Wormrot’s latest is an agonizing and extraordinary blend of grindcore, black metal, and screamo, coupled with surprising emotional complexity.
After their blistering 2016 album Voices, Singaporean grindcore legends Wormrot let six years go by without treating fans to any new material, their longest gap between records. Following Voices, the harsh crustgrind of 2011’s Dirge, and their spartan debut LP Abuse, Hiss sees the band expanding their grindcore assault, coloring it with black metal chords, chanted vocals, and unorthodox instrumentation. Predictably, there are breakneck tempos, blocky riffs, and hideous screams all over this album, but its experimental flourishes augment its ferocious punk metal energy, making for a uniquely rich and harrowing experience.
Even on their earlier and more straightforward releases, Wormrot were always eager to push their sound beyond the tight confines of the genre, venturing deeper into new and strange territory with every LP, while keeping their inherently minimalist core — the band’s bass-less lineup consists of guitarist Rasyid, drummer Vijesh, and, until recently, vocalist Arif, who left the band before the album’s release — intact. Opening with “The Darkest Burden,” the album announces itself with 30 seconds of near-inaudible ambient sounds before finally erupting into a vicious double bass onslaught. The song’s spat-out vocals and metallic riffs are underscored by some atmospheric black metal guitar work, which adds a surprising amount of nuance and harmony to the otherwise punishing track. These glimmers of grindcore deviation continue with the atavistic singing on “Broken Maze,” as well as the screeching, dissonant violin on “Grieve” and “Weeping Willow.”
In spite of the adventurousness they display throughout, Wormrot still make room for some grindy traditionalism, as there’s a smattering of genre-typical micro-songs that don’t come anywhere near the one-minute mark, like the 10-second “Unrecognizable” or the bleak “Shattered Faith.” The latter’s concise lyrics of “Deluding state / The stagnant illusion of change / From your birth into your fucking grave / Time will take its course shattering your faith,” paint a remarkably grim and hopeless picture of life and death, a sensibility that permeates the album’s 33-minute runtime. “This is the end / Consuming your lies / Drown in despair / You chose this life,” Arif sings on the previously mentioned “Broken Maze,” a relentless track that describes entropy, desperation, and suicidal thoughts. On the outstandingly claustrophobic (and aptly titled) “Your Dystopian Hell,” the band dips their toes into mathy post-hardcore riffs before abruptly switching gears into pummeling blast bleats and foul, vocal chord-shredding screams, eventually capping the song off with a half-time noise rock finale that is staggeringly ferocious, recalling the crushing riffs of Nail’s “Wide Open Wound.” Hiss closes with the sprawling “Glass Shards,” which sees the group elaborating on some of their black metal influences, and pulling off numerous whiplash-inducing dynamic shifts. The song also brings back the violin, although it no longer produces the shrill bursts of noise it did earlier, opting for dramatic, melancholy beauty instead, as the song draws to a close with a screamo-inspired climax that fades out into another bit of 30-second near-silence.
Wormrot’s latest record is agonizing and extraordinary. Their effortless blend of grindcore, black metal, and screamo, coupled with the surprising emotional complexity this amalgamation brings forth, makes Hiss a serious contender for grindcore album of the year. It’s a brilliant work by a band that, even with the recent departure of their singer, seems poised to continually push the boundaries of their genre into exciting new directions — hopefully to even greater results.
Published as part of Album Round — July 2022 | Part 2.