Conqueror Worm, the first full-length release from Sepulchre by the Sea, provides some fun twists and turns within the world of atmospheric black metal. At nearly an hour long, Conqueror Worm straddles the fine line of being a predominantly black metal album with diverse influences, as opposed to being a diversely influenced metal record with elements of black metal.
When heard in a vacuum, the opening cut of ‘I Loved Alone’ winks at black metal, letting itself be mostly defined by wide-open and minimalist guitar underscored by a lurking rhythm section. Mellow, spoken vocals give way to some moderate BM shrieking, which then leads directly into the title track. ‘Conqueror Worm’ hits the listener with a wall of fairly traditional and straightforward mid-tempo black metal. In retrospect, the track feels a bit of odd choice as the namesake of the album, as there are other stronger, more defining tracks later on.
The record begins to hit its stride with ‘And So it Crumbles’ where the whispers of the opening cut begin to feel more fully articulated. The opening four minutes certainly follow suit from the previous track before shifting attitude and tone, bending and twisting towards a more shimmering atmosphere. Threatening to reintegrate their buzzsaw attack, the guitars instead begin to establish a brighter sensibility before dropping away entirely, leaving only piano in the distance. The mostly acoustic fourth track, ‘Slices of Death’, serves as a bit of a palate cleanser, and provides a bit of a reprieve while doubly aiding to close out the opening portion of the album.
At this point, ‘Behind the Walls’ continues to integrate and articulate the general themes already established on the record while also introducing distinct punk and hardcore flavourings. The shift from blitzing hardcore/punk to two minutes of mellow guitar work is a little jarring before once again shifting into a pummelling final thirty seconds. Album closer, ‘Plutonian Shores’, does a fairly good job of showcasing the current playbook of Sepulchre by the Sea: lots of space created by brooding, minimalist guitar that shifts into a lurching black metal beast, before trading off to the spaciousness established a few times throughout the record and, once again, everything shifts gears back into a direct black metal attack prior to a very abrupt close.
At points throughout Conqueror Worm, the album does feel a bit unharnessed, as though there was an obligation to go full-on black metal or to totally pull away from the tropes; it’s important to note that the push/pull element works, though a bit of fine-tuning can be expected on subsequent releases to maximize the approach. All in all, the record serves as a strong introduction for Sepulchre by the Sea, and we’re excited to hear more.
Conqueror Worm is out via Anthrazit Records on November 6th and can be ordered here.
Words: Tristan McCallum