Hod – Book of the Worm (Arctic Music)

Sunday, 31st August 2014
Rating: 8/10

The latest offering from Texas’ Hod is sure to sate the thirst for grinding death metal that afflicts the best of us from time to time. These tracks hit with a relentless jackhammer heaviness that’s not for the faint of heart. In the end, while the approach isn’t entirely novel and the recipe for brutality occasionally borders on stale, Book of the Worm delivers a relentless pummeling that will keep the pits roiling and the speakers at near-blowout levels.

The record kicks off with a bruising start, launching into the old-school heaviness and groove of “When the Ghouls Feed,” which harkens to Obituary’s heyday, before driving through four more tracks of short, simple, but savage pieces that vacillate from the same retro-death sound to a grindcore-ish Napalm Death vibe that sounds as though the tracks were digested by a sea serpent, boiled in stomach acids for several days, and regurgitated back for our listening pleasure. The first half of the album simply will not let the listener up for air.

Starting with “Under Tyranny’s Hammer,” though, the record makes a dramatic shift, sacrificing the short, punchy artillery fire with longer, more-diversified strafing runs. However, these longer pieces do not explore new musical territory or offer dynamic changes to complement the brutality. Instead, each of these tracks is a veritable riff-o-rama that links one face-smashing passage to another. While this might sound enticing in metal terms, the overall effect makes the second half more exhausting than invigorating. Granted, there’s no such thing as a bad riff in any portion of these songs, but so many abrupt changes take place in a five-minute period that each song’s identity suffers, and one can’t help but feel Hod would’ve been better served to have divvyed each track into two or three standalones, maintaining the brisk, vicious feel of the first half.

Full of fire and low on mercy, Book of the Worm is a breakneck listening experience, at least to start with. It’s highly recommended for those looking for a swift kick to the teeth, but be prepared for your mind to wander midway.

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