Album: The Weakest Among Us
A good record can do a lot of things. It can make you stop and think, reflect on what you’re hearing and what it means. It can paint entire soundscapes as stunning as a Rembrandt—sculpted as vividly as though it was from stone. Other times, they can transport you far away, as if you were in a whole new world—a Wormhole if you will. The question becomes, does Wormhole’s 2020 full-length record, The Weakest Among Us do that? The technical slamming deathcore act combine a whole lot of elements to give us a rampaging, raunchy taste of extraterrestrial aggression—adding heaviness, technicality, groove and grisly, gory primal energy into a massive metallic mixing pot—and it does succeed in taking the listener to a whole new world. However, this world—like any other—is not all good, nor is it all bad. Instead, we see that there are some things Wormhole do great, and other areas where they falter—with fewer still where they totally fumble—providing a well-rounded, promising-but-not-perfect hybrid of slamming death metal and tremendous technicality.
Instrumentally, The Weakest Among Us has all the makings of a great extreme metal record. Wormhole blend bone-busting slams with savage speed and furiously fretted leads to create a short-but-sweet sampling of things that go chug all the way through things that make noises too extraterrestrial to replicate with an onomatopoeia. From “RA9_Myth” through “Ultrafrigid,” Wormhole oscillate between speed and trudging brutality with marked expertise. With that being said, one can traverse the light-years between the two tracks and feel as though they’ve experienced one song. Where Wormhole are talented at blending some elements of their instrumentation, many elements melt together in a manner that makes the record feel homogeneous and predictable. This isn’t entirely true—“Ingswarm” stands out, as does the album’s introductory track, but the middle of the record feels almost as if it were tossed in a blender. A great deal of this is likely due to the production of the record which, unfortunately, is a large detractor from The Weakest Among Us’ overall enjoyability. While it’s nice to hear the bass play such a strong role in adding heft and density to songs like “Quad MB,” it overshadows the guitar at many points throughout the record, often times fighting with the vocals for any given song’s focal point. This is a trend throughout Wormhole’s entire album, and unfortunately, gives every song the same overall feel—even during some of the record’s most climactic sections.
Wormhole’s vocalist is one well-known to the slamming death metal and slamming deathcore community (or communities). Utilizing an impressive range and variety of styles, skill is definitely not in question when it comes to the vocal aspect of The Weakest Among Us. Throughout the record, the listener is provided a broad variety of styles, prominently displaying everything from squeals to grisly gutturals and screeching screams. I’ll say it again: skill is no issue. The vocal edurance endurance is second-to-none and his range is impressive to say the least. However, Wormhole encounter issues similar to those that plagued their instrumentation where the vocal element is concerned. At many points throughout The Weakest Among Us, the vocals are simply overpowering, leaving little more than snare and bass guitar to be intelligible. What’s more, where the vocals are quiet, they become stampeded by the other elements abound in Wormhole’s dynamic—there is no real middle ground, or, to be more blunt, no moment where things feel just right.
On paper, Wormhole do everything right. The individual parts that make up The Weakest Among Us are all excellent—crushing guitar, snappy bass, speedy drumming and monstrous vocals—but when put together, everything layers poorly without any semblance of melding. The result? The Weakest Among Us, a record rife with promise but bankrupt of true success. Where some songs come close to breaking par (“Ultrafrigid” comes to mind), many others are difficult to make it through once, let alone make it through multiple times. With just a little more fluidity and a helping of more balanced (not even “better,” just more balanced) production, Wormhole are back on track to conquer the technical slamming death metal microcosm—but until then, this Wormhole seems to hit a somewhat tasteless dead end.
For Fans Of: Vulvodynia, Ingested, Visceral Disgorge, Inferi, Abominable Putridity
By: Connor Welsh