Wormwood - Ghostlands: Wounds from a Bleeding EarthSometimes an album comes along that progressively gets better listen after listen. With their debut full-length Ghostlands: Wounds from a Bleeding Earth, Swedish melodic black metallers Wormwood have constructed such an album. Ghostlands is a rich and diverse journey that seamlessly switches between heart-rendering atmospherics, blistering melodic technicality, rock ‘n’ roll playfulness, and folk-metal majesty. I didn’t connect with Ghostlands at first, but like so many of albums I love, it needed time to mature and I needed time to mull. Each subsequent listen has unearthed nuances and textures that make Ghostlands a progressively rewarding listen. Although potentially blighted by its length and the quietness of the bass, I’ve only good things to say. Akerblogger‘s first gushing review of the year is upon us.

Wormwood are firmly rooted in the Swedish-tradition; the blackened traces of Naglfar and Dissection merge with the folk-spirit of Månegarm and the Viking metal of late-era Bathory. In a similar vein to Hyperion‘s excellent Seraphical Euphony, Wormwood channel the masters of days gone with a refreshed and vibrant perspective. Originality and innovation are difficult and Wormwood know: “bad artists copy, great artists steal.” Rather than copying they reconstruct.

The riffs are the driving force here, and they are delivered by the boat-load with a swift and unrelenting consistency. The drumming, too, is a force to behold, rupturing melodies, providing subtle adoration to moments of quiet, grooving with self-assured simplicity during rock interludes, and generally surging with an energy and fullness that enhances a lot that’s on offer here. “Oceans” is the best example of these two forces uniting. The song opens with a swirling cascade of melodic tremolo riffing, jubilantly upbeat in tone, before slowing to a crunchier, black-thrash tone that casts a contrasting malice. At one point the drums rampage with a blurry death-metal feel before the song transitions again into airier, dare I say progressive, territories. There are many moments that arrive out of left-field. From the polka-music interlude of “Under Hennes Vingslag” to the AC/DC-esque bridge that casts light on the desolate beginning of “Godless Serenade,” Ghostlands is etched with quirks that occur with a smooth self-assurance.

Ghostlands is an album of contrasts that just seem to work. Another example of this is in “Tidh ok Ödhe.” It opens with a jovial folk-metal sea-shanty style that is adorned with wispy female vocals, half-man/half-wolf howls, and a festival of fiddles and acoustic tomfoolery. Around the 3:10 mark, however, the song careens into a cataclysmic section that manages to retain the faintest aromas of playfulness merged with a violent black metal that just works so well.

Every song seems to have that moment where everything comes together, where you just want to raise your ceremonial horn to the vast sky and blow with triumph. There’s an 80-second stretch from the 1:40 point of “Beneath Ravens and Bones” that I find myself constantly repeating and repeating and repeating. It’s one of those moments where minuscule features happen to merge perfectly. For example, the intonation of vocalist Nine’s vocals rise for a brief second at 2:43 in a way that somehow manages to relinquish all the pathos and mysticism that the song has had bottled up. Despite consuming so much excellent music these days, I feel these awesome reactions to music are occurring less and less. We’re constantly exposed to a conveyor belt of excellence that can sometimes be numbing. So when moments like this come along, cherish them, for they do not last.

Shackled by a maximum word-count, I haven’t the space to discuss every song, however much I’d like to. Each of the twelve songs has its own distinct feel and mood, yet their construction isn’t so distinct or different that it hampers the flow of the album. There are a few minor issues that keep niggling at my over-enthused mind. Despite a rather spacious and clean production, the quiet verging on silent bass somewhat detracts from my experience. It could do with some trimming, too; if the album was one song shorter it’d feel more complete. However, on the whole, Ghostlands moves with a ghostly smoothness that ebbs, flows, rises and falls with a mixture of beauty and malice that only impresses. Sweden continues to provide the backdrop to great metal. Long may it continue.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 9| Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Non Serviam Records
Websites:  non-serviam-records.bandcamp.comfacebook.com/WormwoodSWE
Releases Worldwide: March 10th, 2017

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  • El_Cuervo

    This is a good find. “To Worship” is one of my favourite songs from the year so far.

