Review Summary: A compelling metal release that doesn't rest all its weight on the bottom string.
Being a fan of music means being able to overlook missteps and slip ups that musicians, like any humans, tend to make. A true music fan can find beauty in almost any song, whether it be Britney Spears’ new ballad or one of Black Sabbath’s old burners. Given the recent invasion of metal and deathcore bands, this capacity to discern worth from music makes life easier for the modern metal head. Indeed, the bulk of core bands are predictable enough to bore even the most devout headbangers. Yet, while this stagnancy is usually a pain, it can also provide wonderfully stark contrast for the handful of truly great releases that find their way through the thicket: Bloodworm’s Water Moccasin is one of those great releases.
Hailing from Fort Smith, Arkansas, Bloodworm was formed by former The Handshake Murders guitarist Brandon Rogers after the band broke up. For fans of The Handshake Murders, you will be happy to know that Rogers is still a beast on the guitar – in fact, while Rogers’ guitar style and sound remains familiar, he seems to have upped his game considerably, both in terms of creativity and overall soundscape; this may have something to do with his fellow guitarist Nick Antell. Their riffs are heavy without relying on low tunings and bottom strings, creative without sounding forced, and catchy without sounding cheesy. The guitar work on the song Snake Skin really showcases how all three of these elements combine to great effect.
More importantly, though, is how Rogers’ and Antell’s fluid, dynamic style of guitar playing helps take the EP down an unpredictable and exciting path. Each song is memorable and unique, similar only in their volatility. While the songs on most technical metal albums often coalesce into a blob of heavy noise, leaving the audience exhausted and the songs indistinguishable, Bloodworm do a fantastic job of avoiding this problem. Every track contains multiple sections that help set it apart from the pack; every song has its own personality.
Complimenting the guitarists are Tyler Berger on drums, Sheahan Alplanalp with vocals, and Jacob Hoffman on bass. Berger’s performance on the drums is outstanding throughout the entire EP. His playing is both musical and aggressive, tight and groovy, with fills that are tasteful and fluid, albeit minimalistic. Berger follows the guitarists for the most part, but rather than feeling like a cop-out, this helps to keep the songs coherent and flowing. Indeed, the drumming acts as a glue that keeps the songs from falling apart at the seams. Vocalist Sheahan Alplanalp brings a solid and varied performance to the table as well. His screams convey passion and energy in a way that ups the intensity of each song, helping to further add to the atmosphere of anger that permeates the whole EP. Despite the five seconds of surprisingly well-executed cleans in the first track, The Artifice, Alplanalp never strays from the harsh vocals that keep Water Moccasin sounding focused, angry, and heavy. Unsurprisingly, bassist Jacob Hoffman is largely inaudible throughout the EP – this is likely because he is following the guitars, which is probably a good thing given the already chaotic nature of the music.
Concentrated, forceful, and engaging, this is far and away one of the best metal releases to surface in quite some time. To say that Water Moccasin does something unique is a cliché, but failing to point this out would do the EP a grave injustice. Given that this is Bloodworm’s first outing, it’s hard not to get excited for what’s to come: being able to craft such aggressive, seamless songs at first attempt bodes well for their future. Bloodworm’s Water Moccasin EP is a work of art that any fan of heavy music would do well to hear. As a whole, the six songs on Water Moccasin work together to create a furious EP that is unmistakably Bloodworm. It will take multiple listens before one can truly appreciate what is happening, but in this case replay is wholly rewarding.