TRAPPED UNDER AN AVALANCHE OF WORMS
I know I’m gonna get shit for the review I’m about to give Levi/Werstler‘s Avalanche of Worms. Eyal Levi writes for this site! Sure, I could remind you that I’ve been pretty openly a non fan of Daath’s first album, The Hinderers, or tell you that we never even met Eyal until after we’d already heard (and were blown away by) Daath’s second album, The Concealers. But what’s the use? You either believe I’m unbiased or you don’t. So fuck me and don’t listen to it, if that’s how you feel. Your loss.
So, with that out of the way…
I have to admit that it’s only recently that I really sat down and examined Jorden Haley‘s cover art for AOW as anything more than a collection of abstract shapes. It’s really psychedelic, dude: either black clouds are raining hot pink goo (It is snot? Blood? It’s definitely too thick to be water.) on a trio of semi-skinned faces (the noses and giant, Pac-Man pupiled eye balls are perfectly intact), or the faces (One each for guitarists Emil Werstler and Eyal Levi and one for drummer Sean Reinert, perhaps?) are snotting/bleeding/whatever onto the black clouds. I almost wish there was no text on the cover, so you wouldn’t know which way is up, ’cause the piece looks just as cool no matter which direction it’s facing.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a perfect marriage of cover art and music. Avalanche of Worms is a trippy, freaky, cinematic, vivid narrative that unfolds in multiple dimensions at once.
These songs play out like heavy metal symphonies (not symphonic heavy metal); the tracks are relatively short (the longest one is under six minutes, and the entire album is only about forty-two minutes long), but they have movements and acts. Take album opener “Noxious Vermin, My Friend” for instane. It opens with a funky hiccup of a riff, which will repeat again later throughout the song – but it’s really just a roller coaster pulling you slowly up to its peak for it slams you back down. And then at the 2:17 mark, when there’s less than a minute-twenty left in the song, some dreamy guitars float in, and the song suddenly takes on a whole different tone. But unless you’re sitting there, overanalyzing the song (which my job often requires me to do), you’ll probably never even remember quite how you got from point A to point B; you’ll just know you enjoyed the ride.
Consequently, Avalanche of Worms really is best enjoyed in a single sitting, as one large piece of work – in fact, it’s quite clear that this is part of the record’s design. There are no spaces in between tracks, which often bleed into another seamlessly. But that’s always a sign of prog done right. There’s a narrative to Avalanche of Worms; by the time you reach the penultimate number (and my personal favorite), “Casting the Molten Sea,” you’ll feel acutely aware that you’re at the story’s climax; that the closer which follows, “Chrysalis Wound,” is a “Sleep Walk”-style lullabye is not at all surprising. But it is a righteous note on which to end the tale.
Don’t pre-judge Levi/Werstler based on your feelings about Daath, positive or otherwise; Emil and Eyal have a very distinct playing style (as all talented musicians do), but this really has nothing to do with their mother band, who I’d argue have thus far tended to be more precisely vicious and less impressionistic. If The Concealers was a Chuck Close, than Avalanche of Worms is a Picasso. The songwriting styles here are obviously a key reason for this, but, really, it’s also a different group of musicians with different skill sets. That Cynic’s Sean Reinert never plays exactly what you’d expect him to on the drums is no great shock, but Eric Guenther, of the excellent From Exile, deserves a lot of credit for his atmospheric synths, too. Goddamn, I would love to see this band live.
The phrase “avalanche of worms” conjures such disgusting imagery. Who knew being trapped under one could be so sweet?
(4 1/2 outta 5 horns)
Levi/Werstler’s Avalanche of Worms comes out 4/20 on Magna Carta. Guitar World is now streaming the song “Loathsome Little Fiend” here.