PICK OF THE WEEK: Balan digs out Palace of Worms’ final rest spot with jagged madness on ‘Cabal’

Sensing when to bring something to an end isn’t always an easy decision. It’s safe to cling to past glory and lie to yourself that what you’re doing is still relevant and has juice locked inside. In other cases, perhaps the drive remains but the focus shifts or you find yourself at the bottom of the well with what you used for inspiration drying up in small puddles. Moving on isn’t easy, but it needs to be done.

Nicholas “Balan” Katich has been the sole driving force behind black metal project Palace of Worms ever since the start, and now with “Cabal,” the fourth long player from this force, the time has come for the end. Balan has declared this the final full-length album for Palace of Worms, and if you compare this record to, say, the 2009 debut “The Forgotten,” the growth and expansion is obvious over the entire lifespan. “Cabal” stretches far past the black metal base and incorporates elements of deathrock, electronic music, goth, and death metal, and it makes for an album with so much interesting stuff pouring from the cracks, that it’s a little heartbreaking to see this project end. Another unique aspect of “Cabal” is Balan branched out and invited in myriad noteworthy players to flesh out these songs including Trevor Deschryver (Lycus, Silence in the Snow, Deafheaven), Sammy Fielding (Noctooa), Roberto Martinelli (Botanist), Dylan Neal (Thief), Shelby Lermo (Vastum, Ulthar), Hunter Burgan (AFI), Andy Way (Thoabath, Sutekh Hexen), Elizabeth Gladding (Lotus Thief, Forlesen), and Meghan Wood (Crown of Asteria). These additions help lift this record into something altogether different, a perfect epitaph for a project that’s been making challenging, enthralling music for nearly 15 years.

“Telepathic Crucifixion” opens feeling disorienting with blocks and a theremin floating in your field of vision, giving off a dusty western vibe before the guitars open, and Balan’s howls crush. The playing gets moodier and mystifies before the violence erupts again, chilling melodies strike, and proggy bass loops as the final daggers land. “Bizarre Blood and Exhumations” clobbers as the growls menace, and thrashy playing grows spacious suddenly before the next big rush. Soloing blazes as the keys drip, the leads enthrall, harsh howls twist, and the madness spirals and heads off into the cosmos. “Through the Dark Arches” releases dark powers as the playing both pounds and trickles, and as synth cloud hovers as the pressure mounts. Clean bellowing mesmerizes as the guitars shift through, adding crunch that teams with the icy keys to leave a film over everything. “When the Stones Come Tumbling Down” starts melodic and gazey, clean singing bubbling, the guitars slicing into the dream unfolding before you. Sax enters and makes the scene steamier, the guitars pick up and add to the emotion, and growls wrench. The playing spirals as the vocals curdle, synth streaks illuminating the sky.

The title track brings keys and calculated beats, guitars stinging as the clean singing haunts. Murky strangeness becomes a greater factor as the shrieks push through, bizarre ambiance invades your mind, and industrial chugging leaves soot behind. “Cessation of the Heart” opens with clean singing and gothy heat, growls eventually crushing and adding sonic weight. Organs spill in and make the room seem unsteady, growls return, and metallic leads get the intensity to a level you can’t avoid. “Rebirth of Nihil” dawns with a female voice (I’m pretty sure it’s Gladding), guitars tangling, and growls blistering as the organs make things feel liturgical in the darkest sense. The playing wells and begins to take on water, the body begins a slow fade into space, and the fires reach the heavens and scorch the stars. Closer “Winterbird” is dark and ominous, taking on a heavy Type O vibe, the singing blackening and scarring. “She calls my name,” Balan howls, “She’s me and I am her,” as the guitars add to the intensity, growls turning up and ripping. The playing stirs as trudging stomps guts, a strange aura rises, and everything ends in the mouth of psychosis.

For the final installment in Palace of Worms’ mission, Balan picked the most full-bodied and portentous in “Cabal” to act as the last testament. There’s so much variety here but never to the detriment of the overall record. Instead, it helps enhance and make deadlier the black and death metal parts, giving them a different and more effective edge. The is a great final record, one that will have us mourning Place of Worms’ presence but keeping us morbidly grateful we could experience this power at all.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/tattooedinworms

To buy the album, go here: https://acephalewinter.bandcamp.com/album/cabal

For more on the label, go here: https://acephalewinter.bandcamp.com/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.