HC#7: Wormrot live at the Backstage Club, Munich

Wormrot played the Backstage Club, Munich, on March 31 2019 and it was a goddarn paycheck! Let me pay them back with some heavy-handed comparisons, freak associations and occurrences as stray as they are meaningless. Never one to shy away from analogies that rather obscure than illuminate, I’ll attach baggage to Wormrot’s spotless Grind package that they never suspected they would be weighed down with for their pains. That’s what you get for having Heavy Chettle among your fans, I suppose.

So, in what is fast becoming a tradition for articles on here, I’ll be taking a harmless enough joke or reference serious and proceed to kill it dead slowly, i.e. explain it in a lengthy, seemingly unending stream of paragraphs. In this case I practically deliver the 20+-minute Funereal Doom counterpart to Wormrot’s short and hyperconcise blasts of Grindcore energy. Let’s “go”!

The Eternal Sunshine of the Plotless Scribe

There’s no need to shy away from superlatives when talking Wormrot. They are a stellar act that has pushed the boundaries of the genre, established themselves as a lifetime legend and they deliver on stage in a way this blog writer has rarely enough witnessed (more on this later, this is, after all, (also) a live review). They also make the kind of song title jokes that are often found in Grindcore. One that stuck out to me – so much so that I’ll hang up my proverbial coat on it – is “Voices” track “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Grind” – too harmless a joke for the Goregrind set, sure, no implication of violence or perversion (or both), just namechecking Michael Gondry’s cult movie, but it hits home on a couple of fronts, as for example a) on the aformentioned Grindcore humour front, b) via-à-vis the faultless, hyperprecise structure and delivery of Wormrot’s songs that can absolutely be said to deserve the tag “Spotless Grind” and c) if you go to the source(s) of the statement, as all trve and heavy humanists do, there are some, let’s say vaguely interesting correlations. Before we go to the specific source of the Eternal Sunshine, let’s get an impression of Wormrot live on video:

I want to say that the performance at the Backstage Club was even better than the video above and so I’ll do just that: the performance at the Backstage Club was even better than the video above. These three guys came on stage and set up their pedals, cymbals and foot machine in a matter of fact, cool, yet unassuming manner that rather made them seem like their own roadies before casually launching into an atomizing performance. Also, they all have a distinct style to their look and demeanour. Let’s go through them and let taht be our guide to the performance.

Arif, the singer, recalls the Nineties HC style, and in his poses he projects the same spiritual intensity as those bands burning with conviction – Snapcase, Inside Out, all frontmen inspired by Ray Cappo probably – of that era: he will kneel on stage as if in prayer, he will actually put his hands together before his forehead, but he will also convulse and jerk in movements that evoke hospitalism, mic in fist pressed to mouth. While this clearly is a performance, it is utterly intense at the same time, and it totally sticks out among the more typically metal performances and postures of the night that openers Truth Corroded and headliner Misery Index bring to the stage – raised fists, thrown horns, banged heads. He will also matter-of-fact-ly thank the audience after each segment of songs. The performance becomes clearly visible as he breaks character for one second to communicate about an apparent misunderstanding among band members after a song has ended and, upon talking half a sentence to the guitarist, switches back and remembers to say “Thank You” in the exact same tone he’d done it before and he’d do it later. The audience laughs, nobody could have pin-pointed what exactly had gone wrong, the overall impression is that this band has their shit down like not a lot of shit is ever had down. It all seems perfect.

Guitarist Mohamed sports sideburns and a hairdo that is all but done up in a R’n’R quiff/curl, his guitar tonight also is a visible reminder of the classic Rock’n’Roll Fifties – together with his South East Asian look I can’t help but think of the Jarmusch classic “Mystery Train”, in which it is a Japanese couple donning the R’n’R getup on their pilgrimage to the king’s shrine in Memphis. His guitar playing is responsible for a lot of the precision that makes Wormrot great. They are instantly classic, practically failure proof riffs, whether they blast, chug or ring out long and deep in the doomy style that immediately recalls the OG phase of the Powerviolence genre and on the Back-stage this reviewer certainly didn’t notice any “mistake”, much more a static, monumental image of precision and zeal. What makes these riffs great is that they are taylor-made to segue into the following riff. They have a performative quality in that they somehow seem to always imply and make visible what comes next. It’s one of the qualities that sets Wormrot apart and underscores their mastery of the genre.

