Ah, good old Marduk. To be into extreme metal and to have never heard of them in my book is complete and total sacrilege. Either that, or you’re a tone deaf root vegetable. This is how strongly extreme metal fans feel about such established household names like these guys, and so do I for that matter.
To be fair, if you haven’t heard of them before then you could quickly rectify the situation by the purchase of ‘Serpent Sermon’ – the 12th studio album from our Swedish black metal friends. Established acts such as these guys certainly don’t understand the definition of releasing a poor album, and in this case it definitely doesn’t disappoint. They can split opinion, as those who are serious about them categorise them into two groups; the albums that have Legion on vocals or the last four that have Mortuus on vocals (which includes their current album). In my book, either period is good and I have to say they’re all relatively consistent in quality. In fact, if Marduk were to be compared to cars they would be a great big black ‘Type R’ spec Volvo– dependable, reliable, cool looking, mean, and drive like an ignited bat flying through a nitroglycerin factory. This said, my personal favourites are one from each era – ‘Panzer Division Marduk’ and ‘Plague Angel’.
After being on the scene for 20 years, they still contain fire and fury and show no signs of fading; unlike some of their peers. They don’t believe in watering it all down for a mass appeal audience, and this album is a perfect example of this which follows on nicely from their previous album – ‘Wormwood’.
By and large, the plan of attack is the typical Scandinavian Black Metal route – bludgeoning fast riffs, machine gun drums and screamed vocals. This said, there are a few tracks that add some nice dynamics to the proceedings to vary the pace and to make it an invigorating listen. ‘Serpent Sermon’ opens with a dramatic thumping military drum stomp which starts the album off very well indeed and heads off into thick and pitch black riffing territory, slowing down and picking up the pace throughout the track which would be a definite crowd pleaser in a live setting. ‘Messianic Pestilence’ is a short and nihilistic blast before leading into ‘Souls For Belial’, which starts with a distorted vocal before proceeding to tear the listener’s head off with a full on apocalyptic chuggathon. ‘Into Second Death’ has riffs that appear to have death metal sounding origin, that ducks and dives with slowing riffs that build up in speed and add to the whole atmosphere of the track,
This blends very nicely into ‘Temple of Decay’, that opens with a solid slow riff that hits the listener like a mountain of granite combined with a melodic drumming into that will have you unwittingly air drumming and is a more slower paced and ponderous number. It is well worth noting that this album has an excellent mix of working from one track to the next in a neat and ordered manner, that flows beautifully when played. To my ears, they have clearly taken a lot of thought into how the album shall be structured and ordered – and many other bands could do with following their example in my opinion.
‘Damnation’s Gold’ picks up the pace once more and thunders along at a machine gun pace, punctuated by chest beating choruses and slow doomy passages adding variety before ending in squealing feedback; while ‘Hail Mary…’ is an extremely catchy number, which is a short and sharp blast and is one of my personal favourites on the album that has a very catchy guitar motif reminding me of an Impaled Nazarene track. ‘M.A,M,M.O,N.’ follows in a similar ‘short, sharp shock’ pattern, ending with a sharp and punk riffed ‘Gospel of the Worm’. Lastly, ‘World of Blades’ sweeps along as a majestic closer using a well structured bass riff as a backbone; the sort of bass riff that has you performing ‘Alan Partridge Air Bass’ and pulling grim black metal faces while no one is looking (or maybe it’s just me), and is an excellent closer.
To conclude, this is a very competent and high quality black metal album that will please established fans, and also win over a lot of new ones. A serious contender for one of the top extreme metal albums of the year so far.