London based HMLTD have always been a band who are hard to define. Since their first releases they have been seen as more of a look than a sound by some, but I had always liked the outrageous personality of their music. It could sometimes be long-winded or obtuse, but it always stood out from the sound other London bands pursued.
However, apart from a brief NFT-related release that went somewhat under the radar for most, there’s been silence from HMLTD for over three years. At least until this grungy, disconcerting and frenetic new single: ‘Wyrmlands’, which has hailed the announcement of a whole new record entitled: The Worm.
This track serves as a sort of introduction to a direction that HMLTD are taking both sonically and lyrically, with a layered and dynamic, almost free-jazz instrumental intro proceeding a rather hilarious exclamation of: “The Worm is here!”
It’s still loud and full of character, with many stinging vocal samples and strange synth textures coming through the mix from all angles, without ever seeming too busy or overproduced.
Beyond that, there is a clear development of the band’s sound in terms of technical confidence, with really beautiful piano melodies and sharp, dynamic drumming layering well over this grim, gritty bassline. I guess it is fair to say the band has a better sense of arrangement, and are building songs up more as sonic experiences than just ironic pop songs.
Above all of this we have the lead vocals, which I felt were a bit droll and at times not as ambitious a performance as I had first hoped from HMLTD. Henry Spychalski is a vocalist who is known for his operatic, unhinged caterwauling, but that energy is lacking on ‘Wyrmlands’.
The lyrics, however, don’t disappoint in making me obsess over this looming narrative the band seems to have in store for the upcoming record. There are hints to the multifaceted nature of ‘The Worm’ as both a metaphor and a real presence, and there’s tangible horror to the way Spychalski beseeches: “Why am I pink? Why am I blind?”
Needless to say, the band will be asked countless times: “what is ‘The Worm’?” in the run up to this record’s release, but this track has me thinking the eldritch terror of the answer is best left unknown.
“Wyrmlands” is more of an introduction to a larger project than a standalone single, but its ambition has me excited. There’s a great versatility to the sound, as the track jumps between musical ideas fluidly and with technical skill. Though the vocals can be lacking in parts, the lyrical content had me engaged and ready for whatever madness is to come.
Perhaps a new direction is what is needed for a band like HMLTD, whose previous album: West of Eden had struggled, for me, to deliver on its proposed statement on societal collapse. If they can balance the vision they clearly have, with the kind of execution they’ve managed on this track; then I think The Worm will be a work of real genius.
However until the 7th of April when the record releases via Lucky Number, you can enjoy ‘Wyrmlands’ on all streaming platforms, and you can preorder vinyl on the band’s website.
Cover photo by Erika Kenis-Febles.