It seems that now more than ever, this world is filled with rage. The US is overflowing with it. The planet is being choked out by billionaires, while every catalyst for meaningful change seems to get stomped by our bloated, tumor-ridden bipartisan system. And amid this global pandemic, where over half the country has suddenly lost their income and stability, rage is about the only thing on which we can rely.
It’s a struggle to stand up to the despair that this whole situation seems to breed, but rage certainly makes it easier. Some are stoking the fires of their fury, building a blaze to unleash on the world. South Carolina’s grind quartet WVRM is one such group, and their new LP Colony Collapse spews forth an inferno of anger.
True to form, Colony Collapse turns my earbuds into jackhammers pounding the sides of the skull. Powerviolence speed drumming mashes with extended grindy blastbeats and even churning hardcore breakdowns, pumped out at tempos that sometimes have the rest of the band rushing to catch up. The percussion steers the changes in feel and style, giving the string section plenty of room to fill with grating chugs, searing melodic bends, and plenty of thrash. The vocals are dripping wet, a combination of salival, phlegmy wretches and growls both deep and furious.
That fury is what really ties Colony Collapse together—WVRM are fucking pissed, and taking it all out on their poor instruments. Yet the band channels this rage through more than just 30-second bouts of blasting and power chords. The low rumbling vocals and chromatic progressions often blur the line between grind and death metal, while the ultra-dissonant chords that open “Hands that Bear the Hive” fall almost into skramz territory.
Even prog elements rise to the surface, as WVRM change tempos in almost every tune, and build the beatdown outro of “Walled Slum City” in alternating measures of 7 and 9. The title track drives even further into the experimental, featuring a repeated vocal poem surrounded only by spacious improv drumming and a wall of feedback. This leads into the only quiet moment of the record: a mournful cello that hovers in shadow before the final bout of blasting that is “Angel of Assassination.”
WVRM are absolutely livid with the state of things, and much of the writing on Colony Collapse directly addresses the injustices so many Americans continually face. “Anti-Democracy//Locust Breath” rails against the 1% whose hands cause so much suffering, while the brutalizing “Tank Reaper” references the political crusades (read: forever war) our government finds so easy to justify: “Enemy of my homeland / … Dominate you with my faith.” “My Fucking Dixie (The New South)” addresses the racism embedded in certain parts of the US, urging the destruction of the insanely-outdated Confederate mindset with cries like “tear down every statue” and “let the old world rot.” Even the samples they band includes mirror this rage: the barely-audible opening clip in “Walled Slum City” intones “the only option is freedom,” while “Thorn Palace” begins with quotations from political activist and Black Panther Fred Hampton.
With all the chaos and suffering inherent in our society, it can be very easy to absorb a totally nihilistic view, and much of the writing on Colony Collapse reflects this overwhelming feeling. The record is replete with apocalyptic imagery; “Violet Nuclear” paints an image of an atomic bomb suddenly erasing the future for an intertwined couple. “Years of Lead” conjures a scene of “lead rain [falling] down like missiles,” while the album’s closer kicks off with the visceral lines “In my dreams the empire falls under a napalm shadow / the carrion call of nuclear winter.” Even the title reflects this air of looming doom—the colony in collapse is not just a reference to the plight of pollinators, but our own future as well.
WVRM have wrung their hands and hearts of every ounce of rage, and distilled it into this collection of utterly brutal songs. Their genre bending and blending, backed by relentless energy and hectic tempos, has me spinning this record on repeat to catch every nuance. Colony Collapse is the soundtrack to social isolation, a reminder to stoke the flames of the heart and mind when despair would love nothing more than to snuff them. Because we are not powerless, not now and not ever, and when we are able to walk amongst each other again, our collective rage just will be what the world needs most.
My Top Track: “Thorn Palace”