The Old Angel, Nottingham, Saturday 2nd June
What is a Wormrot? Before Saturday, I couldn’t have told you. Today, I still can’t really tell you. Their chief purpose in life appears to be to write songs that sound like exploding slurry vats, and inspiring exceptionally daft behaviour in apparently otherwise-sensible men.
I walk into the Old Angel, a favourite haunt of my completely uninteresting youth, thinking I’m going to see a death metal band. This meaningless genre appellation is immediately snatched away from me by a more informed compatriot and replaced with ‘grindcore’, which presumably has much richer and more subtle associations in the addled mind of the metalhead. Wormrot sound more or less like all the death metal I’ve ever heard except maybe a bit quicker, so I dunno.
Before that, though, I catch the dying moments of Pine Barrens’ set. I elbow my way to the front, noting the especially strong reek of sweat in the venue. I watch the band play out and get off stage, then realise that this guy walking past me through the dispersing crowd is actually the vocalist. I’d brushed right by him vocalising from the middle of the crowd and, distracted by an incongruous necklace bass guitar, had not even noticed his absence from the stage. Cool. No wonder he fucking stank.
And actually standing in the crowd proves to be an immediate mistake, as I am clouted unceremoniously off to one side by a frantic mosh that explodes as soon as Wormrot strike their first dischord, and I go spinning off into a corner. I’m not used to this, because at most of the gigs I go to it takes a song or two to warm up to that sort of pitch; by which time – when you’re my height – you’ve squashed yourself against a barrier or secured yourself to the leg of a nearby giant.
So I take up position against the wall, and some burly bloke’s back utterly obscures my view of anything but the goonish antics of the moshpit. But I find I’m okay with that, because they’re probably far more interesting to watch than the band, no offence intended.
Fat, balding men in their 30s and a smattering of geeky hipsters make up this vanguard of drunken clowns. One guy is enacting the aggression signal of a silverback gorilla, complete with hooting. Over there is a dude pushing people over and then helping them back to their feet. This guy is trying to make his neck keep up with the beat. He looks like a woodpecker who’s found a tree made of solid amphetamine. There’s about four women in the place altogether; one of them is dispensing the wristbands and the others are admiring my beard and face.
The band itself has no bass player, which makes perfect sense in context. And from just a guitar, a drum kit and a larynx, they’re wringing out one heck of a distressing noise. It sounds like exactly what you’d expect; someone with a sore throat barking sweary encouragement at two baby chainsaws fighting to the death in a sack.
Every so often it all slides down-tempo towards what I would call ‘actually heavy’, and thus begins to sound like something somebody bothered to write, with actual riffs and grooves and fills and variation and tune and things. Naturally those bits are there for contrast and never last very long, but the crowd fucking love those bits, they do. They go mental for those bits. And I’m stood there all like ‘what.’ Because if that’s your bag mate, I’ve got entire fucking albums of that. Days’ worth.
The energy of the crowd is infectious, so it’s hard not to grin – even if I do have to constantly fend off sweaty bodies from crushing me against the Old Angel’s pissy wall – and they’re all about whatever it is Wormrot are doing. The best moment is when the singer declaims ‘BIRMINGHAM YOU NEVER LET US DOWN’, which raises the most confused and unenthusiastic Nottinghamian half-cheer I’ve ever heard. I considered a Nottingham Forest joke to go here, but that would have been dishonest of me, as I have no idea what Nottingham Forest are for.
A song or two later, he’s realised his mistake and amends this sentiment to ‘FUCK BIRMINGHAM’, and that’s all good with us. Wormrot are Singaporean and touring the world in a rock ‘n’ roll band has to be confusing work, bless ‘em. Nottingham, Birmingham, what’s the difference? (One is a city, the other is merely a realistic mock-up of one.)
There’s barely even an instant’s pause at the first set’s end before they launch into their encore. Altogether we receive forty minutes of frantic clattering, if that, and they’re gone. Wormrot just blur into a soupy mess of horrible noise and play-fighting.
I’m still kind of baffled by the music of Wormrot, and thus by ‘grindcore’ or death metal or whatever the fuck in general; but as usual, it all makes sense when seen live. The crowd all goes a bit savage and unhinged and the music sounds like a tropical downpour of spiralling insanity, so you can see how it fits together.
Why you’d ever put it in your ears outside of that context, I’m not quite certain. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to these 90-minute stoner-space-prog-doom jams featuring no more than five notes or three chords at a time and a tempo that never rises above ‘celestial’.