Guitar shape? RnR! (Barely visible) sideburns? RnR! Crappy phone photos? Punk as hell!

Drummer Vijesh’s performance is super-unhinged and spot on at the same time. Dude loses his shit all the time and never misses a beat. Frantic, manic, ultra-well rehearsed, this guy’s sound injects the band with intense power and the same anticipatory playing that the guitar is doing – somehow in all the start- and stop-craziness that jumps from blast to D-beat from groove to sprint all the time is entirely cohesive all the time. It’s Grindcore alright, and among the best there is, but it is also, and if you let me go meta for a sec, a performance of Grindcore. It is Brechtian in a way that their playing always seems to point to itself to say: “listen, now we’re playing this fast part and in a second we’ll switch to sludge-slow and then we blast on again and then the song ends mid-riff – look out, here it comes! You don’t need to know a single Wormrot song to mosh along with them – it helps, of course, to know the staples of the Grindcore genre, but I’d claim that Wormrot are so great because they always show and prepare what they are going to do next.

While Arif performs spirituality through prayer gestures and manic ecstasy, Mohamed through solemn precision, Vijesh’s drumming seems like an offering to the deities of Grind in itself. Dude screams, either along with the lyrics or in evident pain from extended blast beat or other taxing parts and he’s always in motion, always striving, exacting in a performance as athletic as artistic, as methodical as it is mad.

After considering how Wormrot does indeed put out what justifiably can be called spotless Grind, complete with song title jokes AND how the band delivers phenomenal live performances on the reg, let’s turn to the song in question. Here are the lyrics to “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Grind”:

Apprehension of the countless mistakes
Trying my best to sink in
All that was fucking lost

Memory erasing procedure activated
Blissfully ignorant towards what’s been said and done

Truth discovered, doomed to repeat the same mistakes, better off fucking dead

Wake me from my tired life
I have bled once too many times
Should I resort to violence?

Truth discovered, doomed to repeat the same mistakes, better off fucking dead

Wormrot, Eternal Sunshine OF The Spotless Grind, Lyrics

And this is the song…

At first glance a harsh self-reckoning (“countless mistakes”) leading into thoughts of violence (literally: “Should i resort to violence?”), obscenity (“Fuck”) and consideration of death (“better off fucking dead”) there seems to be little relation to the song title, both the literal meaning(s) of it and the film it alludes to, Gondry’s Early Aughts cult classic “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. If you wanted to find a valid intertext to the subject matter – which seems to be a young man’s confession of failure – that might, be, erm, first come (to mind), first served: “The Sorrows of Young Werther”?

There is more, though, which allows us to make connections to Gondry’s film as there is a smattering of words signaling another topic: loss (“all that was fucking lost”) in the film that would be the loss of a lover, “memory erasing procedure” – now that’s literally the basic premise of the film, “blissfully ignorant” is what the film’sprotagonist wants to be through this process of memory erasure, “doomed to repeat” is what the protagonist really seems to be, though (as he, SPOILER, meets and falls in love with his former, forgotten lover AGAIN, END SPOILER). The song’s lyrics imply a broader dissatisfaction with the course of his life as the speaker sees it, leading to the Werther-like desperation and complete lack of a (non-violent) way out. By way of interpretation though, which should always resort back to the title of each work, it is the “Spotless Grind”, however, and the airing of discontent it allows, that is in itself the way out of this dreadful impasse for the speaker and grants him “Eternal Sunshine” which we’ll translate (and later ascertain to be) inner peace.

