It was obvious from last year’s In The Wake Ov Sòl debut that Worm Shepherd weren’t in the business of fucking about. Wonderfully bleak, bold and relentlessly brutal to its filth-encrusted core, these Massachusetts-based whippersnappers – their drummer being just 17 years old at the time of its release – blurred the lines between blackened death metal and something more avowedly twisted. And less than 12 months later, the quintet’s follow-up arrives, proving to be eviscerating yet elevated in its sonic arsenal and aimed directly at the solar plexus.
Rising strings usher in a sprawling title track awash with haunting symphonics before the frantically elaborate Ov Sword And Nail opens up a nightmarish wormhole of lurching slams and fervent blasts, backed by Devin Duarte’s menagerie of primal howls and bowel-wrenching gutturals. Granted, there’s no denying the adrenaline rush delivered by the sonorous pound of Blood Kingdom and heads-down clatter of Wilted Moon, but it’s that resolute affinity for all things oppressive and atmospheric that could truly summon the dead.
Enamel-peeling vocals aside, the rich instrumentation at work across these nine tracks will not only send shivers down many a spine, it also conjures up all manner of spellbinding soundscapes as jaw-swinging solos encircle gentle keys and melancholy. Hair-raising Dimmu Borgir-esque synths feed off tech-death styled riffs in A Bird In The Dusk while The River Ov Knives is packed with claustrophobic melodies that verge on unearthly in their delivery. Its lyrics are spat with such venom that it’s difficult not to fall completely under the band’s aggressive spell. Deftly wielding the forces of light and dark in skilled measure, Ritual Hymns is a dynamic amalgam of many flavours of extreme music that will undoubtedly align this young band with the heaviest hitters on the scene.
Ritual Hymn is out January 14 via Unique Leader