The first word that comes to mind when listening to Evocation of the Black Marsh, the debut full-length from Floridian black metal duo Worm, is ‘primitive.’ However, simply leaving it at that might be selling the band a bit short. After all, it’s not like primitive-sounding black metal bands are in short supply…
Still, there are different flavors of primitiveness in black metal, just like there are in any other genre. Most people probably hear ‘primitive’ and think of the painfully lo-fi stuff coming out of Portugal (which regular readers of this site will know that I absolutely love), but that’s not the style that Worm plays. Instead, I’d almost call their sound ‘caveman black metal.’ A lot of the time it sounds like people who can barely play their instruments made it. Not that I’m suggesting that Fantomslaughter and Equimanthorn are inept musicians. In fact, the opposite is more likely the case – it takes a pretty good amount of ability to make music that constantly sounds like it’s on the verge of falling apart but never actually does.
Unlike a lot of black metal bands, Worm is at their best when they’re doing the ‘slow and lumbering’ thing: chunky, deliberately paced riffs, slithering single-note progressions, and uncluttered drums. They do the faster stuff convincingly, too (though they never quite hit blast tempo), but the evil quotient in their music seems to be inversely proportional to the song’s pace: the slower they go, the more sinister they sound. For example, the suffocatingly slow sections of “Gravemouth” hit the listener like shovels of dirt on a half-conscious body in a shallow forest grave. Portions of “Evil in the Mire” have the same rotting, humid atmosphere as the womb-like killer’s lair in a slasher film. Some of the riffs in the middle section of ‘Swamp Ghoul” would verge on melodic doom territory were it not for the multiple layers of mold and filth on top of them.
The strongest track on the record, though, is the title track, “Evocation of the Black Marsh.” The guitar sounds slightly out of tune throughout the extended intro, and the drums seem to lurch while trying to maintain the glacial pace, but it somehow works. And this time, the song actually does fall apart a little more than halfway through, and then it slowly builds back up with three intertwining guitar lines that seem like they were played on three different out of tune guitars before resolving into a crushing, martial outro riff.
In the end, one’s appreciation of Evocation of the Black Marsh will be contingent on one’s tolerance for black metal that sounds this unpolished. And since Worm favors an extremely dry production style instead the reverb-drenched approach favored by a lot of primitive/raw black metal bands, there’s no atmosphere here to hide the music’s warts. That being said, Worm has a lot to offer here. If you’re a fan of the really early second wave stuff or some of the last wave of proto-black bands, then I would definitely check this one out.
Evocation of the Black Marsh will be available on September 29 via Iron Bonehead Productions.