The year keeps surprising us. After what seems like quite the glut of incredible releases over the past couple of months and the announcements of more great albums to come, we get the news that two of the most exciting bands on the 20 Buck Spin roster are teaming up for a split, Starpath. Both Worm and Dream Unending have been fairly prolific in the past couple of the years for the label which they call home, it makes sense that these two entities would release something together. With Dream Unending holding down the ethereal side of the doom coin, Worm is happy to supply the darkness through their more black metal approach and this is an idea that should absolutely work on paper, so let’s see how that fairs when executed.
While the angle of attack varies greatly between these two doomy acts, it makes total sense that they should do something together and while the mood shift is palpable at the point that this split, well splits, the transition is seamless. Just DeTorre (Innumerable Forms) and Derrick Valla (Tomb Mold) kick Starpath off with two Dream Unending tracks and while the sound is immediately familiar if you’ve enjoyed their previous work, the second track “If Not Now When” dives into some slightly new territory and expands the cannon of how flexible this band is. The acoustic guitar solos and melodic vocals add a new wrinkle to the sound and push them even a little closer to their early prog rock inspirations. That being said, the deep death growls still rumble beneath the echoing waves of doom metal riffs. These tracks are somber affairs, hell, the song titles pretty much cue one in that this is doom in name and theme, but the elegance and lightness that’s also present throughout one make Dream Unending incredibly unique.
This split is a bit of a narrow of parallel moods to reach for as these two bands reach for very different things in their music. Dream Unending reaches into the existential realms with one foot in the beauty of the universe and the other foot the futility of it all, while Worm just wants to haunt castle hallways with melting candles while whispering curses at every turn. Which side you play first may be dependent upon your mood, but regardless of which you pick, there’s quality on either side. If you want to get lost in the ethereal starlight and contemplate the big questions of the universe, side A has you covered. If you want to wear a robe and glide through the halls of an empty mansion brandishing a dagger, then side B is your friend.
Speaking of Worm, the three songs that make up their contribution to Starpath are some of their most interesting yet. While gliding from a purer blackened doom in the early days to the somewhat flashy melodic black metal that has found its way in, Worm has decided that there’s no set upper limit on fun. This is an act that has embraced the campiness of black metal, the showboating of early heavy metal, and the atmosphere of doom metal and that combination has served them well. With that momentum behind them they’re feeling rather confident and have recently added Philippe Tougas (First Fragment, Chthe’ilist) as their featured lead guitarist and set him loose on their previous EP, Bluenothing. His addition has added a flair to the band’s sound, just check out the solo on “Midwinter Tears”, I’ll be thinking about that one for a long time.
Bottom Line: Getting a treat like this as a surprise from one of the best labels in all of metal is something to be excited by, but it’s the music itself that makes Starpath something to savor. The differing moods of the split may be a challenge for some but that’s also the beauty of it. Worm is continuing to embrace their playful side and find a new balance between deviance and innocence and Dream Unending add new elements that ground their sound with a new emotional weight. While each side of this split have noticeable strong points, this is a quality release that shows new sides of its contributors.