer" as the main riff kicks in, the crowd shouts in "To Redirect Perdition" or that haunting church bell in "Unclosing the Curse," which serves as an intro to "Into Utter Madness."

Performance-wise, the guitars and drums are about as good as one could hope for in black metal. Tremolo riffs galore, yet there is enough variety to keep the songs interesting and prevent the album from blending together while justifying the sometimes longer-than-usual song lengths. The drums are all over the place, creating exciting fills and upping the pace while maintaining the rhythm and never seeming over-extravagant.

One of the arguments that n00bs use against extreme metal is how it does not take talent to perform the vocals and that they cover up their lack of ability by yelling. As much as it annoys me, they do have a point. The Steve Tucker Morbid Angel albums would have benefited from more than just some doofus burping into the microphone throughout, for example. Mortuus proves that extreme metal vocalists can add something to the albums they perform on, rather than being hindrances or, at the very best, a part of the music that we tune out or categorize as a part of the rhythm. He changes pitch and mingles different types of screams, yells and growls to create what is probably, in my limited experience, one of the best extreme vocal performances out there. And he does it without any clean vocals whatsoever!

Wormwood is not perfect, though. "Chorus of Cracking Necks" is pure filler and, though it shows potential, "As A Garment" is a weak album closer. Even so, Wormwood not only defies many of the stereotypes of the genre (while not sacrificing their overall vision), but it also displays a surprisingly long shelf-life. There is plenty to discover through repeated listens and an uncharacteristic depth to many of the songs. While I would not necessarily recommend this to entry-level extreme metal fans (even if more seasoned extreme-metal fans would consider me entry-level), I would recommend this highly to fans of dark, intense and heavy music.