(What we have here is DGRs review of a new EP by Worm Shepherd, which was released about 10 days ago by Unique Leader Records.)
We’ve covered the east-coast deathcore crew Worm Shepherd before but we would be remiss not to check in with them again now. The band, who have remained something of a fascination over here, are now two albums deep into a career that has seen them ensconced firmly within the rafters of the Unique Leader core-cathedral and their latest addition, The Sleeping Sun, adds an EP to the mix.
Partially due to having undergone some lineup changes between releases but also in search of a broader artistic vision, the Worm Shepherd that appears here is a different beast than it had been previously – now down to to two members handing near-everything in their writing. However, one of the other reasons we check in with the band is that Worm Shepherd are something of a bellweather when it comes to the deathcore scene as it exists at any particular moment.
We’re now layers and decades deep into the genre’s formation and checking in with the band is a good way to check in with the scene as a whole, because Worm Shepherd are increasingly good at absorbing all the different artistic ideas that swirl around that style and making it part of their sound. They provide an excellent snapshot of the overall genre, like an all-seeing eye written over a wall of chugging guitars. In the case of The Sleeping Sun, it seems the world has gotten low, slow, and a hell of a lot more symphonic than before.
Those familiar with the -core world will recognize a lot of the artistic vein that is being mined on The Sleeping Sun, and Worm Shepherd will likely draw a lot of comparisons to a litany of other bands as well. They’ve been an incredibly ambitious group from the word ‘go’ and are writing music that – especially now – makes them seem a much, much larger force than you might expect from two musicians. They were leaning toward this with their previous release Ritual Hymns and now on The Sleeping Sun they’ve leapt headfirst into the swirling abyss.
These are ‘big’ songs; it is a five-track EP that somehow manages to clock just over thirty-one minutes – which for many other bands would constitute a whole album. Even the ole’ review pile over here has a few grind releases that just barely kiss the twenty-four minute mark and go well into the double digits song-wise. When you have a song like “The Tortured Path” laying within the center of your EP though, you can see how you might wind up going a little over scheduled time as they achieve the much-sought-after doom atmospheres in that song. “The Torutred Path” is one of a handful of slow crawlers on The Sleeping Sun and the most noticeable, as much of the symphonic overlay is stripped away in favor of endless bludgeoning as the song finally closes out.
We’ve delved deep into their song “The Frozen Lake Pt. II” before, as it was the recipient of a music video and made it into one of our round-ups at the time of release. It is also the overall scene-setter for The Sleeping Sun since it divides itself into two parts – one big, epic, and grandiose section full of all the hallmarks at near shopping-list level of the current symphonic deathcore scene, and then the slow transformation into inhuman monster that closes the song.
It is on the beefier side of seven minutes, so Worm Shepherd have a ton of room to play with and use it to lay the foundation of the EP as a whole – and presumably their next charted path for a full-length. You’ll hear a lot of what the band do on “The Frozen Lake” throughout the rest of The Sleeping Sun‘s runtime, and by the time you are back in the ominous operatics of “The Dying Heavens” you can hear how Worm Shepherd are tying everything back around to how they opened up the whole event. “The Parting Sea” – the song that actually does close out The Sleeping Sun – is where Worm Shepherd stretch even further, bringing back the low crawl of “The Tortured Path” before it and effectively intoning the sung vocals as the band fades from the overall picture.
We’re hearing it already and will likely witness a ton more in the future of the -core scene as a whole since Worm Shepherd seem to be right on the opening wave of much of this style, but The Sleeping Sun serves as a good beacon of not only where the band are at the moment in the overall musical spheres but also where the genre is. You can take many of the elements on The Sleeping Sun, carve them out, scry their innards, and see the faces and names of many groups playing with this style. The low, slow, and burly breakdowns that defined it have now expanded outward to become the main rhythm riffs, and Worm Shepherd are using them to shake the pillars of whatever building they’re playing in.
The Sleeping Sun is a lot of musical weight being thrown around for thirty-one minutes. There’s a lot to discover since they’ve placed layer-upon-layer of musical ephemera on top of their sound and made a conceptual journey play out in that same amount of time. Listening to it is also a journey, so make sure you have your chosen water bottle and trail mix ready to go because The Sleeping Sun is a monstrous hike through a desiccated wasteland.