Marduk’s ‘Serpent Sermon’ is another dose of dizzying, devious black metal

A few years ago I was at a show at this horrible local club (I hate it for its clientele and awful beer selection) when this girl wandered onto the stage to look out the window to assess the traffic situation below. Now, bear in mind a band was just a few minutes from starting, and here is this drunk idiot trying to maneuver through their gear with no regard for its well-being. One of the band members screamed at her to get away from their shit, she deserved it, and even though she slurred back some nonsense, she was effectively put in her place.

Unless you’re in the band, work for them, or do security, you probably should stay away from the stage. You don’t belong there, and while it’s fine if the band is encouraging you to get up there and leap back into a crowd that may or may not catch you, it’s in your best interest to stay away. After all, recall what happened to “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, and his assailant wasn’t even on the stage. The people in the band don’t know if an approaching person is an assailant, wants to lift equipment, or is just an over-excited fan, so when someone like Marduk’s Mortuus takes offense at your approach and bodyslams the shit out of you for stepping onto his territory, it’s your own damn fault. Hopefully the moron who got pulverized into oblivion at Marduk’s December 2009 show in San Francisco learned that valuable lesson, for Mortuus is not to be messed with. You Tube, everyone.

Admittedly, that much-talked-about confrontation has little to do with the band’s new, 12th album “Serpent Sermon,” other than it too is a scary, muscle-bound slab of black metal hell that should remind you not to step where you aren’t safe. I just like to talk about and laugh at the guy whose night got ruined. “Serpent” is the band’s first for Century Media after delivering their killer 2009 opus “Wormwood” on Regain, and it should find a warm home amongst the band’s fans. It’s heavy, creepy, damaged, and blasphemous, as one would expect from these fellows, and it’ll warp whatever good is left in your heart.

Since we opened talking about Mortuus, let us continue. Not to take away from the goodness his band delivers on this record — they’re at the very top of their game — the frontman (he replaced Legion in 2003) is worth the price of admission. He’s gurgly and snarly, shouting and howling with authority, and you certainly pay heed to everything he snarls at you. He’s a great dark mouthpiece, one of the few black metal frontmen who have broken all molds and are completely recognizable upon opening their mouths. What he sings sounds dangerous and serious, like he’s not just putting on some show, and the diatribes that spew from him can infect and, if you’re on the other side of his philosophical spectrum, completely infuriate. That’s kind of the magic in hearing Mortuus perform. As for me, I’m just here for the music.

The band – it also includes guitarists Evil and Devo and drummer Lars Broddesson — wastes no time getting started, blasting right into the damaged title track and leading into “Messianic Pestilence,” a fast, bloodthirsty song that gurgles on its own fury. “Souls for Belial” slows things down a bit, but the track is no less heavy. It’s doomy and distorted, and there’s more of as traditional rock melody line holding the piece together. “Into Second Death” brings back the madness and fury, and woven into the cut are group chants that sound like they’re designed to resurrect some ancient god or mummy. Or both. Reminds me just a bit of Melechesh, as does “Damnation’s Gold,” the song that appears two tracks later. “MAMMON” is awash in chaos and damnation, and the fast, punk-style guitar work bruises you in a hurry; “Gospel of the Worm” might make you feel like you’ve been spun into the ground with its vortex of guitar lines, off-kilter melodies, and vicious howls from Mortuus of, “No hope, only death!”; and 7:09 closer “World of Blades” flows nicely over its stretched running time, getting mean and confrontational when the need arises, but also letting you breathe in atmosphere.

Marduk certainly have a formula that works for them, and they remain one of the most instantly recognizable black metal bands from a sonic standpoint. They’ve never sacrificed their visions or their passion, and while they may rub some people wrong, I hardly think they give a shit. They’re here to be profane and offensive, and anyone who gets in their way may find themselves in a crumbled heap at Mortuus’ boots.

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