28 May 2012
by Tom Dare
If you plotted Marduk’s career output on a bar chart rating them on quality, the picture would look like a city centre planned by a complete lunatic. Starting out playing some of the (then) most acerbic music around as one of Sweden’s earliest post-Bathory black metal bands, they began a worrying decline, only to completely revive their fortunes three albums back. Serpent Sermon, their fourth album with vocalist Mortuus and their twelfth in all, aims to continue their blasphemous campaign of hate.
The most noticeable evolution towards Serpent Sermon is the slightly more melodic approach. Perhaps it’s a conscious decision, given that it’s essentially impossible to out-horrid the prior trilogy of the fiery Plague Angel, the doom-laden Rom 5:12, or the astonishing Wormwood that fused the two, but Serpent Sermon isn’t quite the abominable, borderline intolerable wrath we’ve become used to. It’s still nastier than the overwhelming majority of black metal you’re likely to hear any time soon; it’s merely a slightly different approach taken.
Similarly, the doomy passages are a little less cavernous and foreboding, and it’s here that the (marginally) increased melody initially raises its head. The blasting fury flying around contains a little of this, but the space afforded by the slower songs – ‘Temple Of Decay‘ being a prime example – makes it more noticeable. Dissection proved twenty years ago that appalling noise isn’t the only way to sound sinister, and Marduk’s sense of melody does the same in ways (don’t expect lyrical lead guitar parts) that ever so slightly hark of Watain.
Erik Danielsson and co’s move from overt Nodveidt-worship to discovering their abilities at infusing melody and memorable refrains into their fiery riffage was a key component in giving Lawless Darkness its power. It’s a trick that Marduk have adopted into their own sound, fusing patches of something approaching tune into Morgan Håkansson’s trademark riff conflagration. It might account for the lower shock Serpent Sermon causes compared to the band’s most abrasive material, but it accounts for making this an interesting evolution that continues Marduk’s impressive run of form.
Watch the video to ‘Souls For Belial’ by Marduk:
It really can’t be emphasised enough that this is still an abhorrent racket. Of all the classic Scandinavian bands still going, only Mayhem, who haven’t released an album for five years, have been as capable of being virulent and disturbing while developing their sound and releasing quality material. ‘Souls For Belial‘ is demonic and vehement, ‘Damnation’s Gold‘ waxes and wanes but never ceases to be infernal, and closer ‘World Of Blades‘ is the dutiful apocalyptic closer slamming shut the abyssal door behind you. Mortuus’ voice is at its most viscerally scathing, the drumming is articulate and violent, and Serpent Sermon is another Marduk winner.
Sounds like: the fiery evil of hell come to claim your wretched soul.
Stand-out tracks: Souls For Belial, Temple Of Decay, World Of Blades.