Sci-fi/Fantasy by Book of WyrmsRelease date: January 1, 2017
Label: Twin Earth Records
Calling this album Sci-fi/Fantasy may well be the single most obvious act of false marketing since Vote Leave slapped that infamous £350 million figure on the side of a bus. They might utilise a bit of wonky sci-fi synth now and then but Book of Wyrms’ debut album couldn’t be more Hammer Horror if it had a resurrected Vincent Price cackling atop a castle at midnight on the cover. And since Peter Cushing was already CGI’d out of the tomb for the latest Star Wars movie I’m guessing they just didn’t have the budget to pull that off.
Which puts them in a rather crowded field. If the metal world were an ecosystem then there must be no natural predators for female fronted campy horror stoner/doom bands as they seem to reproduce at a terrifying rate. Book of Wyrms manage to stand out from the rest by playing closer to classic rock/blues than many of their peers – they rely on riffs and dynamics rather than overwhelming fuzz. Think more Ruby the Hatchet than Windhand. You’ll know within about a minute of opener ‘Leatherwing Bat’ if they’re your bag or not – as soon as Sarah Moore-Lindsey’s slightly distant vocals with their classic folk-rock timbre start drifting over the Iommi-esque riffery you’ll know. It’s pitched somewhere between Blood Ceremony and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, with some pleasingly chuggy guitar work and a simple vocal line that’ll worm (wyrm?) its way into your brain within a few bars.
Elsewhere it’s an enjoyable, if predictable ride. A few of the riffs are well worn and whilst it’s all played well enough there’s an air of familiarity to most of Sci-fi/Fantasy. Slow burner ‘All Hallows Eve’ even comes with obligatory Halloween themed samples and hammy organ capping off the horror vibe. But to their credit they are capable of pulling a trick or two up their sleeve too, like the woozy slide guitar work on ‘Transcendental Migraine’ or the sudden double kick and Down-esque grooves on ‘Nightbong’ (in case you’re wondering – yes, it is in fact a song about a haunted bong).
And there’s a vein of blues that runs through Sci-fi/Fantasy. Though the whole stoner/doom enterprise owes an infinite debt to the blues you’ll rarely hear it as overtly as on 15 minute closer ‘Sourwolf,’ that starts out in straight up blues bar band territory before heading off into space with a furious psych mid section, all guitar solos tumbling over each other and some spacey synth moments that almost justify that album title.
So whilst they don’t do much to distinguish themselves from their peers everything is crisp and crunchy and as it should be – a victory of confidence and quality rather than innovation. For a debut record they already sound more or less fully formed – you’d assume from how well it’s all put together they’d be old hands. Their bio doesn’t suggest any of them have come from other bands, but I’d be very surprised if they were complete neophytes. It helps that they’ve settled into a genre not renowned for originality and haven’t exactly worked hard to break the mould, but I have to give the devil their due – you’ll be hard pressed to find many doing this stuff better than Book of Wyrms right now.