Where though did Wormrot via the scriptwriter Kaufman really get the idea of the Eternal Sunshine? Well, he took it from one Alexander Pope, poet of the 18th Century who was quite the man in his day and wrote a pretty heroic epistle about doomed 12th Century clerical lovers Heloise and Abelard. It’s massive because it’s both very long and because it has really heavy passages, some of which I’ll let you sample later. It’s also massive, because the poem’s speaker is Heloise herself and she is pretty badass about being a cleric AND being unapologetically, erotically, warts-and-all in love with another cleric, Abelard and she has no qualms in saying pretty much everything about it. (I’d like to go into the consistent juxtaposition of erotic and religious concepts via puns, but I’ll spare you and, among others, the point is made succinctly in a pretty concise article ‘What Really Happens in “Eloisa to Abelard”?’ by C.R. Kropf in South Atlantic Bulletin Vol. 41, No. 2 (May, 1976), pp. 43-49)

Not that Eloisa doesn’t have her moments of apprehension in which she longs for the time before she was struck by love:

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d;
Labour and rest, that equal periods keep;

Alexander Pope, eloisA To AbeLard

So what she is basically wishing for is – in Wormrot’s words – the “ignorant bliss” of the “vestal”, the celibate nun who is fulfilled in her marriage to Jesus and is – somehow – free from all other, more worldly – desires. That, however, is not an option, and at one point Heloise, dares damnation by rejecting god, making herself one with those who live for love alone:

The jealous God, when we profane his fires,
Those restless passions in revenge inspires;
And bids them make mistaken mortals groan,
Who seek in love for aught but love alone.
Should at my feet the world’s great master fall,
Himself, his throne, his world, I’d scorn ’em all:

Very Goth, Very Romantic, sure, but Very Grind, too!? Here, in the black melancholy that befalls Heloise we might see something to correlate her words with Wormrot’s short confessional of apprehension:

But o’er the twilight groves and dusky caves,
Long-sounding aisles, and intermingled graves,
Black Melancholy sits, and round her throws
A death-like silence, and a dread repose:
Her gloomy presence saddens all the scene,
Shades ev’ry flow’r, and darkens ev’ry green,
Deepens the murmur of the falling floods,
And breathes a browner horror on the woods.

Alexander Pope, eloisA To AbeLard

Def a heavy passage, what with the browner horror on the woods (whatever that is!?) But the guilt, the melancholy is one side of a coin, of which the other is, well lust and delight:

Oh curs’d, dear horrors of all-conscious night!
How glowing guilt exalts the keen delight!
Provoking Daemons all restraint remove,
And stir within me every source of love.
I hear thee, view thee, gaze o’er all thy charms,
And round thy phantom glue my clasping arms.

Alexander Pope, eloisA To AbeLard

This leads her to plead with Abelard to do as she does and,uh, renounce their cleric vocation:

Oppose thyself to Heav’n; dispute my heart;
Come, with one glance of those deluding eyes
Blot out each bright idea of the skies;
Take back that grace, those sorrows, and those tears;
Take back my fruitless penitence and pray’rs;
Snatch me, just mounting, from the blest abode;
Assist the fiends, and tear me from my God!

Alexander Pope, eloisA To AbeLard

All of which goes to show that the intertexts that Wormrot have – purposefully or not, knowingly or unwittingly – tied to their text both possess a specificity that the lyrics lack: they are centrally about the struggle with love, unhappy love, lust and desire in opposition to a spiritual vocation (Pope’s poem) or the emotional vagaries of modern life and partnership (I guess!?, Gondry’s film). It is anyone’s guess whether Wormrot’s song needs any of this context. I suppose that the self apprehension conducted in these lyrics might just have a context of love and its pangs, regrets, impossibilities, comings and goings. If we take up the prior reference of Werther again, we can see that this kind of angst is often or traditionally related to unrequited or unfulfilled love, but if that tips it over the scale for you is another question.

There’s no question of whether to visit a Wormrot show or not, though. You should def go, as the fan who came to the show (reminder in Munich, Germany!!) from Canada (!!!, I overheard him tell the band after the show), will probably agree. In the Heavy Chettle Heaviness Classification Table this show was a clearly The Best Heavy, you take your pick