After a long, hard road out of development hell, Texan death merchants Hod are finally back in the saddle with their second full-length, Book of the Worm. In the five years since their debut, this band has logged serious time in the trenches as a live unit while switching out two-thirds of its lineup in the process. The grit and ferocity of their performances is well-preserved in the waveforms of this recording, which is a down and dirty affair that is effectively death metal by way of a bar fight. Each song bludgeons its way to the finish line with no forays into groove or quiet moments. Everything is cranked to ten and the knob has long been ripped off.
Hod's relentless approach is indeed convincing, with guitars raging through overcharged amplifiers and drums pounding away while avoiding the usual “brutal death metal” overkill that wrecks otherwise good riffs. The recording could have benefited from less obtrusive click triggers, but it isn't a deal breaker in the least. Vocalist Vladibeer Reebs deals mainly in a guttural croak that recalls Autopsy and Master at times, though there are a few moments when the dreaded “bree bree” effect starts to set in. Overall, his work is solid and definitely welcome compared to the legions of mic-cupping lightweights that remain ubiquitous in latter-day death metal acts.
One interesting aspect of Book of the Worm is that its rawness sometimes gives way to an unfinished quality, but whether or not this is an attribute or a shortcoming depends on your tastes. If you can't get enough of listening to guitarists chasing each other through a riff then songs like “Where Are The Demons” will scratch your itch for all things commando and unpolished. Then again, more demanding listeners might think a retake or two was in order. With that in mind, the songs that hit manage to hit quite hard, and leave streaks of filth and grime in their wake. Highlights include “Through the Gates (They Come for Me)” and “Under Tyranny's Hammer”, though there are few stylistic variations from song to song. What you see is what you get, and that's not a bad thing.
Once the points are totaled, Hod's protracted efforts prove successful with this release. It's death metal for people who want the blood and guts of the sound, rather than the glossy veneer that the larger labels have perpetrated since Roadrunner liquidated their original roster. No frills is good frills when it comes to this kind of work, and Hod makes up for it with brawler bravado that demands respect. The Texas metal underground continues to maintain a bullpen of enduring, credible acts, and Book of the Worm is another nasty weapon in its arsenal.
For more info: Book of the Worm is available now via Arctic Music