I shouldn’t make excuses, but I haven’t been listening to tons of metal lately (Cthulhu Rise, you need to stop posting awesome old non-metal stuff on facebook!), and the stuff I have gotten hasn’t inspired me to actually make a review (I’m looking at you Mourning Beloveth). I’ve been taking a graduate seminar on the music of Ligeti which I think has a lot of really interesting connections to metal. Some of my reviews might accidentally impose ideas from this class on some music where it doesn’t necessarily exist.
Subtlety is not something that people usually associate with metal. Even within the genre, one of the least likely places to find lots of subtlety is in death metal. Out of the death metal bands, Wormed is one of the least likely that this word would apply to. In some reviews of their previous album you would frequently find comments on how unrelentingly brutal and persistent their sound is. You’d find comments on how eerily inhuman the vocals were.
These comments still apply in the new release Exodromos. They employ some other common traits to death metal such as arrhythmic patterns set in unfamiliar time signatures coupled with rapid and sudden tempo changes. There is always something very interesting and unpredictable going on. In and of itself, these traits would make for a very good album. For the remainder of this review I want to argue that the subtleties that can be easily overlooked at first are what elevate this to a great album.
First, Wormed use subtleties in tonality. Already in track one we hear lots of interesting microtonality. This is of course most obvious in the large glissandos, but the subtle pitch bending goes almost unnoticed in earlier parts of the song or maybe even get interpreted as proper half steps. The other major moments of microtonality occurs in the later parts of Tautochrone and Techkinox Wormhole and it is awesome! Listen for the more subtle moments once you catch these.
The next I want to point out are the subtleties in texture. These songs consist of a continuously changing kaleidoscope of texture. This definitely reminds me of Ligeti’s concept of micropolyphony. This amounts to layering lots of moving parts densely enough so that the individual parts are fairly difficult to hear on their own. Instead it creates an overall audible textural effect. To be sure, there’s some more traditional tech-death, but without a doubt (as in Tautochrone) creating a surface texture which acts as an almost beautiful atmospheric effect is a facet that shouldn’t be overlooked. Once the effect is set-up, they seamlessly move between the textures.
The last subtlety is with the language. Freakin good luck to you if you want to get anything out of these lyrics by just listening. Read them. They are worth it. Maybe this is over-analyzing, but the title seems to be Greek. The lyrics seem to be some huge story. Should we maybe interpret this as being a modern reformulation of an ancient Greek epic? The lyrics have a hidden order laced with technical jargon. This reminds me of the great post-modernists who intentionally used this same technique like Pynchon of David Foster Wallace.
Anyway, you have many layers of listening here. You can be blown away by its brutality and stellar reworking of standard technical death metal. You can be impressed with the layer of technical proficiency of these guys. Upon further listening you can uncover a more subtle layer of great compositional technique. I must give this a 9.5/10.
Here’s a sample: