Wormwood – Arkivet (Album Review)

One of the more underrated members of the Scandinavian Black Metal horde, Sweden’s outstanding collective Wormwood returns in 2021 with their third full-length album. Entitled Arkivet, and coming to the masses on August 27th via Black Lodge Records, the group looks to build on their elegant yet still vicious take on the darkest of genres.

Existing somewhere in the gloomy murk between Symphonic Black Metal and the dark romanticism of bands like Insomnium or Stormbirds-era Evereve, Wormwood craft their songs from introspective roots.

Songs like “Overgrowth” and the superb “End of Message” somehow serenade the listener on forlorn paths even as vocalist Nine’s rasp duels with varied screams and bellows. Mixing a more straight-ahead Gothic Rock break into the song’s midst, Wormwood provide a smooth transition between moods. Rydsheim and Engstrom, the six-stringers leading the band’s riff-charge, wrest the listener joyously between differing moods, as they adroitly go from fast-picking to gorgeous noodling interludes with ease.

The folkish, violin introduction to the upbeat “My Northern Heart” once more takes the listener out of the stricter corridors of Black Metal. Catchy melodious verse, yet still grimly spat by Nine, provides the sort of dark-over-light juxtaposed sound being made by bands like Tribulation. It is always invigorating to hear these Norse heritage anthems coming from bands from these nations.

Similar in vein to Borknagar, their passion and pride is something to behold. The maneuvering between styles continues on “Ensamheten” again mixing elements with ease. Violin contests with Daniel Johannson’s drumming, the soft and hard colliding and creating, not a clash but a unification of sound that is quite spectacular. The intermittent appearance of clean vocals bolsters the overall effect, acting as an aural highlighter. The guitar lead which concludes this song simply soars.

Wormwood ends the album with “The Gentle Touch of Humanity,” a nine minute high-velocity dirge replete with all the aforesaid elements of smart leads, creative breaks, and the ebbs and flows of tension which separate the mediocre bands from the great ones. Wormwood never loses the emotion they pour into a song, ensuring the listener doesn’t either. If these are the sorts of bands who will be taking the torch from the veteran predecessors, underground music is in good hands. Wormwood has wrought a classic in the making, and for that Cryptic Rock gives Arkivet 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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