With a hefty hand on the thematic tiller, Worms of the Earth launches into the ritualistic and arcane work, Azal’ucel. Falling between dark ambient and industrial, and laced throughout with chants “delivering rites in foreign tongues,” the disc delivers a ton of atmosphere and varies enough throughout to keep it from stagnating as just another dark ambient work. I’ll admit that I rolled my eyes a bit upon first seeing track titles such as “Wandering Cadaverous Fields Toward the Citadel at Topheth” and “A Pestilent Fog Descends Upon the Empyreal Throne,” but looking past that and diving into the sounds and feelings here and letting myself be taken along with the sonic narrative, I quickly understood that there’s substance behind the bombast and a lot to dig into. The theme descends right from the start, with “Disgraced at the Foot of the Throne of God” throwing windy drones and rattling chains at you while the first chant soars with sacred energy behind it. It’s a nice balance of density and lightness, and it gains more power and presence when heavy drum beats thunder into the mix. That’s largely the equation at work here–big, shadowy drones and pads, lots of small background sounds, aggressive drums, and the chanting, which ranges from the high cries of the female voices to a threatening, throaty sound from the males. The gentlemen are at their best on the grinding, densely packed “Fork-Tongued Priests at Black Gehanna Again Speak My Name,” where their Gregorian-sounding intonations harmonize with deep-bass synth and hover over layers of industrial clatter that wander around your headspace. This track also exemplifies the range at play here, as mid-track, quite unexpectedly, a light melodic line slots into place. Well, before it gets eaten alive by more of the grind, that is. Even more mold-breaking is “Of Statues And The Sacred Gardens,” a straightforward melodic piece that slowly balances off with a rising wash of sound. The EM beat is refreshing after all the weightier sounds. The disc comes around with the final track, “Tearing Down the Christian Pantheon,” opening with funereal chords and breaking into uptempo–but no less thunderous–percussion. The female chants re-enter, uplifting and cleansing.
Azal’ucel surprised me, quite frankly. I was ready for it to be all grind and ponderosity, and instead I encountered an engaging and effective suite of work that carries its intention perfectly. It’s varied enough that it doesn’t wear thin, knows when to lay off the weight, and neatly walks the line of dark and not-quite-dark. A great experience in sonic storytelling, and a ritual I will gladly be a part of again.
Available from Industry Eight.