WORM – Foreverglade (2021)REVIEW

They whom “haunt who they fucking want” return for what initially appears to be a crowd-pleasing third full-length, yet we can and should read between the bowel-knotting riffs and glossy bloom of these hifalutin production values in plain view of an talented young artist, Phantom Slaughter, meticulously sustaining Worm as finely curated self-representation down to the smallest detail on ‘Foreverglade‘. Cultivating commercial momentum with some serious intent is one thing but this record collecting, corpse-painted Floridian appears far more interested in presenting a righteous underground-forged taste level in his work, a pursuit which is thus far major part and parcel of his musical identity. These six Richter-scaling, cathedralesque n’ blackened funeral death/doom metal pieces can be marked as a fresh high for the artist, giving us poe-faced and weirdly enthused extreme doom metal fans a ridiculously slick ~45 minute slow-motion thrill, a mounding curse which builds so thickly upon the graves of the past you’d think the worm’d intend to bury us all.

Having already given a general dossier for the band in review of ‘Gloomlord‘ back in 2019 before the light behind my eyes had completely died-out… The short version’ll be no less remarkable when considering ‘Foreverglade’ is the third official full-length from their main songwriter but technically the fifth album-length recording from Worm who’d birthed from a pile of hair and bones back in 2012 and released two incredible demo tapes ‘The Deep Dark Earth Underlies All‘ (2014) and ‘Nights in Hell‘ (2016). This was the initial source of hype for the then solo project as a raw black metal presentation that infused surrealistic black/doom metal atmosphere with influence from the most arcane and eldritch loft of the early 90’s be it Varathron, Goatlord or even a bit of ‘Filosofem’. Doom suited the worm and so the worm hath created extreme doom metal resonance in increasing quantities ever since, this meant a peak of unholy black/doom filth (‘Evocation of the Black March‘, 2017) soon found Worm giving in to an ever-burning obsession with funeral doom adjacent death/doom metal (see: Disembowelment, Evoken, Ceremonium) on ‘Gloomlord’, an album which I would still describe as spellbinding with a strong hit of stench-buzzing horror, without leaving behind any of the previously posited influences.

At this point we can take stock of the, holistically speaking, compositional bravery and raw talent of Phantom Slaughter, a rare happenstance wherein a sophisticated ear lands in the mud-level morass of underground extreme metal and improves upon the classicist sensibilities of the past — Better understanding what is “great” about extreme metal patternation than many of the legendary skulls who’d never manage to replicate or iterate their own work. The potential was frothing from the guy’s mouth back in 2019 and here in 2021 we receive the professional edition, nakedly yanked away from rawest occlusion and featured squarely by the nape of those talents for arrangement. In this sense Worm has progressed beyond the previous high point exactly as expected and, as a result, ‘Foreverglade’ is almost too obvious a result: An illuminating funeral death/doom metal record which manages to retain the elemental black metal personage of the past. Is this enough of his own atmosphere, though? Evoken‘s ‘Quietus’ and its follow-up are perhaps my favorite doom-related records of all time (excepting maybe ‘Die Healing’ or ‘Cemetery Earth’) so, there is no escaping the dragon’s breath of early Evoken (among others) as we traipse through the swamped-over graves and Brad Moore enhanced exegesis of ‘Foreverglade’. We can, and generally will, pick over every detail of the full listen and manage an armful of examples which break this atmosphere into various threads and pieces, such as the pure death metal guitar solos and black metal vocals interspersed throughout but the first impression of the title track/opener “Foreverglade” won’t easily seep outside of mind. This is a Worm-sized and idealized death/doom metal record that is not without some respectful idolatry infused into its verve and oh man is that loud and clear as it first floats into ear.

Two questions thwart my temples first: Who are these other guys? and is Worm trying to do too much on ‘Foreverglade’? Pre-rebuttal, isn’t “too much” the best possible outcome considering the territory? Since I’ve no idea whom lead guitarist Nihilistic Manifesto and session drummer L. Dusk are, I can at least suggest each participant’s style is familiar especially the squirrely Death and Morbid Angel-esque regalia of the extended guitar solos on “Centuries of Ooze”, “Empire of the Necromancers” and the almost too precise shredding at the apex of “Subaqueous Funeral”, a piece that briefly echoes the earliest atmospheric wiles of the project but, cleansed up toward a Mournful Congregation level of heavy metal panache. Lighters up. This inquiry-lite into Side B‘s ballsy lead guitar prowess isn’t without precedence, “Murk Above the Dark Moor” features the finest guitar solo on a Worm release to date, but I’ve made a fuss about it and posited ‘Foreverglade’ as a venture into an excess of ideas because it does initially seem like these pieces effectively betray the watery, Finn-gothic funereal season of Side A and begin to funnel together both pure post-‘Lost Paradise’ death/doom metal muscle, high-drama guitar heroics and black/doom esotericism with some impatience for our first few delves into the atmospheric weight of ‘Foreverglade’, which inarguably peaks with the ‘Darkness in the Elegy Season’-era Thorns of the Carrion and 90’s Esoteric vibing “Cloaked in Nightwinds”. The answer to the prior observation is fairly simple, the expectation of a pure and steadfast funeral doom metal record doesn’t fit within the larger ethos of Worm and as such, they can be found resembling the mold while also breaking out of expectations by way of various tonal angles cropping up along the way. The mood is hardly uneven, though, ‘Foreverglade’ appears intentional as it is for the sake of being held tightly in place by Steve DeAcutis‘ (Evoken, Disma) fine-toothed render wherein each song is impeccably spaced and set in vine-repellant marble.

‘Foreverglade’ is an ambitious dream realized and because of this it doesn’t manage a wealth of maimed sorrow or filthy slopping-about. This is a record entirely possessed by the surrealistic cathedral of morbid wonder it aims to create. As such, Worm hold fast and frozen in appreciation of the moment herein, perhaps not yet -fully- realized but achieving a highest state possible at present, and smartly does so without aiming too far above the thin skin of the supposed extreme metal underground. My thoughts again wheel back to whether or not this third album simply aligns with my own taste and references it, or, if there is enough of the artist’s own atmospheric nucleotides in action to warrant ‘Foreverglade’ the stamp and stature of Worm‘s signature release. This is of course the choice beyond the glacial melt of idealism itself and where the green-oozing trickle spreads and falls. If yes, this is to be the signature then please continue to release one these glorious bastards every couple of years and I will attach a large funnel and mesh-reinforced tube directly into spine for purest imbibe. If not, then I am even more intrigued what the artist’s taste and interests might forge in a state of constant evolution. Is ‘Foreverglade’ yet one of the best funeral death/doom metal records of the year? Without a doubt. A very high recommendation is warranted.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin
RELEASE DATE:October 22nd, 2021 [CD, CS, Digital]
January 28th, 2022 [Vinyl LP]
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Death/Doom Metal,
Funeral Death/Doom Metal,
Blackened Death/Doom Metal

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