July 29, 2016 Ringworm – Snake Church (Album Review)
An interesting aspect of many Heavy Metal bands is, once a large body of work has been established, certain albums attain significance in a listener’s mind. This is while other pieces of work may simply fade away until a brand new album is released. That being said, Ohio-based veteran Metalcore band Ringworm continually released new works, bringing fans up to date with the latest offering, Snake Church. Originating back in 1989, Ringworm signed on with Relapse Records in 2013, and while Snake Church marks their second full-length album on the label, it is their eighth overall. Set for release on July 29, 2016, Ringworm bring their brand of Hardcore Punk mixed with Thrash completely full circle with a thirty plus minute album.
Comparatively to previous works, with previous members, a slight change in vibe is in the air on Snake Church with the harshness and anticipation build-up one has become accustomed to hearing on a Ringworm album. That said, the overall flavor has a pleasant toxicity that features Vocalist James “Human Furnace” Bulloch, Guitarists Matt Sorg and Mark Witherspoon, along with Bassist Ed Stephens, as well as Drummer Ryan Steigerwald. The title of the record, Snake Church, seems perhaps a slightly out of place as well when shoved in the mix with some of the past album titles that unleashed a more direct concept such as the 2014’s Hammer Of The Witch. Then again, what is really clear about a Witch with a hammer anyway? Nonetheless, this twelve track offering is definitely in the realm of Hardcore Punk more so over Thrash, although it still possesses many moments of those thrashy guitar solos that are a known and loved signature of Ringworm.
Most songs are averaging Punk length, rounding out at less than three minutes long. In contrast, “Shades Of Blue,” which is just over four and a half minutes long, is best described as a Hardcore ballad where basically all the elements are slowed down and the lyrics depict some sort of tragic emotion. The vocals never lose that growl tone and this is odd yet safe for this band as cleaner vocals would most likely hinder the song. It is one of those tracks that grows on a person over time and, while seemingly simple, it progresses in a dynamic way that is satisfying to the ear.
Then there is “Innocent Blood,” which jumps into the heavy, speedy, catchy riff universe, which is also mixed and layered well. Jumping back to track 1, title-track “Snake Church” is the second longest piece of the album, beginning with the background sounds of rattlesnakes and a sermon which hits the listener over the head in the most obvious way possible. Yet, once that fades out, the rest of the track is one of the more hard, fast, and unique offerings of the album that shakes up a stir quite nicely. This is directly followed by “Brotherhood Of The Midnight Sun,” which happens so fast it almost gets lost if not for the strong punky, thrashy glue holding it together.
Furious in the overall approach of Snake Church, of the most creative guitar solos happens in the short, but vicious song “The Black Light Of A Living Ghost.” Later on, “The Apparition” and “The Believer” are both back to back fun, extremely energetic tunes. They are also the most mosh-pit worthy with their fast Punk inspired drumming that never fails to impress and the never-ending Thrash-tastic guitar. Deep into the album, this is the point where the songs almost blur together with their very similar structures and duration until the conclusion with “Temple of the Wolves,” which seems to go a touch more diverse with the layering and structure.
What separates Ringworm from other bands in the genre is that their personal style and unique touch always shines through, plus their skill level is top quality as well. There does seem to be a bit of overproduction on a few songs, but that depends on one’s tastes, and it is not a bothersome trait because it enhances the sometimes stagnant pace. The only thing left to ponder is how will these new songs translate live? Faith holds strong that this veteran live band will carry the torch nicely to come on full-force, melting audience member’s faces. After a brief contemplation, CrypticRock gives Snake Church 4 out of 5 stars.