WORM – Foreverglade Review

Over a year and a half ago, Floridian band WORM released Gloomlord, a funeral/death doom album that marked a left turn for the former black metal outfit. I found it below average. Remarkably, my proclamation of its deficiencies wasn’t enough to keep others from enjoying it. The absolute fucking nerve. An inordinate number of other metal polymaths in the blogosphere sang its dolorous praises to the point that I wondered if maybe I had been mistaken, as rare an occurrence as that may be. When follow-up Foreverglade was announced, I decided to revisit Gloomlord, and I found it…about the same. Two good tracks and three duds. As I hit play on Foreverglade, I mentally prepared to be the bearer of bad reviews a second time. Forty-five minutes later I was telling the other staff writers that WORM may have released the death doom album of the year. Did everyone else really hear something I didn’t? Am I so out of touch? That’s not important now. All that matters is Foreverglade came out of nowhere and dragged me into its fetid waters like a half-ton crocodile.

I’m a sucker for a band that weaves multiple strands of influence into a single strong cord of kick-assery, and that’s exactly what WORM do on their third LP. The band runs the full gamut of death, from OSDM to death doom to full-blown funeral doom, switching tempos at will. The flat-footed looseness between transitions that plagued their early releases is gone. A song like “Cloaked In Nightwinds,” full of subtle transitions between the synth and guitar layers, displays the band’s hard-earned agility. In fact, the most notable expansion of Worm’s sound is in the heavy use of both synthesizers, which tend toward the depressive and stately, and spryly energetic lead guitar. Most songs feature at least one solo that could have been lifted straight from the golden age of traditional heavy metal. These portentous synths and nimble guitars are often played against each other to great effect, as on the final minute of lead single “Murk Above the Dark Moor.” Obvious touchstones include disEMBOWELMENT, Evoken and Hooded Menace, but on Foreverglade, WORM stake a claim to their own aesthetic and point of view.

When I reviewed Gloomlord, I singled out “Apparitions of Gloom” as particularly successful, not only for its tight playing and structure but for “the use of different guitar tones and techniques to build texture and deliver emotional release.” Maybe the band took this to heart, if they read my review at all, because Foreverglade does exactly this at every. Single. Turn. The doleful, echoing plucks that introduce “Foreverglade” and “Murk Above the Dark Moor” resurface throughout lugubrious closer “Centuries of Ooze.” “Centuries…” and “Empire of the Necromancers” both feature mid-toned guitar lines that offer an almost hopeful escape from the otherwise constant, miserable, down-tuned murk of death chugs and funereal riffs that anchor each song. Speaking of hopeful, the soloing on this record is the masterstroke that elevates Foreverglade into rarified air. Founding members Phantom Slaughter and Nihilistic Manifesto soar and shred above the foreboding atmosphere with lively licks and twinned harmonies that compliment the gloom beautifully.

One of the things I noticed when I first played this was the pitch perfect production job. I’m the type who doesn’t fuss about production unless there’s something wrong with it, but the low-end rumble of guitar distortion and the hard punch of drums against the subtle spectrum of synth and guitar tones is frankly impressive. When Phantom Slaughter is employing his lowest death growl concurrent with the down-tuned trudging riffs, the result is like a blast furnace door opening and closing. Meanwhile, the clear, high tone of the solos hover like an osprey on fresh winds high above the Floridian swamps. Mixing and mastering was handled by one Stephen DeAcutis, which makes sense, as he handled similar duties on several Evoken albums.

As one of the seeming few who wasn’t keen on their previous material, I’m absolutely floored by what WORM have accomplished on Foreverglade. From the production to the style to the songwriting, everything here is miles better than anything they’ve done before. Not only that, this has come out of nowhere to secure a spot on my year-end list.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: 20 Buck Spin
Website: TOO KVLT
Releases Worldwide: Oct 22nd, 2021

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