“This is the end/ Consuming your lies/ Drown in despair/ You chose this life,” Wormrot declares as the opening salvo of their new record, Hiss. Fans would be forgiven for taking the Singapore act at their word: when news dropped earlier this year that vocalist Arif and manager Azean would be departing the band, it seemed like the end for the grindcore veterans.
If this is, in fact, the end, it’s a hell of a way to go - complex and potent, Hiss is a grindcore masterpiece. Long by the genre’s standards and densely packed with details, Wormrot’s fourth full-length contains some of the band’s best ideas to date. Arif has left big shoes to fill, with a virtuosic vocal performance nestled amid thundering drums (as on “Pale Moonlight”) and thrashed-out hardcore (“When Talking Fails, It’s Time for Violence”). There’s even a track (“Unrecognizable”) that, true to the genre, packs a punch in just 10 vicious seconds. One hopes remaining members Rasyid and Vijesh still have some gas in the tank after the ferocity of Hiss.
Voices was a good preview of the band’s ability to use one of extreme music’s most concise genres to thread ideas together, but Hiss is the rare grind record that coheres front to back. Anchored by longer tracks like “Voiceless Choir,” the album traces a clear musical arc that sees Wormrot take excursions into death metal riffage, black metal speed, and muscular, classic hardcore punk. The band seamlessly shifts between modes without jarring the listener, deploying moments of circumspection and even soaring riffage before getting right back into the melee. There’s just enough time to marvel before the noise starts back up.
Closer “Glass Shards” brings all these elements together in one final display. It opens like a black metal anthem, reaches post-hardcore pinnacles by the middle and closes with a soaring string arrangement. After the final violins dissolve into the last punctuating chords, a brief sample of lapping waves offers a brief respite from the madness. Ironically, the watery ambience that bookends this pulverizing half-hour of music is vital to setting the scene for the mayhem within; palliative ASMR balanced with brain-scrambling grooves.
With Hiss, Wormrot have made a piece of art that reaches far beyond grindcore while honoring the subgenre’s unique characteristics. If this was Wormrot’s last word on the subject, they’ve at least created an artifact that points the way forward for the bands who follow.