February 3rd, 2023 will be a bittersweet day for ardent admirers of adventurous music. On that day Acephale Winter Productions will release a new album named Cabal by NorCal’s Palace of Worms. It will be a sweet day because the album is so gloriously intrepid and unpredictable, but a bitter one because Cabal is reportedly the band’s final album.
Anyone who has followed the musically mercurial course of Palace of Worms doesn’t need to be told that there’s no sure way of knowing in advance what each new release will do. Significant time has elapsed between albums since 2010’s Lifting the Veil, with six years between that one and The Ladder, and then another seven passing by before Cabal. Time brings change of course, but especially when the mind behind the project — Nicholas “Balan” Katich — is already so intrinsically pre-disposed to turn the tables on listeners, most likely because he finds straight and narrow paths to be stultifying.
So, what has he done with Cabal? Well, here’s one series of clues from the press materials for the record:
“Cabal presents kaleidoscopic visions of subterranean carnival netherworlds, pale winter skies dotted with Ravens a flight, moonlit necropolises which play host to clandestine, and diabolical rituals, and the metaphorical immolation of the ego from which the Phoenix of transcendence and ecstatic freedom will arise. Light and dark refracting through the broken prism of the mind’s eye over 8 tracks.”
Or, in less poetic and more mundane terms: “Keeping with past tendencies towards unpredictability Cabal presents a wholly different approach than the mostly Post-Black Metal sound of the previous full-length The Ladder. Where The Ladder flirted with Progressive Rock and Doom sounds Cabal fully embraces these influences and throws elements of Deathrock, Electronica, Folk, and Death Metal into the quagmire.”
It’s also important to note that there is a cabal behind Cabal, because Balan brought together an accomplished supporting cast for the recording, 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), Meghan Wood (Crown of Asteria) and more.
If you give a little thought to those names, you’ll have more clues to what a heady trip Cabal really is.
This brings us to the main point of the present feature — our premiere of a song from Cabal named “When the Stones Come Tumbling Down“. You’ll discover that it hits home on many levels — rocking the reptile brain, twisting and turning the higher faculties like a kaleidoscope, casting otherworldly spells, and pulling the mood through a labyrinth of intrigue, excitement, menace, gloom, and emotional degradation.
It begins in medeas res, with blaring and blazing riffage rising above gut-rumbling rhythms and rabid growls. The guitars gloriously swirl in different ways, and they also gouge and screech. The vocals transform into shadowed gothic singing, and as the pacing slows the music seems to moan and wail in anguish and despair around different heavy-handed grooves.
The grooves vanish, allowing the guitars to swivel and swirl again, which becomes the prelude to a pair of riveting solos (at least one of them a saxophone) that deepen the music’s noir-ish neverland mood. When the song’s pummeling rhythms, multifarious fretwork machinations, and riotous vocals return, it lights a fire under the listener’s pulse, but still preserves the feeling of an exhilarating yet dangerous experience that’s utterly divorced from the mundane world around us.
Balan has told us this about “When the Stones Come Tumbling Down“:
When I was writing this song I was listening to two particular records in constant rotation. One was Dance of December Souls by Katatonia, and the other was Spirit of Eden by Talk Talk.
These two records at first glance would seem pretty diametric from each other in their character and approach, however they both contain many common threads that I used in “Stones“. They both use a variety of styles, textures, and moods to paint these sort of vivid landscapes that feel expansive and contain the type of diversity that I was trying to convey with the Cabal record.
I wanted the song to be dark and chilly like December Souls but also have those progressive, ever-expanding textures like the Spirit of Eden record. It also contains a rad saxophone solo courtesy of Ken Burgan, a veteran of the 60’s LA music scene who played with pre-Mothers of Invention Zappa.”
Palace of Worms has already shared the first single from Cabal, “Through the Dark Arches“, and it’s yet another head-spinning experience — we’ve included a stream of it below, along with a link for pre-ordering Cabal. And in due course we will have a review of the album as a whole.