There’s an odd inversely proportional relationship between the clarity of Worm’s logo and the clarity of — or at least, the quality of — their musical output. On their (then, his) first record, 2017’s Evocation Of The Black Marsh full-length, the logo is spindly, thin, whiter, cleaner, and by the time of 2019’s grand reinvention Gloomlord, the logo had decayed into a fuzzy rotting green mass, like swampland foliage spreading across sinking ground. Now, the logo is an illegible squished blob atop Brad Moore’s album art, the further decayed version of Gloomlord’s rottenness. (Credit where it’s due: The logo itself for Foreverglade was done by Yuri Kahan.)
Though it’s a sizable one, the qualitative gap between Gloomlord and Foreverglade isn’t as wide as that between Black Marsh and Gloomlord. Nevertheless, Foreverglade is a significant improvement by every metric, though it’s more of a vast refinement of Gloomlord’s direction more than it is any further expansion of the duo’s sound. From the production standpoint, Foreverglade hits harder, sounds sharper, and those improvements serve to retroactively showcase previously overlooked flaws in Gloomlord’s sonics, leaving that earlier record feeling as pale in comparison as the black-white-and-shocking-green cover looks against the colorful chaos of the cover. Mixed and mastered by Stephen DeAcutis, Foreverglade takes the basic framework established for Gloomlord and simply makes it sound better, though thankfully not by scraping away the gloom and grime, both of which are integral to Worm’s muck-riddled sound. The swamp is still there; now you can hear it more clearly.
Foreverglade opens with the chiming, almost sub-aquatic sounding guitars that worked so well on Gloomlord, quickly bolstered by crashing distorted chords and Equimanthorn’s synthesizer underpinnings that sound eerie and regal in equal measure. Session drummer L. Dusk does a grand job imbuing energy into tracks that trudge along like walking in waist-deep water. Phantom Slaughter’s vocals alternate between a deep, thunderous death growl and a higher almost blackened snarl, each given additional weight by the added heft from DeAcutis’ mix. Songs like the title track and the monstrous “Murk Above The Dark Moor” balance those chiming guitars and drifting tempos against faster and stouter death metal riffs, the latter track sporting a particularly Azagthoth-ian bent-note winner that brings to mind primordial Floridian slime from long past. The epic-length “Cloaked In Nightwinds” is as close as Worm comes back towards their blackened beginnings, hints of that particular evil creeping through in the midrange rasp and symphonic pomp. Though it’s not entirely an instrumental showcase, the short but very sweet “Subaqueous Funeral” acts like one, with an outrightly pretty guitar-and-synth intro and some truly tasty leads courtesy of guest guitarist Nihilistic Manifesto, whose melo-shred work lifts many of these tracks a further step above.
Even with the accolades laid at the feet of Gloomlord, Foreverglade is a striking improvement. Phantom Slaughter’s compositional skill has increased dramatically in the four years since Worm’s first record, and now, with LP3, Worm has released one absolute monster of a death / doom album, one that should handily crack some year-end lists starting in just a few short weeks: six songs, forty-five minutes of hideous and beautiful gloom and ghastly doom.
Like some mutant critter from the depths of the bog, this Worm has both legs and teeth. With this rate of productive decay, I can’t wait to see how deteriorated that logo looks for the next one…