Just in case you were starting to feel like you lost your sense ov evil, the “most blasphemous band in the world” brought forth their latest offering in the form of Serpent Sermon, and just prior to that, a particularly nasty, deliciously offensive, maggot infested official video of one of their tastier tracks – nice! If you’re not familiar with Marduk and the blasphemy spewed forth by Mortuus, it’s been a dynamic journey starting with death influenced black metal and arriving at Serpent Sermon, a more intense offering (think black metal on speed with some elements akin to Carpathian Forest, 1349 and Dark Funeral). I’ve been making my way through Marduk’s discography and bear with me, it’s weighty – 12 studio albums, 4 live albums and 7 EPs! What I can say so far is that for fans new to Marduk’s work Serpent Sermon is the place to start.
The album kicks off on an anthemic note and takes you on an unholy, thrill-ride through Marduk’s sermon covering, with colossal aggression, Satanism, anti-Christianity, hell, fire and death. Mortuus is in top form throughout the album and succeeds in sounding ferociously raw and depraved as a dark lord should (spin “Souls for Belial”, “Gospel of the Worm” or “World of Blades” if you need convincing). Serpent Sermon not only consists of tasty subject matter and vox that would make an upper demon proud, but also belligerent and infectious drum patterns like those in “Temple of Decay” and “Damnation’s Gold” and I was well intrigued when I caught snatches of Lars behind the drums in their official music video release – so cold, precise and controlled. Morgan’s guitar work on this album is interesting and varied and he’s able to instantly shift gears from melodic, full-throttle riffing and solos and traditional black metal trem, like those on “Hail Mary (Piss-soaked Genuflexion)” to thick, trudging solos like those on “Coram Satanae”, where every note feels like a threat!
There really isn’t much to complain about where Serpent Sermon is concerned, running at exactly 60 minutes, this fire and brimstone album is a worthy follower to its predecessor, 2009s Wormwood, and follows on with the cleaner production style (courtesy of Magnus “Devo” Andersson). While I enjoy this sound, I suspect die-hard fans with different expectations for trve kvlt black metal will weep many a blackened tear in frustration at this path that Marduk have followed. This cleaner style is somewhat blunted by the fact that at times Mortuus is brought quite high up in the mix and this bombastic vocal approach could be seen to overshadow the drums and guitar. For myself, however, this didn’t detract from the listening experience and by contrast they add a level of rawness to the polished feel of the album. Serpent Sermon has sufficiently gripped me by the throat and is prompting me to take my journey deeper into Marduk’s hellish black metal world.
Tracks to check: “Souls for Belial”, “World of Blades” and “Coram Satanae”