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One could be tempted to claim that, in many ways, MARDUK are the embodiment of what is essentially known as Black Metal. With almost two decades of blasphemy tainting their conscience, Morgan Steinmeyer and his often-rotating band of hoodlums have gone to hell and back, earning equal amounts of adoration and animosity on their journey. With 2007's "Rom 5:12" meeting a mixed reception, which is par for the course in the grim world of MARDUK, "Wormwood" keeps the same line-up, including Mortuus of FUNERAL MIST behind the microphone.
This year also marks the ten-year anniversary of that often talked-about "Panzer Division", which set the standard for fast Black Metal for years to come. This insane speed is not completely gone from the band's arsenal, but the pummelings are divided by slower headcrushing crawls. These two modes of MARDUK both have their strengths and weaknesses. "Funeral Dawn" is one of the best MARDUK-tracks since "Nightwing", and the lack of speed is more than made up for with a heavy delivery of blows, complimented by Mortuus' totally over-the-top croaking and bellowing. His often theatrical delivery places him on equal grounds with, if not above, Legion's work on the band's prime albums.
On the faster side of things, "Into Utter Madness" delivers the classic MARDUK-assault, while the shattering "Chorus Of Cracking Necks" takes home the prize for the most evil track, as well as the best title of the year. Add a production that long since departed from bedroom-distortion, without going over the accepted amount of polishing, and you've got yourself a quality addition to a rather uneven discography. On the downside, the band seems to have taken some inspiration from the Gothenburg-school, with a few leads and riffs feeling almost uplifting in nature. Some of the tracks tend to go nowhere, and especially a couple of the slower numbers feel like pointless filler, with closer "As A Garment" being the worst offender. This sees the band experimenting with hymn-like elements, which falls flat as an anti-climatic bore, even though it might work well as a sing-along for upcoming live ceremonies.
While it's nowhere near their prime work (a title still held by "Nightwing"), "Wormwood" still delivers the required fill of MARDUK. For a band that has only gradually changed their style through 19 years, the continued demand for more is testament to their longevity. Who would have thought that the guys who recorded "Fuck Me Jesus" would still be relevant in 2009?
(Online November 29, 2009)
Written for the Metal Observer