On the second record of their quest for true, slimy death doom mastery, the Floridians encapsulate the context of the old school to bring it into the new.
Words by Tyson Tillotson (@tytilly):
Death doom is a genre truly unlike any other. You have the bands that focus on the warlord type of sound (Winter and Mythic), the gothic (Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride), the pioneering (Dream Death and Sempiternal Deathreign) and finally, the esoteric which was primarily mastered by Australian gods Disembowelment and Finnish void wizards Unholy. These two were primarily responsible for giving us two unshakeable pillars of pure dread, 1993’s Transcendence Into the Peripheral and 1994’s The Second Ring of Power. While most bands have unfortunately gone the route of simply taking the first two Incantation records, adding slow dirges and calling it death doom without looking at these titans is and should be considered sacrilege. But much like a brewing hurricane in the Gulf, a new entity has arisen not from the frozen north of Scandinavia, the sweltering Outback of Australia or even the dystopian cityscapes of the Eastern Seaboard. Once again, Florida has reared it’s hydra-esque head to spew forth a band worthy of standing with these venerable artists and that band is Worm.
Formed just under a shade of a decade ago, Worm started as a band fully entrenched and schooled in the arcane arts of groups like Beherit, Bathory and Emperor while still adding a death metal twist to their swampy black metal brew. When debut Evocation of the Black Marsh arrived in late 2017, the folks at Iron Bonehead and Worm's Fantomslaughter and Equimanthorn were taken by surprise by how well the record was received. But like all good bands do, the experimentation inherent within their dynamic decided to reveal itself in a different way on their follow-up. 2019 birthed Gloomlord and the band took a full turn from black metal to a wretched mixture of death doom and bestial black metal that gave a Marvel’s What If… styled look at what could have happened if Disembowelment were from the Ross Bay.
This combination of influences was so intriguing to listeners that words of praise eventually got to Dave from 20 Buck Spin and soon after, the label would sign Worm for their next studio album. When the title was revealed, I’m pretty sure most people knew in their heart of hearts that this was going to be something to look forward to. You can’t really go wrong with a Floridian death doom band calling their next album Foreverglade and expect anything less than stellar. The group would continue to hype the album's eventual release and now that we’ve finally reached that gloomy autumnal time of the year, this swampy monster has slithered from the mangroves to give us a mighty helping of atmosphere, grandiosity, and of course, bone crushing riffs.
On most albums, an intro is simply that: an introduction to the rest of the record. But on the opening title intro that clocks in at an impressive 5 and half minutes, Worm throw the rule book into the bog. With some clean guitars and a wisp of noise, the group get underway with a cut that could’ve come straight from the work of Disembowelment. About half way through this “intro”, which feels more like a fleshed out ode to the Everglades, it rapidly shifts into a section that is trademark My Dying Bride. The open chugging and staccato vocal delivery are very reminiscent of Stainthorpe and Co. yet don’t exactly rip off the English masters. The band are able to switch almost at will back to an atmospheric section that swirls like a phantom through the willows of your mind complete with a bone chilling banshee wail. With just this intro, Worm are setting you up for gale force songs to come and this little five minute section is just a starting of the gator roll that is this record.
Murk Above the Dark Moor is one nasty, lumbering beast. With a heavily distorted bell and chunky clean guitars, the track lurches forth like a funeral march led by the Tall Man in a ghillie suit. Evoken-isms translate well to a track filled with back and forth vocals that seem like a wizard battle between the earth crumbling roars of Disembowelment’s Renato Gallina and strangely Jeff Walker of Carcass if he fronted Goatlord. Background organ swells before giving way to mighty Crowbar esque string bending that leads into a Miami back alley nasty middle section that plays with the black metal influences in ways that complement the doom laden passages on display. It’s a harrowing song that will work perfectly for a haunted house during the Halloween season. A solo around the 5 minute mark breaks up the trudge to add some flavor to this primordial jambalaya. In certain respects, it almost feels like a Bill Steer solo off of something like Necroticism and it works wonders to really bring a more clear identity to Worm’s brand of death doom slime.
