Review Summary: While Krighsu is essentially a continuation of Exodromos, Wormed show that their sound is far from stale.
It feels weird listening to a new Wormed album only three years after the previous one dropped. For a time the band seemed like they'd join the likes of Wintersun and Tool, with long-overdue and overhyped new material that may never see the light of day. Yet almost miraculously they made a comeback in 2013 with Exodromos, which not only lived up to the hype but exceeded their début Planisphaerium in almost every way. Their space-themed slam death metal sound metamorphosed into a wonderful tech-death monstrosity, with unpredictable song structures and bizarre riffs which further distanced themselves from their gore-obsessed peers.
For better or for worse, Krighsu is Exodromos part 2. The relentless drumming, wacky riffs, ridiculous and opaque lyrical concepts and err... unique
vocals are all back in full force. Anyone who disliked the previous album would find very little about Krighsu to draw them in, while anyone who enjoyed their last effort would find little to complain about. There are a few very minor alterations to their sound, but overall anyone familiar with Exodromos would know what to expect.
The drumming this time round is handled by G-Calero and sounds very much like his two predecessors ie. it's ridiculously fast and precise. While those who miss the relative looseness and jazzy flair of Andy C. (Planisphaerium's drummer) will be disappointed, the drumming here is full of energy and simultaneously feels surgically precise and on the verge of collapsing in on itself. The tension and release keeps the listener on edge and keeps the performance from feeling overly monotonous and artificial, a trap many death metal bands have a habit of falling into.
The guitar and bass work is stellar as always, with riffs that sound like they draw equal amounts of influence from the brutality of Cryptopsy and Gorguts, the precision of Meshuggah and the insanity of The Dillinger Escape Plan. Odd techniques like the use of skittering harmonics and droning chords as well as the band's trademark inability to play in one time signature and tempo for more than a few measures help make Wormed stand out from the crowd. Meanwhile displays of excessive bravura are thankfully kept to a minimum.
Finally there's Phlegeton, the vocalist, graphic artist and lyricist of the band. Much of the band's identity is a result of his efforts, be it the impenetrable lyrical content, sci-fi imagery or polarising vocal style. Enjoyment of the band largely relies on the listener's tolerance of his surreal shrieking and gurgling, which sounds suitably alien for the otherworldly style the band goes for but may prove grating for some.
Regardless of whether or not the listener enjoys his vocal performance, one can't help but admire how he's one of the few death metal vocalists whose lyrics become even harder to make sense of when reading the lyric sheet. Not only is Krighsu a concept album, it is but one part of a larger saga that began with Planisphaerium back in 2003. While this may come off as self-indulgent, it has to be admitted that there is a lot of charm to the obnoxiously obscure lyrical themes. There's something novel about replacing the nonsense medical terminology of other death metal bands with astrophysics and it certainly completes the cosmic death metal package.
Ultimately, Krighsu's biggest strength is also its biggest weakness. Exodromos was such a fantastic and refreshing record that so strongly defined the band's sound, they could have easily made a few more albums in the same vein without becoming too stale. But there are a few moments on Krighsu such as the orchestral outro to Molecular Winds
and droning soundscape of Eukaryotic Hex Swarm
that suggest that the sound could be pushed even further. The ambient noises that appear so often at the end of their songs (on this album and previous releases) show a disappointing divide between their unrelenting death metal attack and the extraterrestrial vibe that they strive for, where ideally these sounds should be implemented into the songs themselves.
If you're a fan of Wormed, Krighsu is an essential listen. The sound introduced on Quasineutrality and expanded upon with Exodromos is as compelling as ever. The riffs are savage and the songs twist and turn in unpredictable ways that will often catch the listener off guard. The production also finds a comfortable balance between clarity and abrasiveness, much like its predecessor. But as good as Exodromos part 2 is, it would be a shame if their next effort ended up being Exodromos part 3.