Review: “Cabal” by Palace Of Worms

Originally conceived as the solo project of Nicholas “Balan” Katich circa 2007, the Bay Area Californian avant-garde Metal entity Palace Of Worms has gradually evolved into something of a Behemoth. While Balan remains the mastermind at work, upon this new album he is joined by an accomplished cast of co-conspirators 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 that’s simply the ones we know of. At times described as eccentric and bizarre, the project has a rich history that encompasses raging and misanthropic Black Metal, Doom, Death, Progressive, Ambient and Electronica as it continues down the left hand path…

The pied pipers haunting melody whispers on the winds of “Telepathic Crucifixion” like a chill in the air on a cold winters night before swirling off kilter riffs and Black Metal uncleans rise from the depths in what one might term Black ‘n Roll fashion. Eclectic intricacies bleed out of the mix, little notes in the background that go unnoticed on the first listen appearing like a ghost in the mirror with each repeated listen. Ethnic touches at first seem odd but soon become charming, interweaving into the fabric of the cut in an unexpected way. The aggression levels rise with “Bizarre Blood and Exhumations” which offers up some Sludge fuelled Doom riffs while scattered spoken word moments sound like the spoken word of Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra, contrasting Balan’s raging unclean tones perfectly. Devilish off kilter leads guitars are partially buried beneath the crushing rhythms but still add a touch of eccentric sparkle like gold from a shipwreck simmering under water. Considered alchemists by some and those willing to commit treason by others the combination of genre crossing elements to build the sound of Palace Of Worms works incredibly well with the near six minute “Through the Dark Arches” having a Type O Negative style mid section with Gothic Metal clean vocals between Balan’s usual harsh abrasions. There is even time for a creepy 80’s styled synth pattern to add a little bit of magic before the fade out. A little piece of the puzzle perhaps but with so many little ideas like termites in rotting wood, they make a huge difference by the end of the record. “When the Stones Come Tumbling Down” then builds on the foundation of gold and bones of the previous cut, getting bolder and braver with the Gothic clean vocal parts which take on a ghostly presence here before a saxophone solo in the mid section delights, adding a warm and rich quality to the sonic brew. Pagan chants and synths in the final moments then blow the mind as it seems as though Balan like Imperial Triumphant knows now borders or boundaries and yet is able to seduce like the hypnotic eyes of a Cobra so the deviance enhances rather than taking away.

Programmed hip-hop beats and vocals that sound like those uttered during an hallucination are offered up in “Cabal” as the ground once again shifts beneath the feet leaving the title track feeling like a palate cleanser when surrounded by such weighty sound. An idea that has promise and intrigue but when “Cessation of the Heart” picks up where the earlier cuts left off it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. One rich in Stoner Metal vibes that even includes a Hammond Organ solo as well as some whammy bar riff madness wrapped up in cosmic epic grandeur, this one feels like something that Spirit Adrift could aspire to. While six minutes is the average length of a Palace Of Worms composition on this album, “Rebirth of Nihil” is the magnum opus as it stretches out to nine with Progressive Doom Metal sensibilities shinning through. A play on light and shade with intricacies a plenty, male and female vocals and a rich lyrical narrative, the radio tuning white noise that brings it to its conclusion feels like the end of the album but Balan has one more trick up his sleeve in “Winterbird“. While at first that feels a little tacked on, it remains a solid cut in its own right as it demonstrates everything that has gone into the record in one single and easily digestible cherry on top. The raging Black Metal may have departed a long time ago but in its place a high energy meandering through Progressive Doom Metal is fascinating [7.5/10]

Track Listing

1. Telepathic Crucifixion
2. Bizarre Blood and Exhumations
3. Through the Dark Arches
4. When the Stones Come Tumbling Down
5. Cabal
6. Cessation of the Heart
7. Rebirth of Nihil
8. Winterbird

Cabal” by Palace Of Worms is out 3rd February 2023 via Acephale Winter Production with pre-orders available over at bandcamp.

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