Iron Bonehead doesn’t do nice. With more goats in their stable than a petting zoo, their outfits strive for all things nasty, brutish, and Satanic. What’s a poser to do when confronted with such trveness? Worm couldn’t care less. In their mind, it’s still 1994: if your metal doesn’t sound like it was recorded on tape strung through Satan’s butt crack, no dinner and 666 lashes for you, buster brown. Even the cover looks as if it would fit better on a cassette than a digipak. The minds behind this unsurprisingly enigmatic outfit thrive in discomfort and proffer a grating, sickening brand of black metal not for the faint of heart. Welcome to their debut, Evocation of the Black Marsh.
Every aspect of Evocation oozes atmosphere. The insidious black riffs; the overt inclusion of dragging doom elements; the chaotic war metal feel; Worm ensure not a minute goes by without furthering the sense of dread and disgust their music inspires. Evocation draws lines back to Darkthrone in its aesthetic, if not its execution. The brain trust of Fantomslaughter and Equimanthorn forgo stock monotony for a thicker, slower route, opting for techniques that play up their atmospheric ethos over blistering tremolos and head-snapping blasts. The Floridians divert the sinister rumbling of intro “Altar of Black Sludge” — an apt name if I’ve ever heard one — into “Winged Beast of the Phantom Crypt,” a pulsing expression of malice. The track exemplifies Worm‘s ability to carve individual elements out of what otherwise might be a wall of pure noise. Classic vibes of Black Sabbath spice up its back half before “Gravemouth” takes the baton and drags it through the mud. The song opens with a gargantuan plod, exploring an alternate universe where Sleep shared a practice space with the boys from Birmingham.
These bone-crunching elements play their part well on “Gravemouth,” “The Slime Weeps,” and in general across the record. Atmosphere is their goal, and atmosphere they do provide. Worm further their effort by including elements that ensure that Evocation sounds far from one note. “Rotting Semblence” utilizes backing chords that extend a grand Bathoryean effect to the ambiance, adding a layer that could pass as symphonic (through a squint and a head turn). On the whole, these additions might have impacted the record positively, if the duo could elevate their riffs to match. Instead, Evocation comes up short in that crucial department. It crunches like sludge doom, crackles like Fenriz’s garage, and carries a swampy malignancy that at least registers with enough character to escape total worthlessness. But what’s the get? I can note only one or two instances where Worm shook me out of the general malaise their offering inspires. Their occasional bursts of activity, like on the varied “Evil in the Mire” and “Rotting Semblance,” barely make an impact when filtered through the album’s nightmare production.
Speaking of which, at no point does Evocation come close to modern production standards. I’m aware this is completely intentional, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Even the rare moments when the record finds a bit of clarity, such as the ritualistic tones at the heart of the title track, fall on the low end of acceptability. The guitars glom onto everything around them, the “drums” produce more static than percussion, and the whole thing is bricked so totally that foobar spits out DR 0’s for most songs.1 Transitions often occur “naturally,” which is to say without polish. “Gravemouth” pads out the ending with 25 seconds of dead air, while three other tracks run through several seconds of dead air before starting. I somewhat understand the underlying motive of this,2 but on an objective scale, this record is still the aural equivalent of fresh-skimmed Florida trash juice.
I had hoped for more from an act crowned with such a kingly name. In many ways, Worm delivered the record that I expected, checking off both positives and negatives while disregarding as many production conventions as they can. I suspect there’s a real record in here somewhere, under all the bullshit. If your tastes align with those of the dastardly duo, Evocation of the Black Marsh may sate your swampy Satanic desires. Those looking for a more cut-and-dry slab of black metal will have to keep looking.