Review : Marduk - Serpent Sermon
SputnikmusicIt is hard to believe that Marduk have been around for 22 years and are releasing their twelfth studio album in Serpent Sermon. The fact that they have been playing black metal through and through for that entire length of time and rarely deviated from their core sound aside from slight shifts in subject matter is something that many black metal bands cannot claim, and may not really want to claim. It seems a bit odd to still be reviewing an album by these Swedish veterans simply because of the amount of material they have released, but it becomes even more confusing when Serpent Sermon proves that Marduk may have life in them yet. While their 2011 EP Iron Dawn may have been a monument of mediocrity, Serpent Sermon plays a different hand: ravaging black metal with an old-school feel. From the frantic riffing to the over-the-top imagery and lyrics, Marduk plainly do not care whether the oft-heckled “trve” black metal sound is out of style.
More power to them, really, when 22 years after their formation they have departed so little from their core aesthetics, aside from a cleaner production which brings this tremolo-laden beast to the 21st century. While it is hard to say that anything here will breathe life into the genre, it is also difficult to say that they have encountered a lot of obstacles along the way. Serpent Sermon feels smooth and connected, which is odd considering that 2009’s Wormwood had itself a fair share of meaningless filler. The down-tempo “Temple of Decay” seems to contrast the ripping “Damnation’s Gold” and “Hail Mary (Piss-Soaked Genuflexion)” markedly, but they work alongside each other well, helping to keep tempo stagnation to a bare minimum. This is quite a feat, indeed, because Marduk have suffered from crippling repetition on their past several albums, but seem to be trying to correct that here. While the problem most definitely isn’t solved – there are plenty of moments where a change of pace would have been invaluable – it is a step in the right direction.
While the attitude of the band to remain true to their roots may be admirable, it can’t be overlooked as a drawback. Serpent Sermon is an album any black metal fan has already heard: laden with tremolo riffing, incredibly heavy, unrelenting, and explicit in its content. “World of Blades”, the album’s closer, is the most varied track on the album, with slower instrumentation and vicious vocals by Mortuus – who, it should be said, is a very good vocalist when it comes to this style of black metal – sandwiching a lengthy break with spoken word vocals that isn’t necessarily a highlight but does contribute to the album’s atmosphere. It is nice to hear that the production Marduk have placed on the instruments is very good – it’s been quite a while since I enjoyed the bass guitar on a black metal album. Sadly, the production does make the album seem more sterile than it ought to be, because black metal in this vein should have a muddy mix in order to further the overall atmosphere. When it comes down to it, Serpent Sermon lacks wow-factor, and it is hard to say that there is any single track that is particularly exceptional. What Marduk have done is, instead of releasing several great tracks amidst a field of filler, released an album where all 10 tracks just sort of go along without much fuss....full text
ThisisnotasceneAh, 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....full text
PsychocyddIt may be needless to introduce MARDUK, since anyone familiar with the genre of Black Metal has at least a vague idea of the concept behind the band - namely the Panzer Division and consequently their fast and shredding music. Ever since their foundation in 1990, the Swedes have influenced the genre considerably with albums like ‘Dark Endless’ (1992) or the well-known ‘Panzer Division Marduk’ (1999). Since then, their style has been constantly modified and nowadays, brutality encounters manifold song structures. With ‘Serpent Sermon’, MARDUK are about to release their twelfth studio record. The title track and opener ‘Serpent Sermon’ varies between shredding guitars, mid-tempo interludes and an almost epic, atmospheric chorus. ‘Messianic Pestilence’ continues rather fast and straight-forward, whereas ‘Souls for Belial’ starts off with a croaked intro and includes lots of changes in speed as well as harsh yet graspable lyrics.
The following ‘Into Second Death’ is definitely a very remarkable and grooving song, with very dominant drums and a dark, mean atmosphere. ‘Temple of Decay’ is more tempered and conveys a very evil and dense mood. Death Metal influences can be heard on the subsequent ‘Damnation’s Gold’, whilst ‘Hail Mary (Piss-soaked Genuflexion)’ states a traditional Black Metal song with blasphemous lyrics, atonal phrases but also fast and demanding guitar work. The rest of the album, including the shortest track ‘Gospel of the Worm’ or the long, diversified final ‘World of Blades’ provide no surprises. ‘Serpent Sermon’ is a well-produced and felicitous record which encompasses all of MARDUK’S characteristic musical features - fastness, brutality and speed, mixed up with a dose of evil spirit and atmospheric parts. Fans of the band and well-made Black Metal will surely be satisfied with this record, although it is not as innovative and experimental as ‘Rom 5:12’....full text
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