Melodic Black Metal doesn’t quite cover WORMWOOD‘s latest venture Ghostlands: Wounds From a Bleeding Earth (Non Serviam Records). Following the release of their 2015 EP The Void: Stories From the Whispering Well which features a multitude of consistent, classic black metal riffs, the Swedish quintet have taken old Scandinavian folk tales and infused them into a debut full-length record as diverse as the stories themselves.
As a tense atmosphere germinates in the background, a single, piercing horn marks the beginning of the album with Gjallarhomet. If not for the quickening pace and unexpected synth like build-up towards the end of the track, Glallarhomet would’ve sounded like it was plucked straight from a WARDRUNA piece. Said synths masterfully frame the first riff of The Universe is Dying, and it’s nothing short of explosive. From the strong guttural vocals, to the galloping riffs, to the rhythmic drum beats, those unfamiliar with WORMWOOD could be forgiven for mistaking them for INSOMNIUM. As the album progresses, however, it becomes clear that Ghostlands: Wounds From a Bleeding Earth is far more complex than it first lets on.
The third track of the album, Under Hennes Vingslag offers some soul-shreddingly dirge-like vocals towards the end of the song. This, paired with the fast paced, atmospheric guitar makes for what should only be described as ‘Leif Eriksson discovering the New World’ music. The epic atmosphere continues with Godless Serenade, quickly evolving into a bouncy rock and roll riff, then reverting back to the black metal core of the album. Things then take a pleasantly darker tone with Oceans. Purveying a crushing hook and the same jarring vocals heard previously, Oceans foreshadows what’s yet to come in the second half of the record, but not before the refreshing mid-album break that is Silverdimmans Återsken. With its gentle acoustic melodies, and ethereal vocals from guest artist Alexandra “Lalla” Moqvist, Silverdimmans Återsken is the proverbial eye of the storm.
Granted, the first half of Ghostlands: Wounds From a Bleeding Earth may see a few devout black metallers disappointed with its experimental style, but this is more than made up for with Beneath Ravens and Bones and the songs following, which stay true to the classic black metal sound without forfeiting the sense of legendary saga and adventure the first half of the album delivers in abundance. That being said, those looking for an album consistently one style all the way through would do well to leave this be and look elsewhere. WORMWOOD have successfully created an album that takes the theme of Scandinavian Folklore and manifests it in countless ways, from the violin solos of Tidh ok Ödhe, to the atmospheric, AGALLOCH-like riffs of What We Lost in the Mist. Ghostlands: Wounds from a Bleeding Earth is an entire black metal record store in one album that masterfully caters for all niches within the sub-genre. This is not background music; this is an album that demands attention from the second it starts to the second it ends. Bravo.
Ghostlands: Wounds from a Bleeding Earth is set for release on March 10th via Non Serviam Records.
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