Tech death is a weird branch of the metal tree. Focused primarily on performative fireworks as opposed to standard songwriting structures, the music can at times come across as highly robotic. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for me as a listener there’s only so many insane guitar passages in an album that I can hear before I crave, you know… songs. With structure. Perhaps this is just an “old man yells at cloud” moment, but the opinion stands regardless. Thankfully, there are plenty of bands in the tech death world that take their songwriting chops seriously, and chief among them is Wormed. Spain’s finest death metal product, this insanely talented group of musicians has been pumping out amazing records for nearly two decades now, and they show no signs of slowing down. But if they decided to, it would be nearly impossible to fault them for it. The death of their drummer Guillermo Calero came as a shock and enormous blow to the metal community at large, and finding a replacement for his incredible talent seemed a task nearly impossible given the band’s technical prowess. The follow-up to their acclaimed full-length Krighsu, Metaportal is the band’s first musical installment of their heady sci-fi saga to include Gabriel Valcázar on drums. He has some big shoes to fill, and good grief does he ever fill them. On performative and songwriting levels, Metaportal continues Wormed’s string of excellent releases, and is one of the more effectively concentrated doses of insane death metal the year has yet produced.
Addressing the previously stated elephant in the room, those who were worried about the quality of Wormed’s legendary rhythm section can rest at ease. Valcázar is beyond proficient throughout Metaportal, churning out a controlled, precise, and manically aggressive performance that picks up right where Calero left off. Opening track “Remote Void” sets the tone perfectly, featuring what is categorically some of the most insane musicianship to be featured on a death metal record since, well, Krighsu. Maintaining their technical reputation among ascendent tech and brutal death giants such as Archspire, Artificial Brain, and Defeated Sanity, there’s little to comment on in regards to the band’s established reputation as one of death metal’s most instrumentally proficient acts. Reputation maintained, long live the kings. But as stated previously, it’s the songwriting that truly sets Wormed apart from many of their contemporaries. Both in concept and melodic execution, Wormed write fully-developed songs that have distinct and discernable structures, which becomes abundantly clear as Metaportal surges along. Second track “Cryptoubiquity” is perhaps the fiercest of this recording’s tracks, yet still maintains a healthy balance of instrumental mayhem and structural consistency that never feels anything less than utterly controlled chaos. “Bionic Relic” barrels along with a heavy dose of chugs, while the EP’s final track is without question the most spacy, subdued and trippy of the four, showcasing the band’s ability to craft incredible death metal at any pace they so choose. It’s also the absolute highlight of a fast and furious record chock full of them.
This pacing conversation noted above is worth diving into a bit more in depth here, as this is an EP rather than a traditional full-length. Much like Vale of Pnath’s fantastic release earlier this year, I think this format has always suited Wormed well, and does so again in Metaportal. While these songs are filled to the brim with amazing songwriting and musicianship that demands repeat listens to fully unpack, there is a brevity to the proceedings that serves music this complex and aggressive quite well. For me at least, full-length releases of this caliber often involve so much time and effort to investigate that listening all the way through in one sitting is a bit more laborious than one would hope when enjoying a death metal record. This is most certainly not the case here, as Metaportal has a short enough runtime to get through easily in one sitting, and allows those inevitable repeat listens to uncover the many riches contained here in a shorter amount of time. This, in my estimation, only increases the album’s immediacy and impact, making for a memorable and accessible listening experience (well, at least as “accessible” as music like this can be).
In all, Metaportal is another dynamic offering from an equally dynamic band, showcasing their songwriting abilities in peak form, with a new cast of players intent on continuing the band’s legacy of pure, unadulterated sci-fi destruction. Fans of any of the band’s previous releases will find plenty to love here, and anyone unfamiliar with the band should be able to utilize Metaportal as a bite-sized launch pad into the band’s decades-spanning discography. Short, sweet, and not lacking meat, this EP can be counted among the band’s finest releases, and I cannot wait for more.
Metaportal drops July 19th, and is available for pre-order on the band’s Bandcamp page.