ALBUM REVIEW: The Ladder – Palace of Worms

Admittedly the name PALACE OF WORMS raised some scepticism, extreme sub-genres of metal have a tendency to present themselves as being as dark/gory/disgusting/offensive as possible, which of course has no correlation with musical quality. Not only was the album pleasantly surprising, it’s enough to absolutely blow you away. Before analysing the album track by track, it’s worth noting that the cover artwork is absolutely spectacular and manages to be haunting, creative and curiously symbolic all at the same time.

What is instantly striking is the fluency with which the band can create, develop and change atmospheres so effectively within the same song. In the Twilight Divide manages to span several sub-genres from folk-instrument led metal to the more iconic brutality of classic Black metal. Continuously changing riffs of incredible skill and creativity tie everything together, and the melodic element combines with perfectly fitting production to create a truly spectacular sound.

Both From the Ash and Night World continue the theme of wonderful versatility, and the latter especially stands out with its reduced tempo and effect created by layering several soft vocal melodies on top of each other.

A reasonable standard by which to judge an album as a work of art is to listen for the theme, atmosphere or points of interest that the artist is trying to create and decide how successful they have been in their attempts to immerse the listener into this. Bearing this in mind, PALACE OF WORMS create truly vivid works of musical art that are pulled off with impressive musicianship, seamlessly leading from one idea to the next. It’s almost like being bombarded with a huge variety of musical elements whilst avoiding the overwhelming ridiculousness that sometimes shows itself in technical death metal.

One of the most notable aspects of The Ladder is the vocals. It really does set the bar for what black metal growls / screams should aim to be. Hateful, powerful, the right mix between guttural and piercing, yet miraculously remaining intelligible. This means that instead of solely relying on the tone and pitch of the front-man’s roar, fans can actually enjoy lyrics without even having to look them up too!

As the album continues, more of the down-tempo sludge that was heard before comes crushing its way through Strange Constellations, and it most definitely is crushing. So slow and heavy it’s almost painful to listen to, but painful in a glorious head-banging way of course. Whispered words and soft synths cascade until the end of this song with a mesmerising drumbeat that quite frankly sets a huge amount of anticipation for what can only be hoped for as an epic crescendo to this amazing musical journey. The sorrowful Wreathe builds further into this mood and shows of some clean vocal talents too that certainly do not disappoint.

The final track, admittedly not as heavy as one might expect, shows another angle to the band’s talent. At no point has this album been predictable. Surprisingly melodic and wistful, it neatly rounds off a composition of music that stands tall and proud amongst other similar band’s work at this time, or ever. This is one of the best albums produced this year without a doubt, and not only is it more brutal and innovative than most, but more accessible than many records considered classics of black metal. An unforgettable titan of an album.

Rating: 9/10

Palace of Worms

The Ladder is set for release on April 8th via Acephale Winter Productions and Sentient Ruin Laboratories on cassette and on vinyl from Broken Limbs Recordings.