Review Summary: The intersection of brutality and innovation
Like them or not, you have to give Wormrot props for the way they approach a creatively stubborn genre like grindcore. With every release, they expand their sound little-by-little while staying true to their roots, giving them a degree of stylistic freedom while managing not to alienate their core fanbase. However, the opening moments of Hiss
were enough to tell me that they were going to take their sound to even darker, stranger places. Instead of storming the gates with fire and brimstone, “The Darkest Burden” introduces the album with murky ambient effects. It sounds as though you’ve been dragged into a deep, damp cave, with the constant fear that something or someone will attack you out of nowhere. It’s as if to say “get comfy", because you’ll be taken to some disturbing, unsettling locales for the next 32 minutes.
As one would expect, the aforementioned “attack out of nowhere” does come, in the form of the rest of the song. Vocalist Arif – who unfortunately departed the band before the album’s release – screams at the top of his lungs, as a barrage of double bass drumming and vicious guitar work helps to set the scene. This pretty much forms the stylistic thesis statement of the record; however, as I stated earlier, there are some interesting tweaks this time around. Of course, as far as experimentation goes, most people’s attention will be focused on the violin parts found on songs such as “Grieve” and the sprawling closer “Glass Shards” – for good reason too, as it’s not often that you hear an instrument like that in grindcore. However, what fascinated me more were the odd bits in which melody
would take centerstage. “Your Dystopian Hell” may just be the best example, the combination of frantic blastbeats and melancholic guitar chords being highly reminiscent of All We Love We Leave Behind
-era Converge. “Sea of Disease” takes things in an even more jarring direction, adopting a much slower pace and really letting those plaintive guitar lines ring out.
However, this isn’t to say that the band have compromised their trademark sound in the slightest. This shit is absolutely brutal, managing to be just as aggressive and bloodthirsty as the band’s previous efforts. While guitarist Rasyid and drummer Vijesh are excellent at their respective instruments, it’s Arif who steals the show here. The guy can do just about everything you’d hope for from an extreme metal vocalist: the piercing black metal shrieks? Check. Shouting and barking in the vein of traditional hardcore? Check. Stygian gutturals that sound like they came from the pits of hell? Check. I often find that his most effective moments vocally are the ones in which he doubles his highs and lows, such as on “Vicious Circle” and “Spiral Eyes”. Obviously a lot of death metal and deathcore vocalists double up their parts like that, but Arif just makes them sound utterly disgusting
. However, as stated earlier, the other guys are no slouch either. Vijesh deserves a special mention, particularly for just how damn fast his drum work is; he might not necessarily be up there with Nile’s George Kolias or Cryptopsy’s Flo Mounier on that front, but damn if he doesn’t come close at times.
If there’s anything about Hiss
that does come closer to traditional grindcore, it’s the short-track, short-runtime approach typical of the genre. Most of the songs get in and get out in a minute or two, which is especially effective in regards to the more experimental tracks. You get a nice smorgasbord of sorts: give the listener something cool and unique for a brief snippet, and then move on to the next cool idea. Unfortunately, with the departure of Arif, it seems as though the group’s future is now in the air. Will they continue to push boundaries, or will they revert back to a more straightforward take on their grindcore sound? I suppose only time will tell, but all I know is this: Hiss
was one hell of a swansong for Arif to go out on with his time in Wormrot. These guys created a bold, experimental, and inventive record that takes a stagnant genre and turns it on its head, all while never forgetting where they came from in the first place.