Worm Shepherd
Ritual Hymns

Symphonic or blackened deathcore blew the fuck up in 2021. Though it was certainly a thing before 2020, After the success of Lorna Shore‘s Immortal in 2020, the genre simply exploded with already established and new bands like Mental Cruelty, Shadow of Intent, Sin Deliverance, Dead World Reclamation,  Darker By Design, Carnifex, Assemble the Chariots, Krosis, A Night In The Abyss, Third World Party, The Breathing Process, The Downfall of Mankind, Ov Sulfur, just to name a few as well as Lorna Shore themselves dropping a killer EP.

And one band that unabashedly hopped on Lorna Shore‘s coattails with devastating success was Massechusetts’ Worm Shepherd, who released In the Wake of Sol early in 2021, and though I missed it at the time, I discovered it later in the year and it made my year-end list and clearly elbowed their way onto the conversation as one of the genre’s better acts.

The Lorna Shore influence is undeniable, from the over-the-top demonic vocals, black metal imagery ( the use of ‘Ov’ being the real giveaway…) and themes, dramatic orchestration, and presence of massive, long-lasting, super downtempo breakdowns. But boy do they do it well. I was a little concerned about the quick turnaround between albums, as this one is out already, and singles were out less than a year after In The Wake of Sol, but it looks like Ritual Hymns is a worthy follow up, with nothing changing in the formula as the symphonic, dramatic deathcore is identical as the prior album.

That said, the album does take a few songs to hit its stride, even with the dramatic, brooding title track opening the album. “Ov Sword and Nail” ups the tempo a bit with a more blistering delivery, and “The Raven’s Keep” sees some moody clean vocals to start the track, though they don’t quite work for me, and the track itself is a bit mediocre. However, “Chalice ov Rebirth” is where things really pick up and the album takes off into more impressive territory up there with their peers. It delivers ample amounts of bombast, urgency, and massive, heaving breakdowns to close the track.

The 7 and a half minute “Blood Kingdom” follows that up with some surprisingly triumphant orchestration over the more blackened pacing and riffage, and shows these guys are, when they fire on all cylinders, on par with Lorna Shore. The same can be said for “Wilted Moon”, a standout on the album with a more urgent blackened pace and less reliance on breakdowns. “A Bird in the Husk” and “The River of Knives” (which features Scott Lewis of Carnifex) continue the strong mid-album peak but do it with a few of those crumbling seemingly never-ending breakdowns that permeate the genre now.

Almost 9-minute album closer “Winter Sun” rounds out the album with another standout track that encompasses everything about the genre perfectly with Lorna Shore worshiping, haughty blackened melodies, taught symphonic bombast, and a final few minutes to scare the neighbors with, and yes it’s one of those slow-burning, song ending breakdowns that seems to go on forever. But it ends a late album run of tracks that cements Worm Shepherd as one of the best out there in the genre. Let’s see how their peers ( Lorna Shore, Mental Cruelty, Shadow of Intent) atop the heap, respond.

2022 is off to a great start both for symphonic deathcore, with Shadow of Intent‘s Elegy also being released on the same day as Ritual Hymns, ( and though not symphonic, Fit For an Autopsy‘s Oh What The Future Holds released on the same day also) and Unique Leader Records, who look to be off to a roaring (or piq squealing?) start to 2022 already.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
January 17th, 2022

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