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A more modern (but still acceptable) Wormed - 81%

MutantClannfear, June 22nd, 2013

In what may be the first recorded example in the history of music of a band having a gap of ten years between their debut and sophomore efforts and not coming out on the other side as a complete pile of shit, Wormed's second album Exodromos is actually surprisingly solid, and while it's been quite a while since the band first released Planisphærium in 2003 (granted, I don't exactly know when writing for this album officially started), this feels neither underdeveloped and thrown together nor overcooked and overly ambitious. It's just good ol'-fashioned song-based technical brutal death metal with Wormed's unique flavor of riffcraft left intact.

Now, obviously, brutal death metal has changed since 2003, but Wormed roll with the genre surprisingly well - Exodromos is still distinctly a Wormed album, but it's not a clone of Planisphærium. The production is a lot more modern, most notably for the guitar tone; the unusually dark and claustrophobic guitar tone on the band's debut has been replaced with a shiny, pristine, crystal-clear but thankfully well-balanced set of guitars (it's worth noting that this "modern" sound generally only works for Wormed because of their overall atmosphere and aesthetics and that I don't really encourage its general use in modern BDM). Altogether, when compared to its predecessor, Exodromos feels a lot less... dark. Whereas Planisphærium brought to mind an impossibly dark, murky, unexplored, uninhabited region of space, this album definitely depicts a developed sort of civilization - it may be chaotic and dangerous, but it is invariably constantly hustling and bustling with alien life as opposed to existing inside an abiotic vacuum.

The overall repertoire of riffs still bears some semblance to "Cryptopsy in space", which is what I like to call the debut, but in general this sounds a bit closer to the modern tech-death tropes of dissonant chords, super-fast gravity blasts and convoluted rhythms. That's not to say it's all noodling, though - while Wormed never really use any slams here, Exodromos is nevertheless an undeniably groovy album. The band use breakdowns instead of slams, which are usually pretty effective despite the complex rhythms used under them (granted, an exception of quality can be made for the song "Darkflow Quadrivium", which is just... really not good). Even the faster, practically deathgrind-like riffs are bursting with catchiness, partially on account of the relentless feeling created as the guitarists relent on their palm-muting and let the undiluted open notes whack you in the face for a while. Aside from the added groove, the band have started focusing a bit more on outright atmosphere - there are a fair share of major scale melodies and waves of fuzzy, clean, jingly guitars which would fit rather well in a Lykathea Aflame song, and Wormed are better than most tech-death outfits when it comes to writing and integrating these sorts of riffs. The vocals mesh with them surprisingly well, too, or at least better than you'd think they would on paper.

The vocal performance this time around is clearer, but their style is still that set of uniquely alien, almost shrieked inhales, which sometimes strip themselves down to practically Waking the Cadaver-worshiping croaks. I think I might actually even like this album's vocals more than the debut's; not because the techniques have changed in any way, but because the added sonic definition they have this time around is nice to hear. While they were certainly a point of interest on the debut, on that album they were less integral to the overall performance, whereas here they're at the front of the mix and the music doesn't suffer a bit from it.

The only really big problem here is that the songs aren't really as instantly memorable here as they were on the debut. The composition of the songs themselves is actually really impressive for brutal death metal, in that the songs have a stunning sense of flow, tension release and conclusion; but in terms of riffs there's not that much that just immediately grabs you by the balls like the band once did with stuff like, say, the opening riff of "Tunnel of Ions". The deathgrind-influenced riffs are certainly fun, but none of them possess any melodic identity and sound like minor, practically nonexistent adaptations on the same base; same goes for the breakdowns. And this is arguably a minor issue, as the band don't do it very often, but when Wormed break out the stop-start riffs, shit starts getting really bad really quickly. Listen to that load of crap in the last 35 seconds of "Techkinox Wormhole" - who the fuck approved that!?

Overall I probably like this a little bit less than I liked Planisphærium, on account of the debut's more deadened atmosphere and more refined set of riffs, but Exodromos is a cool album that's still distinctly Wormed with a few new tricks added up their sleeves. Between the impressive songwriting, the improved production and the brand new "pretty" riffs integrated into their sound, one could very easily find this release to altogether be a step up in quality from Planisphærium, and I seriously doubt that any Wormed fan is going to be disappointed by it either way.