After a very good year for bad music, 2017 initially appeared to have started not as strong, at least for me. I was still waiting for some new names in the extreme metal scene that could leave a non generic impression on me, and maybe the Swedish band Wormwood could be among the first ones on this list (which will very likely become very long over the next few months).
Let's start by saying that Wormwood formed in Stockholm in 2014, with Nox and Nine (guitars and vocals, also heard in Withershin), Rydsheim (a guitarist who also worked with Månegarm), concluding with Borka and Johtun on basso and drums. With their 2015 EP "The Void: Stories From The Whispering Well" they attracted the attention of Dutch label Non Serviam Records, through which the band released "Ghostlands: Wounds From A Bleeding Earth" at the beginning of March 2017.
The first impression comes of course from the cover artwork (created by the photographer and musician Mario Bolzin), where a ghastly character roams around a dark forest, while the tree trunk in front of us features some sort of runes written in blood. It is quite visible that the main inspiration comes — as explicited in the booklet as well — «from the vast wilderness of the North, folk tales and the mysteries of space». The album's core theme, in a very agalloch-ish fashion, is a «celebration to the death of Man and the rebirth of it».
So we got to the album itself, opening with the instrumental "Gjallarhornet", the horn that announces the beginning of the end according to Norse myth. Then it is time for destruction with "The Universe Is Dying", a fast-paced melodic black metal song. The first part of the album treads on similar roads, between folk metal and melodies, curiously choosing either English or Swedish for the lyrics on different tracks. This devastation is then followed by the acoustic "Godless Serenade", as snow covers the green hills and the guest vocalist Alexandra Moqvist takes us on an astral journey. In general, the Swedish quintet seems to know very well how to balance the rawer elements with the more whistle-friendly ones, apart from having solid skills when it comes to composing effective guitar leads.
In "Tidh Ok Ödhe" we can also notice some black'n'roll influences in terms of rhythm, an indicator of Wormwood's will to explore other areas as well. I reckon "What We Lost In The Mist" might be the most effective song, in which what is left of mankind looks back and realizes the futility of all stories and events of the past. In the long run, we might think this record feels a bit too long, an awareness that came during the rock-ish rhythm and insisting guitar solo in the closing "To Worship".
After about one hour, "Ghostlands: Wounds From A Bleeding Earth" proved to be a record that can garner a solid following in this scene, the debut of a band that quite likely will have to fix something in terms of general consistency, but also has a clear idea of its potential.