Revelations gets all apocalyptic with Wormwood in the bible, it’s a catastrophic star heralding plagues. It may also remind you of similar calamitous times spent in the aftermath of absinthe binges and the next morning feeling like you have indeed felt the touch of death. Maybe Marduk’s sounds of war and devastation are your first thought but fear not although from the same Swedish hunting lands as said embittered troops you need not go into this one with quite such grim and pessimistic thoughts as this form of Wormwood is actually quite jolly! Following up from an EP in 2015 this is a debut album from a band who include members of Withershin as well as a live guitarist from Månegarm among their ranks. They call themselves a melodic black metal band but the overriding sense here is also of folk metal and a pagan sword-bearing bravado dipping back through time as they unleash their wounds with tales from the Ghostlands of history.
Still they aren’t without an essence of doom and gloom as 1st track proper ‘The Universe Is Dying’ attests. They bristle in with a jubilant gung-ho spirit which you can almost feel them waving swords along to in the face of adversity and bounce us around with jaunty melody and gruff trollish vocals. It’s the sort of thing that’s going to have Amon Amarth fans romping along to and it’s quick and easily accessible stuff that’s not particularly challenging in its well-spirited delivery. See all those horrible thoughts of what could be lurking in the narrative are a bit of a non sequitur, nothing to really fear here apart from being in a pit and running out of mead if this lot come and visit your town. There’s hints within the melody of all your favourites like Moonsorrow and Ensiferum going on here and there’s no shortage of material to absorb on the 12 track album and near hour long playing time. At times you feel like you have entered the hall of the mountain king and all manner of mythical forest folk are cavorting on songs like ‘Under hennes vingslag’ which is a burst of manic party music guaranteed to have Finntroll fans in their element.
After continuing down this route it’s at the album’s midway point we get some deep-rooted traditionalism via short instrumental ‘Silverdimmans återsken’ and ‘Tidh ok ödhe’ with folk motifs that have a serious sense of deja-vu about them. I guess the band are flirting with familiar themes and interpreting them in their own way (yep it sounds a fair bit like When Johnny Came Marching Home’). Some gorgeous female vocals are welcome here as an alternative to the boorish delivery of main vocalist Nine and the violin is left to add to the wild dervish and barnyard jig of the songs.
All in all this is pretty enjoyable debut album. I found it a little too long for comfort but that’s down to personal tastes and can’t blame a band for wanting to get a good dose of material out there after working on it for so long. It didn’t exactly offer any huge surprises either not that this will detract fans from the group’s cause and no doubt there’s plenty of warriors waiting in the wings to bear arms with the band. If they were playing at a festival I would certainly go and give them a watch, wave a flagon and no doubt have a bit of a jig myself.
(7/10 Pete Woods)