It seems that Marduk are out to prove a point on this brand new release Rom 5:12. Easily their heaviest and most aggressive slab of violent & blasphemous black metal in years, Rom 5:12 spews bile from start to finish, but also contains moments of clarity and technicality that might surprise some. Lead singer Mortuus puts in a performance here that finally lifts him from the shadows of the departed Legion. His vocals are so over the top and hideous that at first you'll want to run and take cover lest you be splattered by his venom, but after repeated listens it's apparent he is now really on top of his game, and delivers one of black metal's most convincing performances this year.
Musically as well, this platter is top notch. Listen to Morgan's layered guitar work and the intricate drum patterns from Emil on the crushing mini-epic "Imago Mortis", or the brutal "The Levelling Dust", a song so torturously frightening that even fans of 1349, one of the most significant of the newer bands who deliver quality black metal brutality, will sit up and take notice. Former singer Joakim makes a surprising guest vocal on the excellent "Cold Mouth Prayer" (and showing he still can deliver the goods), and insane blast beats & machine gun tremelo picked riffs propel the manic "Through The Belly Of Damnation", a song that also has some acrobatic bass grooves from Debo. Ominous keyboards, percussion, and Mortuus' evil spoken word narration prove to be a frightening and cold framework on "1651", which gives a few moments of tranquility before the bombast to follow.
"Limbs Of Worship" is simply furious and brutal black metal, with Mortuus giving one of his most tortured performances on the album. Honestly, I'm not sure how this guys doesn't destroy his vocal chords singing this stuff. The longest piece on the album, "Accuser/Opposer", at just under 9-minutes, is a real keeper, and brings back some of the bands original death metal influences. Slower and more grinding guitar work from Morgan kicks things off, with spoken word narration, Mortuus' evil growls, as well as some clean vocals from guest Naihmass Nemtheanga from Primordial. To cap things off, there are even some chilling Gregorian chants to close out the piece, making it one of the more varied and textured songs on the CD. The band lurches back with the violent "Vanity Of Vanities", then hits you with another epic track, the bone crunching "Womb Of Perishableness". This one again sees Mortuus at the helm relinquishing his innards, while Morgan and Debo lay down some huge riffs and acrobatic grooves. Emil puts in a restrained performance on this one that actually works really well with the slowed down tempo, filling the gaps with a solid yet persistent backbeat. It wouldn't be Marduk though if they didn't close out Rom 5:12 with a complete bloodbath, which they certainly do on "Voices From Avignon", a powerful and menacing example of how black metal should be played. Morgan's textured guitar work takes the place of keyboards, and the complex drum and bass patterns give this one an almost proggy feel.
For some listeners, Marduk might just be too brutal and over the top, but there's no denying that Rom 5:12 is taking black metal to a new level of intensity. While many of the long running acts in the genre have softened up their sound over the years, these Swedes just continue to go in the opposite direction. Now, the've added some structure and variety to their attack so it's not just a wall-wall bludgeoning of blast beats and manic rifing. Have Marduk grown up? Perhaps. Have they gotten even more extreme? Certainly. I'm sensing a progression here that will set them apart from many of their peers. Highly recommended stuff for the black metal faithful.
01. The Levelling Dust
02. Cold Mouth Prayer [feat. Joakim Göthberg]
03. Imago Mortis
04. Through The Belly Of Damnation
06. Limbs Of Worship
07. Accuser/Opposer [feat. A.A. Nemtheanga]
08. Vanity Of Vanities
09. Womb Of Perishableness
10. Voices From Avignon