Do not be too quick to assume what you're going to get with MARDUK's new album. By that I mean that it is not a one-trick pony, tempo changes and the compositional nuance heard on the past few albums notwithstanding. In fact, "Rom 5:12" is one hell of a varied and ferocious black metal album, one that holds tight to all the blasphemous fury that you've come to expect from the Swedes, but one that also offers the listener a fair amount of depth in song construction.
Even the classic MARDUK blasters bring a generous helping of songwriting prowess, relatively speaking of course. "Cold Mouth Prayer", which features guest vocals from former MARDUK member Joakim Göthberg, is as fast and furious as it is memorable. It is one of the album's strongest tracks. "Through the Belly of Damnation", "Limbs of Worship", "Vanity of Vanities", and "Voices from Avignon" rip with a vengeance, coming off like a band that's as hungry as ever. The mid-tempo "The Levelling Dust" is a nasty opener as well. Mortuus' acidic vocals throughout the album are just plain vile, his performance here arguably his best yet.
The pace slows considerably when "Imago Mortus" hits. A basic drumbeat leads a song that slithers along the ground, ultimately fading into a spooky and distorted section of church organ. The dark and classically influenced atmospheric keyboards and war march cadence of "1651" chill to the bone, while a fat, stop-stop riff and the ominous bass line breaks of "Womb of Perishableness" combine for another of the album's slow crushers. Finally, Latin chants and the clean vocals of PRIMORDIAL's Alan Averill are heard on atmospheric plodder "Accuser/Opposer", easily an album highlight.
"Rom 5:12" is a welcome addition to MARDUK's legendary catalog, proving once and for all that the kings have yet to relinquish their throne. The band has certainly made one of the better albums of its career here, one that is in the running for my year-end Top 10 list.