Album: Almost Human
Label: Season Of Mist
Release Date: September 22, 2023
For Fans Of: Artificial Brain, Wormed, Dying Fetus
I saw Wormhole open for Archspire a while back. Their music didn’t really grab me, but the crowd seemed to be very into the show, so good for them. After that, I listened to their studio music, specifically their only full-length at the time, Genesis. The music didn’t really grab me, but others seemed to like it well enough, so good for them. You get one guess as to what I’m going to say about the band’s new full-length release Almost Human.
Wormhole are a slam/technical death metal band out of Baltimore. Their general approach to music is summed up in their description of “techslam”: 50% brutal killing = brutal sci fi riffs, and 50% technical death metal that is “chasing the vibe.” This ends up sounding like a love child between Artificial Brain and Suffocation with some Ulcerate thrown in for fun. Wormhole’s music is certainly interesting and engaging for those who care.
Let’s not do this band dirty just because I’m not a fan. The music is very well-made. The songwriting is concise and purposeful, with slowed-down slams and wild-flying solos being used with intention to progress the music. Many of the songs on Almost Human have a sense of progression, as if looking out onto a barren and hostile landscape while flying over it. These tracks sound distinct but share obvious DNA. Wormhole sounds like an experienced band bursting with new ideas.
The performances are similarly professional and top tier. The drumming uses space and silence to great effect. Almost Human doesn’t just contain blast beats until the planet blows up. Instead every hit feels deliberate, which makes the more hectic sections all the more worth it. The bass has some passages where it only supports the guitars, but some sparkling moments where it ventures out on its own such as the middle of “Elysiism.”
The guitars switch effectively between low chugging and high, less-distorted solos. I never get the feeling that this music is too virtuosic, but part of playing impressively is playing with ease. Some will love the vocals, but I can take or leave them. The band as a whole plays together with aggression and sound like a group that’s taken the time to study each others styles to allow everyone to complement everyone else rather than just throwing everything in a pot and letting it boil. Finally, the production is excellent. All instruments are clear and open without sacrificing the brutality or fire that this record needs.
I’ve written far more negative reviews for records that end up in my top 5 of the year, so let’s talk about the issues. First, even though they have their place in the song progression, the slams often have no emotional effect and end up being wasted time. The tech death part is brought down by excessive time spend chugging with nothing happening. While this is intentional and a part of the song progression, these moments end up feeling like a placeholder to get from point A to point B rather than something interesting by itself. Similarly, the tech death half of this doesn’t really complement the slam to my ears. Both halves are done well, I just feel vaguely morose about both due to the other.
Most of what the band does sounds technically proficient but just doesn’t work for me. The guitar solos are nifty but forgettable. For a better example, the beginning of “Spine-Shatter High Velocity Impact” contains a passage where the main guitar does short blues-style licks between slam riffs. Then the music slows down to a slammier slam than anything that had slammed earlier in the song, until Wormhole work themselves back up into a frenzy. Except the frenzy in this case is just faster chugging. It’s well done and makes sense from a musical perspective, I just don’t care about any of it because it doesn’t stick with me outside of the moment. Or even in the moment.
You will definitely like Almost Human more than I did if you’re at all into slam or technical death metal. Sometimes bands just don’t click, and it’s not because anything’s wrong with the music. With all of this band’s strengths I fully expect them to explode and have a great career, playing in front of appreciative crowds. Just don’t mind the guy who’s left the crowd to hang out near the bar with impatient, glazed over eyes. I recommend this to anyone who has ever used the term “nifty” to describe a slam album.
- System Erase
- Spine Shatter High-Velocity Impact
- Data Fortress Orbital Stationary
- Delta Labs
- Almost Human
- Bleeding Teeth Fungus
- The Grand Oscillation
Total Playing Time: 26:19