When it comes to the Black/Death Metal field lately, it all seems to be growing fairly stale. There are a few long running groups still putting albums out, and a number of newcomers that often seem to be carbon copy versions of those pioneers. Rarely do you get anything that kind of stands oiut in the crowd anymore, which is where San Antonio, Texas's own Hod comes into play. This entry formed back in 2007, wasting no time in issuing their first demo Cry and Piss Yourself to a great deal of praise later that year. Since then we received the The Uncreated Demo in 2013, as well as two compilations: 2009's Ossuary Industries Limb Splitter II split collection and 2014's Fuckin' Metal Volume 1 through Tree of Woe Productions. After that latter release, the group found themselves working with Arctic Music Group to usher out Book of the Worm, their second full-length album. But has the five years and other miscellaneous releases been worth going through to reach this point, or is this somewhat anticipated outing far from worth the patience put in?

One of the first things you'll notice about Book of the Worm is that, while it sounds like a modern recording, the music itself was probably meant to be a little more on the rough or analog side than what is presented here. This isn't so much a bad thing as it is a bland thing. The instruments all come through quite well, carrying a crisp quality that makes each one stand out in their own right. Between mildly sharpened riffs that can be blunt when necessary, a fantastic representation of the drum kit as a whole, as well as a strong bass guitar presence that sometimes manages to rattle to the foreground, it's obvious there was close attention being paid on the technical side. Unfortunately, there isn't much energy captured in the mix. Book of the Worm isn't a robotic effort, but there is little bite to be found much of the time. The best way to explain it would be as if this album were just another day in the office - Nothing impressive or unique and sticking to a decent days work without really exerting itself more than necessary. The worst part about this is that Hod does a fantastic job blending the two genres together that you feel it's a simple case of someone dropping the ball somewhere.

"When the Ghouls Feed" starts things off with a mixture of technical riffs and blast beats that give way to some catchy grooves and burdening Death Metal chords with some blackened hooks at times. The raspy vocals vary between somewhat enthusiastic with additional layering from time to time, right down to a serious yet passée output, as if demanding your attention but not caring much if you're actually listening. "Death Whores" has a little more going on thanks to the many blasting passages and equally as chaotic riffs. When the first solo hits about half way through, the largely Death Metal cut does throw some groovier material your way for a bit before harking back to the more Grindcore influenced material that sounds like it wants to be dirty, but the crisp audio just doesn't let it. Much of this can also go for "Beneath the Mountains of the Scorpion", though some riffs can bring in a creepy atmosphere, something the band manages to accomplish on others from time to time, instead of that intent towards filth. This one also has a subtle militaristic touch to the aggressive technical leads and furious drums that can play out between the melodic Black Metal tinged passages.

But it's "Through the Gates (They Come for Me)" that sticks out the most. The steady faster paced bass kicks and hooks for the main verses grow more dismal the deeper you get. The chorus, however, has a little more enthusiasm in the music that seems to throw back to the early days of Death Metal that would still find some Thrash Metal in the foundation. For being just over five minutes, the track progresses fluidly enough to make it seem like it's only three, maybe four max, highlighting the half way point and conclusion with two solid guitar solos. This is one of the stronger tracks of the album overall, even if the band appears to have tried some ninja editing skills in the drums at a minute fourteen and a minute eighteen in, which is when the song is at its most copy-and-paste the way it is.

And that's something else about this album that needs to be addressed. The more I listen to Book of the Worm, the more I keep picking up on the drums and sometimes the guitar oddly cutting out or at a different rhythm for a brief second. At times it's like the cymbal was crashed again or some other natural reason for the abrupt stop instead of a natural ringing out, but other times it just sounds like an awkward cut of some kind, briefly jarring what momentum exists. Usually these sections have a few notes that seem to be just slightly off time before it happens which, to be fair, could very well just be a sign that someone caught themselves and corrected it mid-recording. But, when you hear what can only be considered an obvious edit during "Through the Gates (They Come for Me)", it becomes hard to not second guess these things. The more time you put in, the more you wonder if that slight second of silence or random awkwardly executed progression is distracting studio interference from listening too closely, or if you're just reading too much into something as simple as the band not having used a click track when they probably should have for the sake of a tighter sounding release.

Honestly, there isn't a whole lot to say about Book of the Worm. Hod has some good material that flows well from start to finish, is well paced, and rarely makes you feel like you've stumbled upon filler. If the music itself didn't sound as sterile as it does, maybe take a chance once in a while as well instead of playing by the book as closely as it does, this could have been one of the better entries into the Black Metal and Death Metal world as of late. Even then, the compositions themselves still have enough strength to have you bobbing your head along, though not enough to get a full headbang going regardless of how loud you have it. Book of the Worm is something fans and casual listeners of the two genres will enjoy for what it is, wishing this had been a little more raw to really help these songs stick in your head longer than they inevitably will.

Review originally composed for Apoch's Metal Review.