If ever a song could make the case for being one of the most accessible yet heavy songs of the year, Cloaked in Nightwinds would snatch that crown quickly. While the track is still firmly ensconced in the death doom crypt, there is still a hell of a lot going on. This is where Worm really flex their funeral doom biceps to bring to mind a hellish mixture of Worship, Thorns of the Carrion, and Bathory jamming with Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil. Odd description I know, but this track goes FULL STOP GOTH for a few brief moments before returning to the gritty shit. As the album’s lengthiest cut and with most funeral/death doom, the song has to remain interesting or else you can get really bored. Thankfully, a solo that sounds very reminiscent off of something you’d hear on a shadow realm version of Blood Fire Death comes rolling in like fog with triumphant organ work to back it up before the Skepticism flavors take center stage as the keys and other instruments swell. A passage comes in that brings to mind Wisconsin based band Dusk and their overlooked 1995 classic …Majestic Thou in Ruin. Before long, the clean guitars return to hang like cobwebs in the trees. It’s the kind of eerie feeling one gets when you walk towards the plantation house in that one level from Left 4 Dead 2 as you wait to stand your ground against the undead hordes. The track slowly fades back into the misty darkness as pan flutes not too dissimilar from Beherit’s Summerlands end this ghastly hymn.
I don’t care if you get down with fantasy or not, but if you can’t get down with a song titled Empire of the Necromancers, go listen to Five Finger Death Punch and all that other lowest common denominator butt rock. The pace of this track is considerably faster than the preceding tracks, which lends to more of the Unholy, Beherit and Goatlord influences shining through. We also have more of a lineage to early Florida death metal greats like Obituary and Morbid Angel on this track as the group claw their way through some monstrous riffs and fills. It was quite a wise decision to release this one as the first single because it really does serve as quite the bruiser in the track list. Follow up Subaqueous Funeral could almost be compared to Death’s Voice of the Soul but with more esoteric elements found in groups like Trial of the Bow, Cocteau Twins, and the like. It’s still a death doom song make no mistake, but it’s much more mellow and measured. Think of a track like Joys of the Emptiness from Paradise Lost’s Icon as if played by Chuck Schuldiner while backed with some excellently measured rhythm work. It’s a fantastic idea committed to tape that serves as the perfect segue into the closing behemoth.
Closing track Centuries of Ooze begins its nearly 10 minute runtime with diabolical organ swells that feel right out of Stormcrowfleet with that evil disembodied hiss that sounds like Attila Csihar on early Tormentor recordings. The track melds straight back into a Disembowelment blueprint, albeit more blackened than anything the Aussies cooked up. Soon, the track unleashes some absolutely DISGUSTING double bass sections that recall Your Prophetic Throne of Ivory from Transcendence Into the Peripheral with the lilting clean guitar hanging like a spectral fog over the rest of the instruments. The cut slows back to a funeral crawl before going into a literal homage to the middle section of Disembowelment’s A Burial at Ornans. Trust me, I was hinted to it by Fantomslaughter and it had me absolutely giddy. This is were I quickly realized how badly most of the death metal scene has neglected these old death doom giants. Everyone is so fixated on “caveman riffs” and “bRoOtAl ShIT” that they forget that one of the greatest bands ever made use of a clean guitar to out-heavy them all. And here, Worm took that exact formula and unleashed this arcane extreme metal secret to its most effective. Coupled with keys, the track begins to make it’s slow exit back into the swamp with the weight and grandeur of Evoken’s Shades of Night Descending as it all melts back into the night with wraith like swiftness, ready to be summoned again at the listeners will.
To say that Foreverglade can be considered a modern masterpiece is putting it very lightly. I’ve been listening to death doom for well over seven years now and I can tell you that this thing stands with the greats. The kind of feeling one gets from listening to this is something that I can only describe by using a personal experience. Hearing Disembowelment’s Transcendence Into the Peripheral for the first time was a life changing and goose flesh inducing ride of emotions. While many death doom records have been released in the years since, no record has quite given me that type of feeling. Even the wonderful Eroded Corridors of Unbeing from Spectral Voice, while a personal favorite, could not fully replicate what Disembowelment did to me. Foreverglade replicated that feeling. That primal roar of extreme metal with the ingenious welding of non metal textures to create a fully engrossing piece of art is something that has and will continue to draw me to the more arcane and esoteric strand of death doom. So while everybody can continue to play Incantation and Dead Congregation worship and call it death doom, when it’s really just death metal with occasional slow parts, Worm tower above them monolith like to crush them all with the key ingredients to a great extreme doom record: ambience and atmosphere. Disembowelment utilized it, Unholy did it, and now Worm have picked up the torch to become the new flag bearers of a sub genre that can’t seem to really grasp the concept of being doom laden and not outright copy others. Worm are the new kings of true death doom and I’m Foreverglad(e) they have taken their prophetic throne of ivory.
Foreverglade arrives October 22nd via 20 Buck Spin. Order your copy HERE.