Review: Worm – Gloomlord

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Walk into the fog and die slowly.

When I had first heard of Worm a few years ago, something about their aesthetic struck a chord with me immediately and touched on something rotting and repulsive hidden in the back of my head. They played a kind of black metal that was hallowed and ancient yet had notably little to do with the windswept glaciers and viking mysticism most of the genre was associated with. Where they dwelled was a realm moist, slimy, and rank with clinging humidity and maddening heat where rot would increase while mold and grime spread and grew. It was black metal born from the swamp and the bog, a vision of rot and decay hearkening back to a primordial sludge older than the genre’s frostbitten public visage. Yet this year, they degraded and regressed further into this form of frothing ancient abomination, dooming themselves to a slower and even more dreadful kind of extremity made of the most worm-cankered sores and pulsating piles of viscera that you would have found in this reeking realm. The album might be considerably shorter but what it lost in breadth it gained in hope-defiling heaviness and a mystifying new approach that becomes as fresh as it is unsettlingly disturbing.

With the aptly titled Gloomlord, Worm has morphed into a mixture of various extreme forms of doom. The mark of bands as varied as Disembowelment, Mortuary Drape, Goatlord, Unholy, Disembowelment, and Thergothon all are present here but degraded into a shuddering mess of shambling, pounding rhythms and lurching chunk-action chords. They are as slow as you would expect though far from sparse; this sophomore’s sound is surprisingly busybodied in its songwriting, packed to the brim as a skull overflowing with maggots and running out flesh and innards for them all. Whereas most doom, extreme or not, is content to simply ring out a few chords and play a few woeful melodies then stretch either out ad nauseam, Worm attacks with an actively involved sort of aggression normally reserved for far more high tempo acts.

Drumming in particular plays an unusually prominent role to the extent it’s almost counterpointing the guitar work, answering every staggering step through the muddy depths with crashing cymbal attacks, and rolls tumble and fall forth like flesh sloughing off a reanimated carcass. Very rarely does it play “normal” rhythms, always finding some sort of accent or fill to add an added weightiness to the proceedings, almost answering the riffs whenever it can. While I can’t say this is necessarily incredibly technical drumming, it is by and far the most aggressive instrument on this album which is almost unheard of for any of these styles amalgamated onto this album.

Speaking of weightiness, the riffing here can be simply described as monolithic, unleashing a steady deluge of tumbling, creeping technique that encompass a wide degree of death/black/funeral doom practices. Patterns of dense power chords create steady foundations for melancholy melodies to peak through and break up the consistency in phrasing. In turn they decay and split apart for ghostly, lightly reverb-soaked leads that hint at a classic Greek black metal influence as they beckon to you from behind a wall of intrusive mist. Moments of select tremolo are used to condense these ideas into a more fluid form, fitting them to changes in tempo that sometimes even include a few raging blasts and even a few wilting, windswept second wave style melodies.

Disembowelment-reminiscent harmonies and even single note synth tones hover amidst this crepitating perversity, building on and contrasting with additional melody and adding this eerily disaffected atmosphere juxtaposed with the zombie-hunger predatory stalking of the rhythms. What might be most surprising however is the soloing because in spite of the dismal mood infesting the album, when Wurm (the sole member of this project) wants to shred the man lets loose with the sort of barely restrained fretboard-razing madness that manages to be at once incredibly showy but morbidly evocative, somehow managing to capture that dismal pervasive gloom in a far showier form. One could argue it clashes with the otherwise primal low-tech aesthetic but I find it to be a surprisingly strong way of triumphantly resolving these lengthy multi-part songs.

While these songs are all lengthy epics (save for the opener which is unexpectedly well crafted for a hypnotic intro piece), the relative simplicity and often sluggish pace makes them easy to follow and it’s at a comfortable trudge that they gradually introduce new parts to each track, gradually attaching them to a bloating, fruiting body. Repetition is not absent from the proceedings but there’s less of it than you would think, relegated less so to parts being extended more than they need but rather using similar techniques to play gradually juxtaposing ideas but even then, it doesn’t really become much of a problem. Songs work through segments of lucid nightmare clarity, focused around a core melody that is morphed, opposed, augmented, and mutated through various techniques and stylistic shifts. Songs generally progress through series of hallucinatory, feverish buildup through a miasma of varied ideas and phrasings that build up to moments of near overwhelming and morosely triumphant resolution almost as if hitting a climax early on.

However, rather than riding on this intoxicating high, they then follow through with more aggressive and intensely torturous layering of melodies as a simple idea takes its most fully developed shape and unleashes its full destructive power. It’s a very slow burn style broken up with a few select moments of speeding terror yet the consistently steady attack of pummeling riffage, ghostly echoing higher register notes, and almost absurdly expressive drumming allow it to avoid the typical plod-for-the-sake-of-plod that usually holds back extreme doom. Not a lot of elements drag due to how often they give way to new iterations of core ideas and it’s enthralling to watch songs gradually mutate from slowly floating, corpse-like piles of seemingly disjointed ideas into shambling titans from innumerable rotting layers of gunk and offal.

All of this results in a band that checks all the boxes to be a classic old school “throwback” band yet constantly defies expectations and tropes as much as it repurposes it to ends that fulfill their grim promises as opposed to merely basking in distant glories or years long past. It’s also a surprising reimagining of the band that manages to dig even further into the past and take their sound to a more primitive domain, yet rather than becoming more generic, twists it into a highly idiosyncratic expression of a sound that lurked beneath the rampant expansive growth of the early 90’s.

It’s on paper a Frankenstein-like mishmash of a number of bands that don’t have a whole lot in common beyond their tempos, yet Worm create a syncretic language of perverse ideas, connecting multiple traditions into a new towering altar dedicated to their own morbid desires. The end result is a sound with an unexpectedly wide degree of appeal whether you are a fan of Evoken, Asphyx, or Faustcoven or are looking for a much murkier and more eccentric form of experimentation than the usual tepid stylistic mishmashing that dominates today. Don the cloak and enter the realm where all rot into the peripheral.

5/5 bone-filled holes in the ground

Gloomlord releases on January 24th. You can find it on Iron Bonehead’s bandcamp.

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