Review - Wormrot

Jon B gets into the grindcore groove and listens to Hiss, the latest album from Wormrot...

Wormrot is a band I’ve held near and dear for a while now. Debuting in 2007 with a series of demos, then the eminently enjoyable full-length Abuse in 2009, it was clear grindcore had some new players keen to sit amidst Pig Destroyer, Nasum and the rest of the genre greats.

Grindcore is an oddball in the space of extreme music, surrounded by an often-contentious debate as to whether it’s of more metallic or punk influence. Truth is, it depends on the band. The overt metal influence in the likes of Discordance Axis or Brutal Truth speaks for itself, yet the genre’s roots are assuredly punk with bands like Heresy and early Napalm Death. Wormrot deftly tows the line between the two, generally being accepted in metal circles while channelling the energy of the counterpart. Their 2011 full-length, Dirge, was a superlative example of this, and mid-teen me considered it to be a masterfully crafted exemplar that was hard to fault.

If Dirge was Wormrot displaying their adept understanding of their own musical space and craftsmanship, then 2016’s Voices was their attempt to move it beyond those fundamentals. One of my most anticipated records for that decade, Voices caught me off-guard with its focus on diverse songwriting and melodic guitars, not unlike Gridlink's Longhena; a similarly ambitious, ariose endeavour, as well as a genre standout. If “post-grindcore” was an official term, these records would be landmarks.

Now, after adulthood and a few more years have hit me, we have Hiss in the ripe year of 2022, which was announced prior to release as being the final outing for vocalist, artist and founding member Arif. It’s watershed, as Arif's creative input, distinctive vocals and fervid appreciation for other artists in his genre were invaluable to the band’s identity; it’s hard to conceive them in operation without him. So, does the long-awaited Hiss do justice to the departing vocalist, as well as continue Wormrot’s track record of meritorious releases?

Well, it comes with exuberance to say that not only is Hiss a grindcore jim-dandy which meets the Wormrot standard, but it’s punched through it like a brick through drywall. Voices was already a forward-thinking record, but Hiss makes it look démodé in comparison. It’s an eclectic, ardent, gripping record that I theorise will be a future staple for the genre; a claim I don’t make lightly without respect for the space. When someone whose only knowledge of grindcore is AxCx and a Jim Carrey impersonation makes the claim that it’s a “terrible genre”, this will be the record to introduce them to. Yes, above Nails’ discography and the aforementioned Longhena.

Hiss is Wormrot’s longest release to date at a grand total of thirty-two minutes, complete with twenty-one furious, expressive and – most importantly – varied tracks. From the ominous choral singing on Broken Maze, to the mosh-friendly riffs of When Talking Fails, to the harsh noise passages on Hatred Transcending, to the hair-raising violin work that permeates the B-side of the record – courtesy of Myra Choo – as well as numerous other eclectic moments that are too frequent for me to list; it’s a remarkable half-hour. Yet, true remarkability is found in Wormrot’s ability to make all this sound seamless, flowing and even conceptual.

This isn’t to mention Wormrot’s mastery of the genre traditions. Rasyid’s guitarwork has only improved over the years, churning out a seemingly endless plethora of rousing riffage. Special mention goes to the groovy midpoint of Noxious Cloud which, confessedly, made me want to destroy my desk. Vijesh has gone from a once-uneasy replacement for founding drummer Fitri to a powerhouse that fills his shoes and then some, and Arif's last vocal outing is, expectedly, him giving it a hundred-and-ten.

All this aggression and Hiss still concludes with soaring, emotive catharsis. Choo’s violin work transcends from anxious screeches into melodious rapture alongside Rasyid’s guitarwork, which follows in much the same sensibility. It’s the bittersweet end of an era for the band and a moment that feels to have built up across the record, articulated with raw, musical spirit.

Evidently, I have few criticisms for Hiss. I spent due time around it to make sure my reaction wasn’t knee-jerk, hype-clouded acclaim. I assure, it isn’t an opinion I hold without basis, and I’ll sing my praises with as much vehemence as the band put into their performances. What an astounding release; a must-listen for music enthusiasts both in-and-out of the grindcore loop.

Review Copyright Jon B – ©Jon B 2022 All rights reserved.

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