WORMHOLE Tech-Slam the System on first single from ‘Almost Human’
WORMHOLE play by their own rules. When they’re not schooling fools at Nintendo or throwing on the odd Saturday morning cartoon, the band are out scrambling brains with a homemade combo slam of brutal, technical death metal. Or, as they call it, tech slam. For the past eight years, they’ve been fine-tuning their signature moves both in and outside of Baltimore. Now, with ‘Almost Human’, they’re ready to erupt from the underground.
“System Erase” is the first song on ‘Almost Human’ and it zips the whole tech-slam experience into one tightly clenched polygon fist. Brothers Sanil and Sanjay Kumar shoot off lazer beams of glitchy guitar dissonance. Drummer Matt Tillett, along with bassist Basil Chiasson, pilot through two or three different time shifts before the breakdown comes and swallows you up with the slow, crushing force of a black hole. At the center of this vortex are the bottomless grunts of Julian Kersey, who joined Wormhole around the same time that the band signed to Season of Mist last year. Every one of Wormhole’s superpowers come together on “System Erase”, surging into one great big ball of pissed-off energy, like Samus charging up her arm cannon. There’s no ceiling they can’t slam through.
Here’s what Wormhole have to say about the single: “”System Erase” explores man’s need for idol worship”, says Wormhole. “In this story, man’s admiration for power and beauty has led him to spend his existence worshiping an entity he saw, only for an instant, eons ago. What of the entity? Did it even notice him? Does it care for man as man cares for it?
1. System Erase (3:31)
2. Elysiism (3:06)
3. Spine Shatter High-Velocity Impact (3:47)
4. Data Fortress Orbital Stationary (3:08)
5. Delta Labs (3:12)
6. Almost Human (3:15)
7. Bleeding Teeth Fungus (2:44)
8. The Grand Oscillation (3:14)
Total run-time: 00:25:57
Style: Tech Slam
FFO: Dying Fetus, Defeated Sanity, Ulcerate, Wormed
When you invent your own genre, you can make the rules, and in space, no one can correct your math. If Wormhole’s excellent The Weakest Among Us was 50% tech death and 50% slamming brutal death metal, their Season of Mist debut is a veritable leveling up of the Baltimore-based act’s trademark “tech slam.” It’s the kind of record that can scramble your brain and give your neck a nice chiropractic workout; Almost Human feels like the future of extreme metal, dropped down from either outer space or delivered by Nintendo cartridge (more on that later).
So, what the hell exactly is “tech slam?” Well, the gleefully amorphous and unholy term comes from an ethos that guitarists Sanil “Noni” Kumar and Sanjay Kumar discovered and perfected over (probably) thousands of hours of Metroid and Doom games, as well as, you know, actual musical mastery. Almost Human, out September 22, 2023, is more powerful, more agile, and more confounding for pie-chart-enthusiasts than anything else that came before it. The sequel is always bigger, darker, and in this case, covered in much more pixelated space horror viscera. My Wormholio calculator puts their sound at 91% tech and 89% slam, with an increase in awesome stats somewhere in the 420% range. There’s also a clear emphasis on amplifying their dissonant death influence, the kind of eerie melodies that feel like being stomped on by Samus.
There’s a clear balance to everything on Almost Human: the songs are more adventurous while also being instantly memorable. No two songs sound alike, and that diversity in songcraft (level design?) sees Wormhole pushing and pulling along their tech and slam dials to figure out what’s best for the song; spoiler, it’s always riffs. What also becomes evident after repeated listens is how carefully the Kumar brothers understand a sense of place, humor, and a consistent vibe. This is still the same band that’s known for throwing on Saturday morning cartoons, and Almost Human continues to hammer home that Wormhole the musical entity is deadly serious, but the guys that make tech slam are not stoic creatures. There’s a warmth and sense of joy when chatting with them that only gets brighter when you ask their favorite Metroid game (that’s a question for a live show). So, what is this vibe they are chasing? Sanjay shares:
“The tech slam imagery is based on Metroid lore, Doom lore, and we haven’t written a song about it yet, but Alien as well. Those three things are brutal sci-fi universes, so we’re trying to embody that sound. The slam riffs, you can connect the brutal killing of stuff with the brutal chunky riffs; that’s been a match that’s existed since the nineties. So that’s the slam part, and then the tech part was harder to fit that vibe, so we kind of do it differently. I lean into very dissonance-vibe stuff, like Artificial Brain and Dysrhythmia. I think disso-death and heavy, they aren’t usually paired together, even though they should be.”
“And then as far as chasing the vibe,” Noni adds, “I kind of go about it two ways. With the Metroid soundtrack or universe, that vibe, there’s some dark and gloomy atmosphere, but there’s a lot of pretty imagery as well. We wanted to find a way to match that very pretty, kind of out-there sound cohesively in songs with a very aggressive and guttural approach.”
Like another famous sci-fi horror masterpiece of a different media, Wormhole’s shifting, amorphous style is perfectly suited to blend in and amaze just about any fan of heavy music. That’s The Thing: they can pull off whatever they want, but it’s always boiled down to that tech slam vibe. Do you like tech, melody, breakdowns, atmosphere, or dissonance? Tech slam can fill whatever void you seek.
If previous albums were early generation, lower-resolution visions of tech slam, Almost Human is the 4K reboot, where you can see every pixel of terror and awe. Wormhole are absolutely ready for their closeup. Prepare your worms and your holes, tech slam is here to stay.
Line-up Julian Kersey: vocals
Sanil Kumar: guitar
Sanjay Kumar: guitar
Bass: Basil Chiasson
Drums: Matt Tillett
Recording studio: Guitars and vocals were recorded at Wormhole HQ. Drums were recorded at AJ Viana Productions.
Producer & engineering: ‘Almost Human’ was produced and engineered by Wormhole and AJ Viana. Bass parts were produced and engineered by Alex Weber.
Mixing: AJ Viana at AJ Viana Productions
Mastering: Alan DouchesArtwork: Adam Burke at Nightjar Illustration
Photos: Eric DeCarlo
Biography: Nick Senior