It never bodes well when a writer with squatter’s rights to a promo doesn’t raise a fuss when you snatch it from them. I selected Floridian death-doom band Worm‘s second album Gloomlord from our putrid promo pit without doing my due diligence to see if they had been covered on the site before. Turns out they have, and the good Dr. Wvrm wasn’t even a little sorry to see this one go to a different writer. In fact, he said that Worm‘s previous album Evocation of the Black Marsh was his “worst ever listening experience.” Going back to his 2017 review, I hit play on the embed and immediately felt the 1.5 he awarded it was overly generous. Between the unremarkable music and one of the worst production jobs I’ve heard outside of one-man black metal basement recordings, that album was a mess. So it was with trepidation that I began listening to Gloomlord, wondering if the band has improved enough to spare me the Worm on Wvrm violence.
Mostly, I’d say they have. That starts with the production, which I wouldn’t necessarily call good, but is miles ahead of the tinny, brickwalled ear murder of their first album. Gloomlord‘s production is the equivalent of a pretty good demo job, which I find is about par for the course with Iron Bonehead Productions. Musically, Worm have leaned heavily into dolorous death doom while retaining the blackened edges of their previous work. Opener “Putrefying Swamp Mists at Dusk” begins with an appropriately lugubrious echoing guitar line that immediately put me in mind of Evoken. Indeed, the best parts of Gloomlord dip fully into similar funeral doom territory, but the unfortunate truth is that many listeners are unlikely to stick around long enough to get to the good bits.
Somewhere around the second minute of “Putrefying Swamp Mists at Dusk,” one realizes that the decent intro wasn’t leading to anything good. A mid-paced death chug emerges that probably came in a can with a white label and black letters that said “Riff,” while vocalist Fantomslaughter abuses the echo effect like a college freshman in Graphic Design 1 discovering Photoshop filters for the first time. Things do not improve on “Rotting Spheres of Sentient Blackness,” which, besides being eye-roll worthy for its name, proves to be the album’s nadir. The vocal echoes are still in full effect and distracting as ever, while cut-and-paste disEMBOWELMENT worship lurches beneath. The song changes gears a couple of times, but never leaves mid-paced death doom territory. This is problematic, as Worm don’t handle the middle tempos especially well, always sounding like they’re barely keeping it in-bounds. Picture a bowling ball tightroping the lip of the gutter.
And then, something unexpected happens with the album’s centerpiece “Apparitions of Gloom.” Namely, Worm write and perform a pretty damn good song. The strength that emerges in “Apparitions of Gloom”—and I would say remains through the final two songs—is the use of different guitar tones and techniques to build texture and deliver emotional release. With a slower tempo and more nuanced guitar work, an almost regal air mixes with the dirty swamp atmosphere in a way that minimizes the annoying vocal echoes. It helps that for the first time, Fantomslaughter and his bandmate Equimanthorn keep the playing tight, including subtle transitions that feel earned. The final two minutes of the eight minute track are a soaring guitar solo that lifts the song fully out of the murk and had me at first listen saying “Where the hell did that come from?” The remaining two songs also deliver a few nice moments, including some true blackened blasts and the beautiful opening guitar line and riff of closer “Abysmal Dimensions,” but the issues that plagued the first two tracks also return.
Worm have clearly made strides since their last review here, but the only songs I can see myself returning to are “Apparitions of Gloom” and “Abysmal Dimensions.” If you’re bad at the maths, that’s two out of five, which makes Gloomlord an album I can’t recommend. Still, if we receive a promo for a third full-length in a year or two I may just retain my own squatter’s rights, considering the improvements they’ve made since their debut.
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Website: TOO TRVE
Releases Worldwide: January 24th, 2020