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Oppressive atmospheric and the band at its best - 95%

gk, December 11th, 2009

Those of the Unlight was the first black metal album I ever heard back in the day and Marduk is one of the few bands from the early 90s that I still keep up with. Over the course of almost twenty years and a dozen albums, the band seemed stuck in a holding pattern and you pretty much knew what you were getting with every new Marduk album. That changed with 2007s superb ROM 5:12 where the band slowed down, introduced clean vocals and laid a lot more emphasis on atmosphere.

Wormwood, the band’s twelfth studio album and latest carries on from where ROM 5:12 left but if anything, this is just a little better. The band still focuses on building a thick sludgy atmosphere through their black metal and even when they are going at it full speed ahead, the atmosphere is retained to startling effect. Main man and guitarist Morgan Hakansson really has pulled out all the stops on Wormwood. The songs run the gamut from fast, chaotic and angry to monstrously slow dirges that threaten to suffocate. Mortuus’s vocals go from your normal black metal screech to a pretty cool growl and back to the tortured shrieking from the toilet bowl of hell. It’s a powerful performance and doesn’t really cross over into the realm of parody. The big change in the sound though, comes from bass player Magnus Andersson whose bass is given even more prominence on Wormwood than on the last album and the result is an always thick and murky atmosphere to these songs regardless of the pace at which the band is playing.

Stand out tracks include album opener Nowhere, No-one, Nothing which comes raging out of the speakers in classic full speed ahead Marduk style, This Fleshy Void which is rabid and chaotic enough to have been on any of the band’s first three albums, Phosphorous Redeemer which mixes the familiar chaotic speed of the band with a slowed down chorus and an actual groovy bass line and the awesome To Redirect Perdition which is more sludgy black metal. The absolute highlight of the album is the martial sludge of Funeral Dawn. Imagine the power of Red Harvest channeled through black metal and you’ll get an idea of just how powerful this song is. Album closer As a Garment once again slows things down and ends superbly with more prominence for the bass than ever before and there are no bad songs on Wormwood. It’s all just different levels of good.

The band has really raised their game on Wormwood. The best thing about Wormwood is that Marduk has managed to seamlessly integrate their black metal fury with the slower sludgy parts that are a relatively new addition to their sound and they do this while still keeping the music chaotic, dirty as fuck and atmospheric. This might just be Marduk’s best yet.

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