Wormhole - Almost Human review
|Release date:||September 2023|
01. System Erase
03. Spine Shatter High-Velocity Impact
04. Data Fortress Orbital Stationary
05. Delta Labs
06. Almost Human
07. Bleeding Teeth Fungus
08. The Grand Oscillation
Wormhole are driving innovation in perhaps one of the least innovative metal subgenres, with their self-proclaimed ‘tech slam’ style. As they continue to push the boundaries of brutal death, however, they may need to start weighing the merits of some of the elements tethering them to this niche.
I acknowledged when I reviewed this year’s album from Paroxysmal that brutal death is one of my less preferred subgenres of metal; one of the main reasons that I liked Force Feeder was that, despite the packaging, it didn’t actually have all that much to do with brutal death. In the case of Almost Human, Wormhole’s debut on Season Of Mist, slam is very much an integral aspect of its composition; however, like on the group’s previous effort, there’s quite a lot more to their sound.
Almost Human plays its hand pretty early on; the opening one-two of “System Erase” and “Elysiim” make clear that Wormhole’s writing extends beyond the confines of slam and into technical death. The former opens immediately with the kind of techy dissonance that has made bands such as Ulcerate so irresistible, and even when it slides into a meatier groove, the song still sustains a strong pace and intensity; there’s something to the combination of sounds on this song that may appeal to those that enjoyed Artificial Brain’s self-titled last year. “Elysiism” really ups the ante in terms of what a slam band is capable of; from the off, there’s a melodic touch to the technical guitarwork, which acts as a solid platform for the exhilarating leap into full-blown melodic tech-death in the second half, capped off by a blistering, shimmering solo. It’s a sound that could easily have appeared on an album such as The Flesh Prevails by Fallujah, and indicates very early on that Wormhole are being ambitious on this latest effort.
It's perhaps due to these early promising signs that I ultimately find myself slightly disappointed by my overall sentiments towards Almost Human. There are still some slam riffs wedged into the opening parts of the record, but later in the tracklist they become a more dominant factor, particularly on a song such as “Data Fortress Orbital Stationary”. My own misgivings towards the genre certainly have to be accounted for, as I imagine a reviewer more fond of slam would get more out of the latter songs (it’s a shame Troy is on one of his hiatuses). Still, it’s unfortunate that Wormhole demonstrate situations in which slam riffs can mingle alongside more vibrant technical riffing in a way that is mutually beneficial, but ultimately end up front-loading a lot of those ideas and leaving the latter stages of Almost Human without those dissonant or melodic cues.
More than the instrumentation, though, it is the vocals that hinder Wormhole in trying to ascend to a higher level. New vocalist Julian Kersey delivers a fairly monotonous performance rigidly bound to the gargled gutturals so strongly associated with slam; it’s an extreme vocal style that I’ve never been particularly fond of, but it does at least fit the aesthetic for bands that play a very conventional brutal death style. In the case of Wormhole, however, it’s peculiar that they integrate so much range instrumentally but remain static in vocal approach; if it was me, I’d get rid of the gargles altogether in favour of a more visceral growling style, but at the very least I think Kersey should try and confine these gutturals to the slam portions of the album and shake up his approach in the more divergent sections of songs.
At the end of the day, Wormhole are breathing fresh air into slam, and Almost Human offers quite a bit to enjoy for those who normally struggle to engage with the genre. Still, old habits die hard, and I do feel that overcoming expectations for how slam vocals should sound would do a lot for allowing the band’s music to reach its full potential. A future effort that expands on the more experimental elements of this release and how they can work in synchrony with the band’s inherent brutality, while also mixing things up vocally, could potentially be spectacular.
||Written on 28.09.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not|
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