There’s no trophy for being the world’s best grindcore band. No cash prize, no formal congratulation. The closest things Wormrot ever got were an unsolicited record contract from Earache and fleeting love of a deaf goat1. Wormrot don’t care. After a half-decade hiatus, the Singaporean trio is back and just as vicious as ever, reasserting their divine right and sticking a boot down the throat of the runners-up. Their newest attack on human dignity, Voices, is nothing short of essential listening for the crusty and malcontent, and proves their supremacy beyond a shadow of a doubt, introducing new thrills into their sound that make for exciting and immensely replayable songs.
If you’re not already familiar with Abuse, Dirge, and the Noise EP, and you don’t have the hour that it would take to listen to all three of them, Wormrot sounds, in a nutshell, like the Olympic athlete of grindcore bands. Their performances are intense, spectacular, and unerring, honed by a singular determination to fucking destroy the competition. They sound like Napalm Death except for the fact that they never release anything less than excellent. Voices is more of the same in that respect. There’s more straight-up no-nonsense grind than you can shake a stick at, yet the score of songs exhibits diversity beyond the careers of most grind acts.
“Hollow Roots” kicks off with a single-chord blast you might expect from Hope Drone but explodes back into grind territory around the thirty-second mark. “God’s in His Heaven,” and “Compassion is Dead” flaunt additional post-black metal influences, but each of these songs is grounded by at least one sick, nasty riff that tracks dirt all down your ear canal. The rounded-out torrents bookending “God’s in His Heaven” and the intro to “Oblivious Mess” are a strange mix of Cascadian atmosphere and powerviolence aggression, but they scorch the earth while they last. Across the album, the mix of melody – or at least, something like it – and pure fucking grind make for a raft of memorable cuts.
Wormrot’s focus on longer songs really pays off as well; whereas Dirge kept clear of the minute mark and focused on a hit-and-run style, Voices takes the time to back up over your corpse before driving off, and the tread marks really do tell the tale. Some of these seventy or eighty-second cuts develop over five or more riffs and feel like they meaningfully progress in that time span. More breathing room for the performances makes for an impressive album as well, and the trio remains as top-shelf as ever. The band really don’t sound very different from their Abuse days way back when, but that’s by no means a bad thing because Voices very much sounds like a natural progression.
Natural though it may be, there’s something very special about how Voices draws from outside the walls of grindcore. It’s adventurous but just sounds so… obvious. This is just the sort of thing Wormrot do: write so well, perform so tightly, that whatever they’re doing just seems inevitable. Effortless, perhaps. Voices is loud, violent, and brutal, but it also restrained, as if measured in micrograms of controlled adrenaline and delivered intravenously. Like last year’s offering from Beaten to Death, this is a unique and immensely enjoyable take on grindcore that’s a true flame-bearer of the genre and won’t be wanting for love on the year-end lists of the abrasively inclined.
Tracks to Check Out: “Hollow Roots,” “God’s in His Heaven,” “Compassion is Dead,” and “Buried the Sun”