Marduk – Wormwood
Rating: 4.0/5.0 – Sure, they’re not breaking lots of ground, but they’re so damn good at it…
Label: Regain Records
Website(s): marduk.nu | myspace.com/truemarduk
Release Date(s): USA: 10.13.2009 | EU: Out now!
Marduk is legendary in the black metal scene for releasing some of the most ground-breaking black metal of its time. Records like Panzer Division Marduk and especially Heaven Shall Burn… When We Are Gathered considered two of the finest black metal albums ever released; the former having been likened to Slayer’s magnum opus Reign in Blood in reference to how it changed black metal by upping the ante. However, like Slayer, few bands get a chance to redefine a genre more than once and Marduk is no different. While Wormwood is an excellent example of the fact that raw black metal can still be made and can still be compelling, Wormwood isn’t a scene defining record. It’s just a very good record.
But just because Wormwood isn’t going to change how you think about black metal, doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth picking up. This album is chock full of amazing riffs, raw as fuck vocals and just plain all around black metal mastery. Honestly, the addition of Mortuus on vocals all those years ago was probably the best thing that happened to Marduk in a long time. It changed the sound enough to make the band seem somehow “new” again, and added a rawness and just straight up evilness that sends chills up the listeners spine. This guy is easily one of the best vocalists in black metal today, and after helping make Rom 5:12 a masterpiece, Wormwood is the perfect follow up.
Frankly, I have trouble finding anything to criticize about this record. Sure, it’s not mind-blowingly new, but it doesn’t feel overdone or boring either. Even the slower parts on the record, like the intro to “As A Garment” work to push the record in a good direction, and every track is memorable on its own. As has become the standard for later Marduk, the breakneck speed has been slowed down some, but this doesn’t detract from the heaviness, the rawness or the atmosphere. In fact, it adds to it. And when it comes right down to it, how many bands can even say “Hey, we’re releasing studio album number 11,” and have it be such a tour de force as we see on Wormwood.
To be honest, the big surprise for me on this album is that I don’t ever remember these guys being so melodically “pleasing.” I know it sounds like a weird thing to say, but I seriously never remember leaving with melodic riffs and leads from Marduk albums floating around in my head while I’m doing other stuff. However, on Wormwood there are definitely melodic pieces that really stand out. See the “chorus” in “The Fleshy Void” which is honestly one of the best black metal trem-picking riffs I’ve ever heard. Extreme, heavy and, oddly catchy (without being cheesy).
I’d like to say that Marduk is back, but they never really went away. Wormwood is a continuation of a legacy of excellence that few bands can claim. After a stretch of more pedestrian works these guys have rallied and come back as strong as ever with an excellent record that impresses and never, ever bores.