‘Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned’ Rom 5:12
We should be thankful for sin, for had there been no sin we would never have had a MARDUK. The topics of death and evil have long been staples in MARDUK’s lyrical/ideological canon but on “Rom 5:12” this Swedish filth machine regale us with their tales of the impure with a vigor that was notably absent from their last few releases. Indecisiveness has always knackered this band’s output ever since they started out: the early albums were solid but a bit underdeveloped, then they improved mightily with albums like “Heaven Shall Burn…” and “Nightwing”, before once again hitting the doldrums with their last few albums. With “Rom 5:12” they finally pulled their shit together and the result is the best MARDUK in years. Key to this album’s strength is its undeniably high level of songwriting. Morgan Steinmeyer and co. seems to have finally realized that an album needs more than 40 minutes of mindless blasting, and this is evident in their newest opus. These songs are fully fleshed out mini epics that work just as well when taken individually or as a whole.
When that brilliant mid-paced riff of “The Levelling Dust” kicks in you know that this is a most special album from these blasphemers. It ebbs, flows and slowly coils itself around your memory. Their best opener in years? You bet! “Cold Mouth Prayer” (featuring guest vocals from their first vocalist Joakim from way back when) is a more traditional MARDUK song full of speedy blasts and patented icy riffs/melodies. It is with the following track, “Imago Mortis”, that their power is harnessed to the fullest – a slow but undeniably catchy number with a heart as black as soot. If you liked the slower material on HORNA’s last effort you’ll love this one. It’s epic, dark and entrancing all in one, plus it has soul. Here Mortuus illustrates why he is such a respected vocalist. Save for the weaker final two songs, the rest of the album is topnotch stuff, whether it’s the lightning fast “Through The Belly Of Damnation”, the experimental triumph of “Accuser/Opposer” (another slower track where PRIMORDIAL’s Alan trades clean vocal lines with Mortuus’s raspy throat), or the very Thrash-based “Vanity Of Vanities” (featuring some of Mortuus’s sickest vocals to date!) – it’s all killer! They even throw in a couple of very effective solos here and there.
If I have one complaint then it is the irritating bass sound. Imagine the limp/jangly tone of KORN’s bass and you’ll know what I mean. This is most evident in “Voices From Avignon” and comes dangerously close to spoiling the whole affair for me. Luckily the riffs, vocal lines and overall song structures are among the very best of this band’s career. I love this more song-oriented approach that the band have taken here, and in a way you can sense that this is the album they’ve wanted to write for a long time.
“Rom 5:12” is a cohesive, smart and powerful Black Metal album that demands attention. It is pretty much a perfect album for them and it shows that there is still a lot of fuel left in their tank.
MARDUK, I raise my glass and horns to thee!!
(Online June 6, 2007)