  • Levly

    I’m really liking what I’m hearing to far, great find, thanks!

  • Meriyas

    Holy shit, I just read the: The Acacia Strain – Wormwood review and comments because it’s in the “More Angry” section. 10/10 hilarious! I would recommend this to all.

    • jersey devil

      I followed your recommendation and read that. Hilarious.

      • Nag Dammit

        Ahh, bless those metal….I mean death core guys. So cute. Think they all need a big cuddle from their mums.

  • Daniel Albert

    This is something really worth listening. Thanks!

  • Eldritch Elitist

    I really like (and agree with) your comments on how the album’s more exciting moments really help it stand out from the crowd of great releases. This album has a ton of those moments that make it something special in the pagan black metal genre.

  • Reese Burns

    Album of the month for me, absolutely gorgeous!

  • Man, that embedded track kicks ass! Love that rock’n’roll section in the middle. Reminds me of Dissection’s “Dark Mother Divine” except the rest of the song is actually good. Thanks for the review!

  • Eli Valcik

    Yep yep yep, you referenced Dissection, I can’t turn this band away.

  • Pedro Morini Mietto

    Amazing stuff!!

  • DrChocolate

    Dissection. Check. Hyperion. Check. Bathory. Check. AC/DC? ok, Check. I need this, like yesterday. I’m *loving* what I’m hearing here. Excellent review and thanks for the tip off.

    The releases from the first quarter of 2017 have kicked this year off STRONG.

    • Reese Burns

      For sure, especially black metal. I feel like if I were to take my top 5 black metal releases from the past 3 months, they’d dominate 90% of the black metal albums released through the entirety of 2017, and 2016 ruled for black metal.

    • Dudeguy Jones

      I don’t know why… but I skipped the interview… and then I read this comment and now Im drooling and all flustered and I have to go back and read the interview while listening to this because holy shit you just name dropped the awesomest combination of bands ever.

      • DrChocolate

        Those are the names Akerblogger dropped, not me, but I had the same reaction…slobber. I’ve listened to very little else since reading this review yesterday.

  • sir_c

    Nailed it. Both review and music.
    Muchos gracias!

  • Luke_22

    This came out of left field for me, really strong stuff in a style I’m usually very picky with.

  • Shiny Metal Object

    It’s Hyperion with more variety. Awesome stuff. Nicely written review. I don’t know how I’d find new music without AMG!

    • David Prawira

      please give me name bands like this?

      • Diego Molero

        Like it says on the review, some bands like Wormwood are Dissection and Hypherion. Other folk metal bands include Panopticon, Saor, Mistur, Agalloch, Ulver, Falls of Rauros, Wolves in the Throne Room, Wilderun, Windir.
        All of them are great bands, highly recommended.

      • RMK

        Don’t forget MOONSORROW (arguably the great folk/pagan metal band of the bunch!)

  • sjforr

    This is a great album. I’m loving the swag of great folk tinged BM albums in the last 12 months (eg. Mistur, Moonsorrow, Zhrine, …). It’s easy for the sub-genre to get very cheesy very quickly (eg. Saor – I know there’s a lot of love for Saor here but to me it’s about as metal as a Michael Flately show. Or a Disney movie). The Swedes do it again! Great review – ta for the heads up!

    • Reese Burns

      Aside from the quips at Saor (<3 Saor) I totally agree. Good folk-flavoured metal is tough to find.

    • John Mosley

      Was Zhrine folk tinged? I recall something of Gorguts/Ulcerate atonal nihilisn. I shall revisit.

      • sjforr

        Zhrine might have been a bad example? Brilliant album though and definitely worth a revisit. I got it on vinyl!

