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Marduk - "Wormwood" (CD)

Marduk - "Wormwood" CD cover image

"Wormwood" track listing:

1. Nowhere, No-One, Nothing (3:19)
2. Funeral Dawn (5:51)
3. This Fleshly Void (3:06)
4. Unclosing The Curse (2:15)
5. Into Utter Madness (4:56)
6. Phosphorous Redeemer (6:11)
7. To Redirect Perdition (6:41)
8. Whorecrown (5:29)
9. Chorus Of Cracking Necks (3:47)
10. As A Garment (4:17)

Reviewed by on September 29, 2009

"Marduk deserves a flash of the horns and a bang of the head for managing to not only continue under the same name for so long, but also for evolving past their origins to create a unique sound."

There is a lot of pressure on a band like Marduk when they unleash a new album onto the extreme metal hordes. As a European black metal band that started in the early 1990’s they are rightly included among the ranks of the hallowed fathers of the genre. Many of the other bands in that exclusive group have either broken up to pursue other sounds or continued to put out carbon copies of their previous work. Marduk deserves a flash of the horns and a bang of the head for managing to not only continue under the same name for so long, but also for evolving past their origins to create a unique sound. “Wormwood” doesn’t always hit with the full impact of its namesake, but it should still be on the short list of black metal fans who like atmosphere in their sonic journeys.

“Wormwood” starts off with “Nowhere, No-One, Nothing,” which rears its ugly head with distorted screams and cries of pain. The first few seconds might give the impression that the album is a by-the-numbers sort of black metal release. The blasting drums, hellish growls, and racing guitars all maintain the type of sound that has fueled the genre for two decades. Any notion of traditionalism gets shattered violently when the guitars suddenly stop to herald the coming of the bass. Marduk spawns a wickedly evil sort of miracle when the bass not only continues to have a presence through the rest of the disc, but actually plays a critical role in some of the songs.

The second track “Funeral Dawn” takes even more of a departure from the standard black metal style by starting with a vaguely rock themed guitar segment that explodes into a spaced out and moody composition. The song takes a much slower approach than the rest of the album, coming off as more of a measured march than a full speed gallop to war. While the song itself is superb, the ending reveals the major downfall of “Wormwood,” which is the rather unique vocal delivery. Nearly every song has a few segments where vocalist Mortuus stops growling words and starts croaking out laborious and tortured screams. Some of them sound exactly as they should, as though a demon beast is screeching out sounds not of this world that can only cause dread in mortal ears. Others come off more silly and may illicit unintentional laughter, as though there is something terrible happening in his bowels. The shrieks slowly earn their place in the music as the album is heard repeatedly, but many metal fans may find they simply can’t deal with the more over the top screams.

Marduk makes good use of limited sound effects during the album to give little nuances that make a big impact. From a brief snippet of buzzing flies in between guitar assaults to a screeching wind in the background, each track has something to make it memorable. The ninth track has one of the most noticeable examples, with a disquieting crackling sound when the song slows down. The effect becomes much more disturbing when it’s revealed that the title of the song is “Chorus of Cracking Necks.”

The more modern and atmospheric aspects of “Wormwood” may not fully appeal to black metal traditionalists, and some of the screams are definitely an acquired taste. Anyone who has ever wished that the black metal masters would actually utilize their bassist and try to break out of their self imposed restrictions should love nearly every minute of the album, however.

Highs: Great sound effects and heavy atmosphere melded with black metal mayhem

Lows: Some of the screams are unintentionally humorous

Bottom line: The vocals are an acquired taste, but the rest of the album is top-notch atmospheric black metal.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)