Finally! After five long years, Wormrot have released their third LP, Voices. When Arif and Rasyid abandoned their original drummer Fitri back in April 2015, Wormrot faced potential demise. If they could not locate a replacement, that would be their funeral. Fortunately the duo recruited Vijesh in June that same year and in no time, Wormrot were back at the daily grind. Practice, live shows, practice, record Voices. It took five years to arrive, but god damn was it worth the wait.
This three-man Singaporean battalion crushes. Riffs, blasts, and putrid vocals. Grindcore. No bass bolsters the undertow here, only agony and ferocity. Voices is about twenty-six minutes of bloodshed spanning twenty tracks. It’s a fistful of anger that strikes with familiarity, but tears the flesh with some new, surprising influences.
“Blockhead Fuck Off” is Wormrot’s return. Rolling snares reinforce Rasyid’s grinding guitar. No hook can be found. Arif shrieks. Then he belches guttural lows. He volleys between the two vocal tones in signature Wormrot style. A minute passes; it’s like they never left. The second track, “Hollow Roots”, is where Wormrot’s dagger starts to twist. Rasyid’s guitar drips with melancholy; traces of depressed melody permeate the bass-less atmosphere. It conjures a heartfelt allure. Seconds fly by and the song spirals into a flurry of grind. No rhythm, just chaos. A blink later, the riff claws its way out of the shit and returns to its hardcore roots. Guitar chugs pummel on “Exit Fear”. Wormrot twists the blade again; a tremolo picked riff creeps under the song’s skin. It lasts only a moment. The grindcore kicks back in. Just before the song ends, the black metal influence infects the aural assault. Wormrot then barrels into “God’s in His Heaven”. This song is where the two aforementioned influences breed. The dissonant black metal riffing at the track’s outset produces murky atmosphere, while the dispirited hardcore melody near its conclusion stirs an almost uplifting resolve. Around, between, and within these passages is Vijesh’s unfettered maelstrom of rapid snare blasts, cymbal crashes, and fills. It is absolute savagery.
The four song cluster detailed above is well representative of the new sounds you hear on Voices. You still get slabs of solid grindcore like the nine-second shiner “Dead Wrong”, the groovy “Fake Moral Machine”, or the blistering “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Grind”. But many cuts masterfully blend hardcore, black metal, and other genre influences. What makes this cocktail so palatable is Wormrot’s fluid transitions. Their skill in composing tracks with seamless flow is already well evidenced in their previous LPs, but Wormrot’s added twist of bending grindcore so easily with these genres is exceptional. This is best exemplified with two back-to-back tracks. “The 1st World Syndrome” embraces hardcore elements. Rasyid’s riff suspends in the latter half of the track, pushing Vijesh’s frantic kicks to the foreground. The song terminates then erupts into “Shallow Standards”. It reaches an emotional high in mere seconds before collapsing into a head banging riff backed by Arif’s screeches. It’s a breathtaking transition. These shifts lend to the record’s chaotic nature and, at times, dredge beautiful brutality.
The experimentation comes with some faults, however. Relative to Wormrot’s past efforts, Voices’s production is pretty clean. The dirt that gave the guitar a grisly tone has been washed away. This wounds Voices, but it also helps it. Its clear production adds gravity to the emotional passages described earlier; melodies shimmer (or depress) with heavier weight because they are not muddled. But this cleanliness makes parts of the record sound empty. Some of the rawness is lost.
A couple tracks also dislodge Wormrot’s flow. “Oblivious Mess” (an earlier song) and “Defaced” (a later song) writhe in their influences, yet add little to Wormrot’s stride. They exist, but meander. In addition, Voices feels like it could end on its seventeenth track “Buried the Sun”. This song comes off the heels of the excellent (and nasty) “Compassion is Dead”. “Buried the Sun” is methodical. It’s almost meditative after the storm of Wormrot’s experimentation. Arif’s repeated line “All hope is gone” could almost serve as a relieved, but disheartened capstone to the record. This is not to discredit the unhinged closer “Outworn”. It’s simply that “Buried the Sun’s” lethargic fade into garbled static gives you the impression Voices is complete. In a way this dulls the intensity of the last three tracks.
Voices excels on almost every front in its experimentation. It’s harsh, but sometimes tender. It thirsts for vengeance, for resolve. Sure, some missteps stutter its flow; not every influence and experiment works. But Wormrot bleeds with an undying rage. Voices is a collection of dirges stained with a promising evolution of grindcore. It’s a passionate resurgence; a curb stomp that blows your teeth into the back of your skull.
Listen to Voices above; purchase the record here.