The wait is finally over, slam nerds. If, like me, you have been long awaiting the next chapter in the story of Krighsu, the Terrax, and stellar depopulation in the year 8K, then fear not; the new Wormed album, Krighsu, is cresting over the pseudo-horizon, so it’s time to leave that geodesic dome and begin vortex mitosis.
If you don’t already know about the galaxy’s most absurd death metal band, let’s get you up to speed. Wormed formed in the late ’90s and soon released Planisphærium, an album that quickly canonized the group in the realm of technical/brutal death metal. Their compositions were haphazard and their riffing eclectic, but the sheer weight and energy of the album was undeniable. The band proceeded to wait ten years—until 2013—to release the follow-up Exodromos, and it took death metal by storm; soupy grooves, snare-heavy drumming and a ridiculous sci-fi storyline all swirled and sizzled into an slab that beat out Colored Sands as my favorite death metal album of that year. So for Kronos, this release is a big deal.
Wormed rip through riffs and time signatures like they’re going out of style, although I bet by 8K they’re pretty much all passe. Much like Exodromos, the first ten minutes of this disc are almost impossible to parse, and only repeated listens will key you in to where phrases and bars start and stop; essential knowledge for efficient headbanging. But Wormed know how to keep your attention across such difficult passages, and throw in moments of groove and experimentation when needed. “Necromorph Mankind” and “Agliptian Codex Cyborgization” feature very strange scraped and dead notes that rupture the darkflow of the quadrivium and increase the eklipsis vorticity of spacetime tenfold.
Krighsu becomes gracefully less dense as it continues, culminating in an almost song—like finale, “Molecular Winds.” It closes the album much more energetically than “Xenoverse Discharger” did Exodromos, despite its reliance on the same fade-out. This song, along with “The Singulatarianism” and “Eukaryotic Hex Swarm” introduce some foreboding orchestration, with horns carrying an almost siren-like melody over what has to be the simplest guitar passage Wormed could bear to put to tape. There’s also a much greater use of sound manipulation in Krighsu than in previous albums, with entire tracks devoted to experimenting with abstract atmosphere.
Sonically, this is a Wormed album through and through, wet and dominated by massive distortion and Phlegeton’s saturated, soupy roars. Drummer G-Calero remains exemplary, and his snare work more complex than ever, twisting off rolls and blast beats back to back as the band ricochet from riff to riff. The bass, tuned down to the resonant frequency of a covered bridge, manifests itself only through a string of cardiac events as it ransacks the human chest cavity; I could tab this whole album with a deaf guy and an EKG.
My fanboyism of Wormed notwithstanding, there are a few issues with this album as a whole. Although it feels very cohesive, even more so than Exodromos, the riffs in general fall just short of where I’d like them to be. One of the strengths of the last album was that each riff struck a balance between technicality and kineticism, and these riffs often fall too far towards the technical. Yet after a few weeks of enjoying this album, I’ve come to like the more technical songs just as much as those from Exodromos. As scattershot as these tracks are, a few listens will unravel them enough to really stick in your memory, and the true value of Wormed become obvious. This is a band that refuses to lift off the accelerator, constantly swerving at whiplash-inducing speed through four and a half spatial dimensions.
With Krighsu, Wormed has proven not only that they can consistently write and perform some of the most complicated and inconcievably heavy death metal that ever was, but more importantly that it’s still possible for a death metal band to sound like nobody else on the planet. Whether you like it or not, the band’s writing and production are unmistakable. It’s telling that my biggest complaint about Krighsu isn’t really about the album itself, but the lack of a lyric sheet in the promo materials from Season of Mist. Fans will know that nothing quite compares to Wormed‘s lyrics, which combine the pseudo intellectual syllable hoarding of slam with (with all due respect) some of the most ridiculous high concept sci-fi rigamarole ever to grace the galaxy, all composed by a man whose understanding of the English language seems informed entirely by /r/VXjunkies. I’ll have to wait until somebody posts the lyrics online to spend a week on a futile attempt to parse the album’s story, but it’s a torment that I am sure I can endure.