In the Bible (or at least the New Testament version), Wormwood is the angel or star that falls from the sky, crashing into the waters of the Earth, and killing all living things with its inherent bitterness. Outside of the Bible, wormwood is most known for being the key ingredient for absinthe, at one time regarded as a highly psychoactive and hallucinogenic (but still tasty) alcoholic beverage. Whatever the inspiration, Boston’s Wormwood, comprised of members of The Red Chord, Doomriders, and Phantom Glue, pull a little bit of both influences in their sound, being a heady combination of spiritualism and trippiness in its heft and sway. Their full-length debut, Mooncurse, reveals a wealth of promise.
Opening with a somber violin playing a creaky melody among swashes of distortion and howling, “Infinite Darkness” rumbles forth with intent. Chris Bevilacqua’s (ex-Doomriders) pummeling drumming and Greg Weeks’ (The Red Chord) pulsating bass lay a sturdy foundation for Mike Gowell (Phantom Glue) and Chris Pupecki (Doomriders) to riff over, and they do riff. Musically, it reminds me of an early Mastodon mixed with the more out-there melodies of modern-day Tombs. Not bad company to keep with. Pupecki’s vocals and lyrics also give off the Tombs vibe, reminding me of Mike Hill’s trippier moments. While a bit overly long towards the end, the song does build up to greater things as Mooncurse traverses further into the woods.
And those greater things happen almost immediately. Follow-up “The Undesirables” bombards you with hook after hook while Pupecki howls “We are the undesirables” over Bevilacqua’s tribal thunder, creating a primal, almost transcendent experience that reminds me a bit of Unearthly Trance. But it’s the third track, “Forlorn,” that stands out and takes names. Beginning with a near-docile intro, the song builds in intensity and volume until it explodes at 3:35, laying waste to everything around them with the album’s strongest riffing and drumming. Moments of magnified intensity such as this reveal that Wormwood already showcases some incredible chops and songwriting skills.
It’s just a bit of a shame that the rest of the album feels like a bit of a comedown. Mind you, there isn’t a bad song on Mooncurse, but it does feel like the expertly crafted build-ups showcased early on in the album’s playtime are a bit lacking in the album’s second half. This causes the songs to feel a lot longer than they truly are, especially with instrumental closer “Passage of Fire.” And while I enjoy the hefty production (especially in the case of Weeks’ almost-chewable bass sound), the drums do take a bit of a hit, especially in the cymbals.
That said, though, Mooncurse is one of the more impressive debuts I’ve heard in recent times, and Wormwood are on the right path to doomy, post-y greatness. I see incredible things in store for the Boston quartet if they keep up the intensity and headiness, and tighten the songwriting just a smidge. As it stands, Mooncurse is a promising start. Give it a listen, pour yourself some absinthe, and keep an eye out.