WORMWOOD - Arkivet (Album Review)

WORMWOOD – Arkivet

A Little Band Information:

For those unaware Wormwood are a Swedish band that specializes in a mixture of black metal, folk and progressive rock. Their last album was the first I personally heard (and reviewed) and it made my top 10 albums of the year easily.

Now they are releasing a brand new album out on Friday 27 August on Black Lodge Records called Arkivet (Archive in English) which features 7 tracks between the lengths of 5 and 9 minutes long making it about 45 minutes in length.

They formed in 2014 and have 1 EP and 3 albums. The last album Nattarvet was focused on the past, in particular, the Swedish famine of 1867/68 and this time they are looking at the here and now. Like the last album, it is bleak and disturbing yet having musically an air of hope at times. The band are comprised of Nine (vocals), Tobias Rydsheim (lead guitars, keys and backing vocals), Jerry Engstrom (rhythm guitar), Daniel Johansson (drums) and new bassist Oskar Tornborg who also adds some backing vocals.

“Man Deserves To Die”:

It opens with the title track “The Archive” which makes clear from the beginning that this is a dark warning as the words tell us “our stories won’t be written with ink and mirth but carved in flesh and the soul of the earth“. The lyrics mention how the seas are “wailing a plea” to us, which they do as they regurgitate human’s shit onto the beaches of the world in the shape of things like plastics! Musically a great mix of folk and death metal with some gorgeous guitar solos giving us some hope and some beauty (which still exists at the moment) among the horror of realities. The solos are where the progressive rock influences are most heard (rock not metal) as they are very David Gilmour and or Mark Knopfler in sound and style. Melody over showmanship. “Man deserves to DIENine screams at the end and looking at the world we created (as Queen asked us to do a few years ago) it is hard to disagree with the sentiment.

Wormwood The Band

Wormwood The Band

There Is Melody In The Brutality:

Overgrowth” follows and it has quite a melodic opening (a recurring word that comes to mind when listening to the album is melody) with the melody sounding cautiously optimistic before the double kick drumming smashes through and a very harsh sounding vocal. One of the things I particularly admire and enjoy about Wormwood and it shines here is attention to detail, keeping things interesting. For instance, there is just one moment in this where there is a short “ting” of a bell or cymbal (it sounds like the former) which is a tiny link between 2 different sections (in almost the same way Genesis use a whistle in their epic “Supper’s Ready“).

End Of Message” has a synth opening that is overtaken by alternate or tremolo picking. One of the things that they do well is despite how fast it is there is always melody (yup, that word again) through it. At points, it actually soars until things drop down and drummer Daniel Johansson gets to play around on his cymbals creating an ambience of his own. At points there is almost a Celtic vibe, I even thought of Big Country at one point, albeit if they were a black metal band! The second guitar solo could be on an early Dire Straits album and it wouldn’t be out of place. It is a short piece but really lovely.

A Little More Folk Orientated:

My Northern Heart” goes much more into folk territory, pagan black metal however with a modern message. The info I have doesn’t mention other musicians or instruments outside of the ones the band plays but there is something similar to a violin/fiddle on this (and the following song too) along with what sounds like a bodhran (a Scottish handheld drum) or perhaps a Swedish equivalent and a tambourine (sounds more like that than hi-hats). I even think there is a Jew’s harp in there. If I am wrong then I apologize! The first part has a very folky and oldy worldly vibe before it goes into more normal black metal apart from the lilting guitar lines around the 4-minute mark which has a lovely refrain through it.

There are still some folk vibes in “Ensamheten” which translates into “loneliness” in English and seems to my ears to be all in Swedish. There is a change of mood around the 3-minute mark where it sounds a little neo-classical for a bit. Nine‘s vocals are at their most despairing as he screams or shouts in an anguished way.

Wormwood Closer Up

Wormwood Closer Up

The “Gentle Touch Of Humanity?”:

The Slow Drown” musically lives up to the name being a slower track and with some whispered vocalizations at the start to blend in. There are a few nice little bass lines from new boy Oskar Tornborg before the song fully takes off. With lyrics about “gasping for air… burden of life is pulling you down” this is almost funereal-like. The way the lyrics are drawled matching the speed of the music at points works well. In fact, possibly his slowest vocal delivery is over some frantic drumming as he says the word “desolation” which makes an interesting listen.

This leads us to the last song “The Gentle Touch Of Humanity” which is the longest track at over 9 minutes. One of the possibly dividing sections of this will possibly be the around 2 minutes of TV news reports about global warming and all the disasters that are happening around the globe (and in Sweden). Of course, there will be some folks even reading this that think global warming is a hoax (despite all the evidence) but as one of the reporters says (my favourite line in all the reports) “it is true there are natural cycles but what is happening now is that human activity has become the dominant agent of change“. I think the 2 minute or so constant bombardment of news pieces is death metal in style, constant, in your face, battering you into submission (or in this case perhaps realization). This is heavy stuff both musically and lyrically, yet once again they manage to install some emotionally uplifting melodies giving some form of hope in all the despair. The soloing is pure David Gilmour. All about what is being said in the notes rather than how many can be played in a short period. There is a lyric line that says “destroying the future and raping the past” which resonated with me. As for the delivery and underlying refrain when he actually sings the title line it is both beautiful and haunting at the same time.

Another Killer Album:

The album is death metal by nature of the vocals at times along with the double kick drumming and fast guitar picking, but there is so much more to it all as the band use space (even total quiet), time changes, instrumentation and if can I say one more time melody in their music. With intelligent lyrics and plenty of heart and soul showing their love for the planet whilst also their utter despair at what we humans have done and continue to do to our home. This is another killer album by this Swedish band and is already a very strong contender for my personal top 10 albums again. Absolutely brilliant stuff!

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