Release: 'Maranatha' (2009)
Mortuus/Arioch’s job of dragging Marduk from a state of apparent apathy back to black metal heavyweight status was no easy task. It seemed as if the band had become a parody of itself and disconcertingly, black metal; a succession of lacklustre, soulless releases told of nothing but sluggishness and a total lack of inspiration.
Inevitably, Arioch’s incorporation into the act breathed new life into its wearied lungs and powerful, serious material was subsequently vomited forth. Gone was the fist-fucking and pseudo-Nazi chic and in was medieval religious imagery and theistic Satanist overtones: the regular diet of Arioch’s endlessly impressive and seminal project, Funeral Mist.
Many fans of Funeral Mist may have feared that Arioch’s commitment to an act that tours as extensively as Marduk would sound the death knell for the project and 2003’s dizzying 'Salvation' looked set to be its swansong and magnum opus, a label it already deserved from the moment it was put to physical format, either way. However, with the announcement of 'Maranatha', the prodigal return of Funeral Mist after at least six years of silence, eager audiences poised themselves to level criticism at a release that it was believed could never better, or even match, 'Salvation'.
From the outset, 'Maranatha' is thoroughly arresting and undeniably powerful material. Even more emphasis is placed on Arioch’s inimitable and honestly chilling vocal style: and ode to possession and incredible strain. Sections of songs and the clever use of samples, both choral and otherwise, are woven together seamlessly, particularly noticeable and used to devastating effect on the track, “A New Light”.
The music is complimented by striking artwork and visuals; the juxtaposition of sterile, benevolent Christian imagery, pornography mixed with emaciated torsos and hungry stares and the scrawled yet legible calligraphic style is almost palatable in its seemingly effortless potency. Again, like 'Salvation', 'Marantha' is lyrically faultless and arguably divinely inspired.
'Maranatha' allows the listener a little more room, a little more space to assimilate the still mostly chaotic proceedings but in doing so, loses that impenetrable molasses that made 'Salvation' so purely unhinged and memorable. Indeed, the injection of variety is a welcome one - there being slower, almost “dirge-y” tracks that offer something new, such as “White Stone” - but this aspect could upset those who relished the “heads down” approach of its predecessor.
Though never fully managing to live up to the landmark status of 'Salvation', even in its most breathtaking moments, this release remains wholly impressive and clearly indicative of Arioch’s many talents.
This is contemporary black metal in one of its finest guises by an act that has spawned countless, and mostly inept, imitators. While Arioch has definitely brought credibility and longevity to Marduk, it is within Funeral Mist that he is obviously in his element.