Marduk | ‘Serpent Sermon’
Marduk are surely one of the better examples of how a band can reinvigorate themselves by taking a chance on new members and a new direction.
It was back in 2004 that the shockingly excellent ‘Plague Angel’ was set loose upon the world, silencing naysayers who had written the band off due to some patchy and unmotivated mid-career releases.
‘Rom 5:12′ followed suit as another top-quality release, showcasing Mortuus’ vocal abilities and variations in all their unholy glory and a more daring approach towards songwriting from Morgan Håkansson.
Worryingly though, some cracks have shown here and there in the last 3 years.
Their last album release, ‘Wormwood’, was a lacklustre and dragging mix of what seemed like a confusing collection of ideas haphazardly blended together. Last years ‘Iron Dawn’ EP, while good in its own right, raised concerns that Morgan and co. may have decided to cocoon themselves safely back into familiar settings with the war-based lyrics and ‘Panzer Division Marduk’-style blasting.
You won’t immediately be filled with confidence listening to the self-titled opening track. Its chorus has a very melodic-Swedish quality to it, not too dissimilar to what you would hear from Hypocrisy these days, and is a little too sugar-sweet for a band like Marduk. The second track, ‘Messianic Pestilence’, is very, very average and put bluntly, apart from the menacing ringing chords thrown in here and there, it’s Marduk on auto-pilot.
You may have already heard ‘Souls of Belial’, the single release. It’s a great track, combining fast-paced brutality with excellent slow-paced interims. Props must also be given to Mortuus on vocal duties on this track, as his spoken word sections are chilling and perfectly mapped.
‘Into Second Death’ and ‘Temple of Decay’ reinstill hope, both of which contain some very nice drum work – but then along comes ‘Damnation’s Gold’ and ‘Hail Mary [Pissed-soaked Genuflexion]‘ both of which are very unmemorable. ‘Gospel of The Worm’ appears to be nothing more than a filler track to lead into ‘World of Blades’ – a track that a lot of thought was evidently put into due to the diversity of its range of sound – but it’s not as outstanding as probably intended.
‘Coram Satanae’ serves well as the records finale. It wouldn’t have been a difficult decision to make this the very last track as it would sound odd anywhere else, having that kind of larger-than-life ‘dying hero’ quality to it. The guitar riffs are very nice here and it ends with a church bell ringing a few times.
‘M.A.M.M.O.N.’ was the pre-release teaser track, and it was enough to get people very, very excited to hear this whole thing. It’s an immense listen. An album full of tracks like this, ‘Souls of Belial’ and ‘Coram Satanae’ and we’d be heralding a real return to form.
It’s just plain unfortunate that this record isn’t a convincing return to form at all.
It’s time Marduk shook things up a bit. When they’re good, they’re great. But when they’re bad, they’re absurdly generic and by-the-numbers.
The three tracks praised above, all share similar qualities in dynamics with eachother and even to the previous albums’ wonderful ‘Whorecrown’ track too.
What’s most frustrating is that those tracks are evidence enough that the band have a golden formula for an identity that they appear to only want to release in tiny bursts, among what is essentially a collection of other tracks that wouldn’t have been good enough to make the cut for either ‘Plague Angel’, ‘Rom 5:12′ or even ‘Panzer Division Marduk’ for that matter.
You are better than this, Marduk.
2.9 / 5 – Ricardo Angelone ::: 16/06/12