Florida and metal go hand in hand. The association between the two may not be so widely recognized in popular culture at large, and it’s easy to see why. Few likely think of the state as being anything other than a congregation of “Florida Man” jokes and resort beaches. That’s not entirely wrong, but visit on a scorcher, and the azure skies suddenly become an oppressive layer of sheer menace. Stay for inclement weather and watch the state turn into a spiraling mess of darkening clouds, thunder and bolts that streak the sky with lethal purpose. It’s an extreme environment, it only makes sense that death metal took root here in the ‘80s. It’s presumably this environment of extremes and excess from which Worm crawled forth. The group’s third LP Foreverglade is an appropriately titled work that conceives of a liminal space of ancient Florida, much more hazy, gooey, and textured in its scope.
Between hazy breakneck double-bass blast beasts and strangling guitar solos, Worm’s reverence for traditional doom and black metal aspects comes through clearly. Yet, from chiming church bells to a messy synth injecting eldritch energies, Worm’s compositions here are not based entirely off of traditionalism, but rather an aspirational openness toward controlled experimentation and all the flexibility it invites. That’s not shocking either, as that’s been a procedure and process for metal in the past decade. But there’s a lot to be said for consistency and sheer gloom establishing an aesthetic environment for experimentation.
That’s where Worm comes into their own, wrestling magnitudes of sonic dread into tracks that cohere despite their stylistic departures. From every track, sounds churn and eventually elucidate similar qualities to one another. The same synth heard on “Murk Above the Dark Moor” with its gloomily sonorous melodies, cuts back in to form a grinding contrast in “Cloaked in the Nightwinds.” It isn’t new, and isn’t pretending to be, but it’s the consistency that Worm stresses when creating this specific soundscape.
Between the guttural, pleading growls of vocalist Phantom Slaughter, and the crushing staccato power chords, there’s also a push/pull dichotomy established early on. Its loud/louder contrast is part and parcel for the trade. Yet, the engineering presents it as being a combination of lo-fi with hi-fi sensibilities, portions sound recorded as if they were in a field, hollow and stretching to discomforts that are wonderful.
Worm occasionally commits to some grooves, rarely entrenched in an entire track, but fully embraced as the spine of “Empire of the Necromancers,” which ends with a righteous, face-melting guitar solo, wonderfully balanced and organically earned. This same balance is shrugged in favor of greater momentums and craft. “Subaqueous Funeral” is beyond fun, and easily the shortest track on the album, and reaches its creative peak while flirting with spacey pedal effects paired with the contrast of solos in abundance.
Worm close with a peculiar extravagance that feels decidedly different from the rest of the core of the album. “Centuries of Ooze” bares its teeth with beamed out guitar tones, syncopated rhythms, resilient harmonies, church bells, crunched synths, and every pedal known to man, yet still doesn’t manage to crumple underneath the weight of its composition. It effectively broadcasts the possibilities for the types of spaces that Worm is willing to create, crafted from the bottom up.
Metal, especially death metal and black metal, carries a misconception that it must be brutal or constantly changing for its relevancy or existence to be justified. Foreverglade is defiant proof of just the opposite. This album will still kick your chest in, but it’s also fun as hell. It’s also less concerned with progression as it is with quality of fidelity and soundscapes. From chord progressions that spin into ambient, spacey twinkles, to every atmospheric roar and every wallowing, terse double bass blast, Foreverglade is a gooey metal album. It’s malleable in it’s direction, easy to listen to, and as satisfying as it is viciously fun.
Label: 20 Buck Spin