Worm Takes Hideous Wing on “Bluenothing” (Mini Album Review)
There’s something nice about a breakout story. A proper breakout; the impossible to anticipate alignment of listeners, labels, promoters and press; the crowding of everyone who cares around the new release of an act to bare witness, and agree that "yh this is p gd actually," before the Discogs flippers have even had a sniff, sometimes paying attention to music is fun!
Florida's Worm's 2021 album forEVERGLADE was absolutely a breakout, and with the music to back it up; its memorable organ use serving as pin pricks of light in the canopy of the bog listeners were thrown into. On forEVERGLADE, Worm understood that funeral doom and death doom are reptilian cast offs, sliding belly to the ground and disappearing into the mire; forEVERGLADE was a place, and Worm had it mapped out.
The band's new release Bluenothing is pitched as something of a closing out of the forEVERGLADE sessions, two songs recorded at the same time as that album, and two new pieces. Given the poisonous, oppressive air that Worm have cultivated over nine years, five releases and one demo, you may have expected the band to burrow even further into the ground, but with Bluenothing they’ve done something you might not expect from a worm: they have craned upwards, and looked to the sky.
One look at this release’s artwork should be hint enough that the mood has shifted: lightning cracks a luminous night sky as robed figures descend stone stairs on unknown errands–we are well beyond the clamour of the swamp. What does this mean for the music? The biggest consideration here is that this mini album sees the band add a further guitar into the mix, played by Phil "Wroth Septentrion" Tougas (also Atramentus, VoidCeremony, Chthe-ilist, Hulder [live]). With existing band members capably delivering the low end gloom and hiss they are known for, Wroth Septentrion is free to investigate higher registers and cast light into the dark with graceful solos, a natural evolution hinted at in the prior lineup's earlier songs such as "Murk Above the Dark Moor." Wroth Septentrion's presence also emboldens the band's organ work, and they take it further than ever before, planting it deeply in these compositions; in its best moments Bluenothing sees these elements working in concert, launching into the air, coiled around Phantom Slaughter's clearest vocal delivery yet.
This change is completely aligned with recent stained glass mimicking band photos, and the footage that trailed the announcement of Bluenothing which featured the band wandering through stone corridors, candelabra in hand. This castle bound iteration of the band uses its expanded toolset to paint firelit halls and gothic romance, rather than boiling swamps and pitch black woods. This is especially true of the first two songs on the mini album, those hangovers from forEVERGLADE; It's almost strange to see them billed as such given they have an incredibly strong identity all of their own, thankfully untethering the songs from that album has allowed the band to lean even further into their gothic fringes, which could have seemed ill fitting alongside the songs on forEVERGLADE. There is certainly no sense that this is a cutting room floor rescue.
The second half of Bluenothing yields further surprises. Two complementary songs, the first acting as a gateway into the second, both stylistically apart from anything Worm have released before. Coarse textures give way to an enormous guitar lead and twinkling synths as the band appear to be summoning the strength for what’s to come: Bluenothing's towering final song "Shadowside Kingdom."
You can feel the glee with which the band unleashes this unexpected torrent of symphonic black metal, a complete stylistic curveball, enabled by the additional guitar presence which here allows the leads to head into triumphant, Hellenic territory. For the armies of fans recently or newly invested in Worm, this is where things get interesting, get fun: a mini album, pitched as the stylistic culmination of the band’s most creatively and commercially successful era, that begins with a tonal shift in their recognizable style, and ends in a different genre entirely? If the intention of the band and 20 Buck Spin was at least in part to keep Worm on everyone's lips before the next full statement from this growing family of artists emerges, then a cliffhanger like this is a hell of a way to do it. As of now, Worm have shown themselves capable of luring us to an increasingly diverse range of coordinates on the map; as we take respite among the towering spires of Bluenothing, all we can do is take note of the journey so far, and prepare ourselves for the path ahead.
Bluenothing released October 28th via 20 Buck Spin.