Reviewed: [August 2021]
Released [2021 Sound Pollution]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Funny – or at least very odd – thing happened as Swedish black metallers Wormwood worked toward the release of their third full-length. Originally titled Vita Arkivet – which translates as “The White Archive,” an official document detailing one’s funeral arrangements – the band ended up modifying it to simply Arkivet after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the Swedish funeral home service Fonus that claimed it had the rights to the name “Vita Arkivet” and threatened legal action if the band persisted in using it.
In a statement after the dust settled, Wormwood seemed to take things in stride, obviously realizing they probably didn’t stand much of a chance against the ultimate evil – a gaggle of attorneys – even though fellow Swedes Desiderii Marginis, a dark ambient act, managed to release an album called Vita Arkivet in 2018.
“We, as a band, of course think this if fucking stupid but what can we do? We are an underground band that can’t fight lawyers for a living,” the statement noted.
In the end, Wormwood got something of the last laugh, issuing Arkivet with essentially a plain white cover. Ha! But there’s nothing humorous about the material here, as they use the title as a metaphor for the last words to an already dead planet, which echoes the theme of Cattle Decapitation’s last several albums and certainly hits close to home for those who are either on fire, underwater or scurrying back to their hidey holes as the “delta variant” descends and anarchy reigns – or some combination thereof. Good times.
The album opens with the furiously epic title track lamenting that “man deserves to die” and concludes with the moodier, more monumental “The Gentle Touch of Humanity” essentially playing that out as the doomsday clock readies to strike midnight. Frontman Nine delivers it all with forceful, scabrous vocals that recall former Dark Funeral/Hypocrisy singer Magnus “Masse” Broberg and make the grim message all the potent.
The band’s multi-faceted musical approach and shape-shifting delivery, though, helps keep things from seeming too heavy handed. While there is plenty of full-on black metal file and fury, there are symphonic and folksy flourishes, black ‘n roll crunch and catchiness, doom-death weightiness and expanse, and a few surprises like “End Of Message’s” unexpected jaunty, almost funky midsection.
The songs are all rather long, averaging nearly seven minutes per – “Overgrowth” being the shortest at 5:17 – but here again, the band’s athleticism pays off as the constant motion keeps things from bogging down or becoming tiresome. Guitarist/keyboardist Tobias Rydsheim lends some depth with his intermittent cleans giving the title track or “My Northern Heart” a rousing Borknagar-like hue.
Sure the world may going to shit, but there’s no need to overstate the obvious or hammer it home without any tact or guile. And Wormwood are obviously keenly aware of this. So while Arkivet may be a total bummer, it doesn’t necessarily sound like a total bummer.