To close the pages on the 'Foreverglade' (2021) tome, the Floridian necromancer Phantom Slaughter and his newest acolytes conjure forth the sinister and the symphonic.
Words by Tyson (@tytilly):
In the Pearl of Great Price, a book in the Latter-day Saint canon of scripture, the prophet Enoch receives a warning from God about what will happen to the earth around the time of the Crucifixion. It reads:
“And the day shall come that the earth shall rest, but before that day the heavens shall be darkened, and a veil of darkness shall cover the earth; and the heavens shall shake, and also the earth; and great tribulations shall be among the children of men…” (Moses 7:61)
Pretty gnarly stuff if you ask me, but in our current climate, this seems to be coming true no matter where we turn in the world. However, we need to look at this in a more musically minded context. Just one year ago, the Floridian death doom wizards Worm conjured forth Foreverglade, a wretched love letter to 90’s death doom and black metal of the arcane persuasion. Phantom Slaughter and his two doom disciples Nihilistic Manifesto and L. Dusk created some of the most powerful and emotive death doom since the singular Disembowelment record some thirty years prior. Underneath everything dark and dank, there was an often subtle beauty that eluded to Phantom’s two other great loves: the early musical giants from the 4AD label and the entirety of the symphonic black metal subgenre. Throughout the runtime of Foreverglade, lineage could be drawn easily to the aforementioned Disembowelment as well as Dusk, Goatlord, Evoken, and Skepticism, but even more equal attention was paid to the works of Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins, Clan of Xymox, Old Man’s Child, Limbonic Art, Summoning, and Troll. Only those with keen ears were able to decipher the complex lexicon of this very mature third record, and for those of you like myself who loved the atmospheric parts of that album, you are in luck. In the dead of autumn, we come to a benchmark release in the Worm catalog — the 4-song opus known as Bluenothing.
Keeping consistent with the material from the previous release, Bluenothing contains two songs from the Foreverglade sessions and two new songs that introduce some new textures with a familiar touch. The fans of the ambience and atmosphere approach will do well to pay close attention to the opening title track. Knowing some extreme metal history is vital to one's understanding of how this was intentional. On Disembowelment’s Transcendence Into the Peripheral (1993), the album’s closing track Cerulean Transience of All My Imagined Shores was an ode to the artists from the 4AD imprint as well as new age artists like Ken Davis, Enya, and Henry Wolff of Tibetan Bells fame. It triggers in the mind a soft opening that could easily soundtrack a calm and serene day at a secluded beach along the Australian coastline. Bluenothing begins in just that kind of mindset, although things will eventually give way to horrid passages of dripping necromantic atmosphere. The waves of the Atlantic and bells give way to a foghorn like guitar that calls from the deepest mist. Drums and bass guitar enter with chanting before an immaculate Criss Oliva meets Esa Lindén type of solo breaks through. Then, the death doom magick of Worm takes stage with subtle double bass drumming and Phantom’s shouts give way. About halfway into the track, we are treated to an absolutely FUNEREAL keyboard solo that brings to mind the work of Abigor and Sirius circa Aeons of Magick (2000). It arrives quickly and exits just as fast before giving way to near Rippikoulu levels of heaviness before everything drops back into the funeral doom murk. Another emotional solo coupled with the organ gives us the final breath of evil before the waves and whispers return. The drums and keys act as diabolical instruments of torture as the vocals chant these twisted hymns as the third solo squeezes your soul, python style. The atmosphere on this track alone is enough to suffocate you like you’ve been in a greenhouse for five hours. The Evoken and Thergothon touches meld into a comprehensive whole as more soloing takes place that just sends your feelings skyward like Prince Fielder’s ball when it got stuck in the rafters of Tropicana Field. Much like that ball, you won’t want to come down from this height.
The second track of side A, Centuries of Ooze II, recalls Evoken at their most primitive. The track has the hearty aura of a track from the group’s 1994 Shades of Night Descending demo. We even got the gothic inflected cleans from Phantom as the keys play sinister passages in the foreground while the guitars crush and create walls of atmospheric density unlike any other band in death doom. The monstrous drumming takes a good center stage position for a few measures before a hefty as hell riff that reminds one of cult New York death doom outfit Ceremonium. A Bill Steer esque solo muscles its way into the soundscape as Phantom continues to wax in the gothic sounding very much like a mix of Brendan Perry and Jonas Renkse on Katatonia’s mid 2000’s output. This feeling is left with you as the track comes to a brilliant and climactic close. Now, this is where we end the first half of the record and effectively close the doors on the Foreverglade era of the group. From here on out, things begin to take a darker and more blackened approach as well as the introduction of two new shadow figures into Phantom Slaughter’s majestic black doom odyssey.
Side B opener, Invoking the Dragonmoon, begins with synthesized panflutes that recall the work of Ken Davis and Jim Kirkwood along with the sounds of fire. Soon after, the masterful Wroth Septentrion (Phil Tougas of Chthe’ilist, Atramentus and First Fragment fame) begins to exercise his shredding muscles. Like a multiversal combination of Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert, and George Lynch, Wroth weaves a fret board spell that would stupefy the Pied Piper himself. This is completely new territory for the band as solos have been done before, but nothing this complex. It almost feels like you are walking up to a derelict castle as the rain begins to fall and you know that eldritch horrors await inside. This is the type of solo that would make the fictional Eddie Munson proud, also because this sounds like it was conjured in the Upside Down. This sets the template for the dark acoustic opening of Shadowside Kingdom, the most blackened and 90’s sounding song the band have done since their debut full length. The acoustics and synths eventually give way to gothic vocals and a solo before a ferocious blast of symphonic black metal fury ala Abigor, Odium, and Hecate Enthroned throws you into the mystic quagmire that awaits your boss battle in the castle. Phantom’s blackened shrieks interplay with gutturals as the track descends into neoclassical shredding that would’t sound out of place on an Emperor record. The track lets out one final breath of synth and wind before returning to the nasty black pitch that was perfected by black doom luminaries Unholy and Bethlehem. Technical drumming from Charlie Koryn brings a gnarly texture to a beautiful yet face melting cut, snd just as soon as you walk away from this metaphorical castle, the track comes to a close and opens a whole new era for Worm and the myriad of characters involved.
As I began this write up about the verse from the Pearl of Great Price, I finally connect it. Much like what God revealed to Enoch, Worm have already shaken the foundations of extreme metal with albums like Gloomlord (2020), Foreverglade, and now with Bluenothing, the collective cast their own veil of darkness over the earth and brought audial tribulations to the children of men. The death doom, gothic overtures, dungeon synth and symphonic black metal elements combine into a black soul gem of beautiful yet evil elegies that end one chapter of the grimoire and turn to another. This is the type of music to soundtrack Hermaeus Mora’s next dinner party or the next acid trip you have while watching the waves as seabirds fly overhead. Worm have proven that with Bluemothing they are the rightful heirs to the prophetic throne of ivory and they have now revealed their darkest secret: the cosmic keys to their creations and times.
Bluenothing arrives October 28th via 20 Buck Spin (Order).