  • CyberJesus

    Sounds great but i’m too flummoxed and disappointed by the lack of bass :'(

  • LExpoZiod

    Goddamn this is good. Great find.

  • Exitium

    I usually can’t listen to black metal. Well, tolerate I should say, and it mostly has to do with the “four track in a garage” sound that so many seem to thinks “adds atomosphere”. It’s just really bad to me, yet I do love me some later Emperor, Ihsahn, Dimmu Borgir (they count right?!), Abbath and Nexus Polaris from Covenant. Upon first blush, Wormwood is the kind of black metal I really do enjoy. This track in particular reminds me a bit of a black version of Amon Amarth or Dark Tranquility if that makes any sense.

    Yet another reason to love this site. Seriously. I’ve found so many new bands (or albums of bands I previously ignored) that I probably wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Never really got that much into Pain of Salvation in the past either, but their latest has been on repeat for a while now thanks to AMG.

    • Nag Dammit

      Totally get the amon amarth similarities. The rabble rousing / anthemic choruses, tremelos and leads have that ‘let’s smash some tankards down and go sailing in a longboat’ vibe. Great album.

  • jersey devil

    Outstanding. A beautiful mixture of styles. I hear a vibe of Falkenbach and Mistur in there, as well as Satyricon or Marduk (like the last song “To Worship”), often within the same song. And nice guitar solos too, yes, not enough of these in black metal.

  • Nag Dammit

    This album is amazing – thanks for the review Akerblogger. Oceans = instant joy. Such amazing riffs and vocals. Ps your name auto-corrects to ‘A kerb logger’ on my phone.

    • Akerblogger

      Yep there’s something so buoyant and energetic about ‘Oceans’, love that song. By day I log kerbs, by night I’m the Akerblogger!

  • John Mosley

    Sold me at Hyperion.

  • Sophocles

    This is possibly extreme album of the year! I don’t get the bass issue, all instruments are balanced in my 320k version, which is rare for a black album. When the CD arrives I ‘ll have a more detailed opinion.

    • Akerblogger

      I think the promo copy I listened to wasn’t as good as the actual released album. I listened on Spotify the other day and it sounded much better with a beefier bass and a crisper sound. It’ll probably sound even better on vinyl.

      • Sophocles

        That explains it, the known promo issue. (Antipiracy and stuff but with a ruined first impression due to shitty copies). Nevertheless, forget it, the album is so great and with a balanced production that comes rarely in BM.

  • Jrod1983

    Fantastic album and review. I really liked the Hyperion album from last year, and I adore early Dissection so this is a no brainer for me.
    Love the variety too, lots of acoustic parts, some clean female vocals. Awesome.

  • What is the maximum word count of an AMG review, anyway?

    • Ideally 700 words but this crew overwrite like their lives depend on it.

      • I cant wait for the next Ne Obliviscaris album to come out. I’ll write a review for you guys and it will just be 350 “fucks” and 350 “yeahs”! Think AMG will approve?

        • I think he’d come to your house and give you the Wedgie of Obliviscaris.

        • El_Cuervo

          I like to my writing is usually well within the limits, no point in waffling too hard. But I eagerly anticipate vomiting on to a page with NeO.

      • sir_c

        As long as you don’t brickwall the reviews into an illegible mash of hyperboles and superlatives, I think I can live with that :-)

  • ExtremeAidan

    I just don’t like the vocals. The instruments are quite good, so much so that I will listen to this even though I don’t like the vocals.

  • Pedro Morini Mietto

    I’m loving this. Really. BTW, could anyone suggest other traditional folk bands or female singers with songs like Silverdimmans Återsken? Not metal stuff, just viking stuff with female vocals.

    BTW, this reminds me of Asmegin, more “deathy” though…

  • Serjien

    Wow this one slipped through the cracks and I am 6 days late. This is pretty darn good!

  • Thorbjørn Thaarup

    This album. Wow… I fucking love it.

  • Chris Benadie

    I keep on coming back to this, I wonder why :)