Wormhole - Almost Human

Angry Metal Guy

WOOOOOORRRRRMMMMMHHHOOOOOLLLLLEEE!!! Indeed, my friends, the time has come for another installment of worm-y, hole-y goodness and in 2023, the Baltimore-based brutal tech-slam battalion is bigger and badder than ever. Armed with a new bassist (Basil Chiasson) and vocalist (Julian Kersey), the Kumar brothers’ Metroid and Doom inspired, sci-fi extreme metal project prepares a third advance of quality tunes entitled Almost Human. With big shoes to fill after the aggressive fun of Genesis and the filthy grooves of follow up The Weakest Among Us, can Wormhole step up and deliver a new high water mark, or will Almost Human be merely almost good?

To recite the immortal word ov Ken from days past, “Karen, Plankton’s computer wife, defines “seaweed” as, and I quote, “50% sea, 50% weed.” I define Wormhole as “50% worm, 50% hole,” where “worm” represents tech-death and “hole” represents slam.” While this distilled core of the band’s sound remains undisturbed, Wormhole trained, massaged, and transformed their songwriting style into an evolved, perfected mass of finely coordinated sinew. Neither tech death nor slam are known for maturity, nuance, or originality. Almost Human, miraculously, embodies all three qualities. DNA inherited from highly respected acts like Wormed, Infrared Horizon-era Artificial Brain, Afterbirth and Analepsy inform much of the material spawning here and yet in no sense is this album a facsimile of any of those bands’ material. Only Wormhole could craft something like this.

Almost Human by Wormhole

Almost Human is almost flawless, which itself poses a serious challenge in picking out highlights. Everything on this brutal slab oozes with class—another descriptor rarely attributed to technical or slammy death. Yet, the sparkling clean pickings and Riff o’ the Year slams of “Elysiism,” the hammering heft of “Spine Shatter High-Velocity Impact,” the sophisticated syncopation of “Delta Labs,” and the atmospheric awe of “System Erase” leave my jaw on the floor even after twenty-odd spins. An insane level of care went into the details and performances littering this tight, twenty-six-minute adventure. Basil Chiasson’s untamable writhings on the bass earn special commendation in this regard on “Elysiism,” “Data Fortress Orbital Stationary” and “Bleeding Teeth Fungus,” operating in perfect harmony with drummer Matt Tillett’s unbelievable kit performance—the multi-faceted expressiveness of which deserves a medal. Tidbits such as eerie tremolo chirps (“Spine Shatter High-Velocity Impact”), an incredibly silly trademark SpongeBob sample (“Delta Labs”), amazing cymbal clinks (“System Erase”), and a treasure trove of other sonic minutiae imbue oodles of textural depth and thematic novelty. Almost Human didn’t need those little embellishments to succeed, but is so much better for their inclusion nonetheless.

What seals the deal in making Almost Human a nonstop barrage of infallible songs is Sanil and Sanjay Kumar’s tasteful, yet playful and mystifyingly creative fretwork. Refusing to succumb to the “too many notes” wank of modern tech death, these talented cats nailed the balance between slamming paces and complex intricacies. In doing so, they maximize interest and intrigue while soaking the whole in potent adrenaline (“Delta Labs,” “Almost Human,” “System Erase,” literally every other song). With these two ace axes at the helm, Almost Human arguably changes the tech-death and slam games, albeit in a subtle and subversive way. Unlikely to blow the scene wide open in the same explosive manner that albums like Relentless Mutation do, Almost Human more humbly presents a novel permutation of brutal metal unlike any other I’ve heard up until now. Furthermore, each and every song possesses a delicate fugal thread, a twisted uniqueness, and a formidable richness of ideas that cohere the experience so completely that pulling everything apart—even for the worthy cause of analysis and evaluation—inflicts pain on my soul in a way only the best records do.

If there was one aspect of Almost Human for which I could conceive an improvement, it is in the vocals. Julian’s ultra-gruesome gutturals are an excellent fit. His sense of tone, texture, and flow cannot be questioned. However, he lacks variety. To offset that quality, I’d like a banshee screech or a mid-frequency roar integrated occasionally amongst his wealth of subterranean gurgles.1 Regardless, Wormhole delivered a record that holds the power to redefine how brutal tech death and slam-oriented artists write future material, thereby setting a new standard. Only time will tell if those artists actually listen, but you definitely should.

Rating: Excellent!
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: wormholemetal.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/wormholemetal
Releases Worldwide: September 22nd, 2023

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Wed Sep 20 14:08:02 GMT 2023