Photo courtesy of Season of Mist
Science fiction and heavy metal have made a deliriously happy couple for nearly fifty years. One of the earliest fruits of their relationship was Sabbath’s iconic “Iron Man,” recorded in 1970 for the band’s Paranoid album. In the 80s, Canadian thrash masters Voivod took up the sci-fi mantle on a permanent basis, cranking out intricately futuristic records with names like Killing Technology, Dimension Hatröss, and Rrröööaaarrr. In the 90s, LA industrialists Fear Factory took the sci-fi torch into new electronically enhanced territory with albums like Soul Of A New Machine, Demanufacture, and Obsolete. As metal got more extreme, its investment in sci-fi seemed to wane when compared to the tried-and-true lyrical themes of Satanism, horror and mythology.
Enter Wormed, the ultra-technical Spanish death metal band that made their debut in 2003 with the ambitious sci-fi concept album Planisphaerium. The first installment of a projected trilogy, Planisphaerium detailed the interstellar adventures of Krighsu, the last man in the cosmos, and his struggle to reestablish humanity in a universe dominated by artificial intelligence. After a lengthy hiatus during which Wormed vocalist Phlegeton and bassist Guillemoth were left as the band’s sole members, they re-emerged with a new lineup in 2013 and unveiled Exodromos, a prequel to Planisphaerium. The band’s third and latest album, Krighsu, is yet another prequel that completes the trilogy.
Packed with vertiginous riffs, inhuman vocals and blastbeats galore—not to mention song titles like “Agliptian Codex Cyborgization,” “Eukaryotic Hex Swarm” and “57889330816.1”—the album offers a dizzyingly complex snapshot of a band that isn’t even sort of fucking around. Wary of speaking English in interviews, Phlegeton—who doubles as Wormed’s in-house graphic designer—answered the following questions via email.
Noisey: Which came first, your interest in death metal or science fiction?
Phlegeton: I think death metal came first, although we were fans of science fiction since childhood. Since our inception we added many scientific concepts related to space physics, in contrast to the "conventional" lyrical terms of this music. The concept came out in a natural and unconscious way from the beginning. This is like a sci-fi movie interpreted [in] a musical context.
Is there something about science fiction that makes it particularly suited to your style of death metal? Conversely, do you think there’s something about death metal that makes it particularly suited to sci-fi concepts and lyrics?
I think being [such] extreme concepts with regard to musical style and narrative genre, they both fit perfectly in a beautiful harmonic symbiosis. The cosmos has always been the big question for humanity, so we found a great idea to create our own story with themes as interesting as the universe and human evolution. So the exploration of topics such as cosmology and science fiction provide [lots] of data from different media.
You’ve mentioned Ridley Scott in past interviews. Which other sci-fi directors or authors have influenced your lyrics?
Sure, I like so much how the cinema has adapted the new discoveries of science and technology in recent movies. Authors I like: Stephen Hawking, Isaac Asimov, Lovecraft. Some filmmakers: James Cameron, Paul Verhoeven, Ridley Scott, the Wachowski brothers, Stanley Kubrick. And some films I love: Interstellar, District 9, Melancholia, Alien, Cube, Blade Runner, Robocop, Predator, Pi, Primer, Matrix, Oblivion, Ender's Game, The Signal, Elysium, Children of Men, Gravity, Automata, Lucy, Prometheus, Transcendence.
When your last album came out in 2013, you talked about the Spanish economy’s effects on the death metal scene in Madrid. Can you elaborate—and explain how this situation may have changed since then?
While more promoters are beginning to organize better and [bigger] events, the main problem is still there. The common metalhead usually wants to see cheap or free shows if they could, and in the end the new discos and big mainstream clubs are multiplying continuously, leaving no room for metal in general because the "normal people" pay exorbitant prices for entrance [to] a disco. So many of the best venues for underground music are closing because they [only] receive a little support from the metal people. Finally, the organizers get tired of seeing people not attending and lose interest in supporting little local bands. [It] is a difficult world to maintain. The interest is [in] the fucking money and who's the best choice to fill their venues—profit, profit, profit… I guess this happens worldwide. So usually we prefer to play outside our frontiers, but we are starting [to see] more interaction and people attending in our current local scene.
Krighsu completes a trilogy. Your last album, Exodromos, was a prequel to your 2003 debut, Planisphaerium. Where does Krighsu fit on the timeline?
The concept of this last album talks about the destruction of artificial intelligence due [to] the fear it evokes in humans. Humans want to destroy it because they want to be the leaders. So the basic idea of the album Krighsu is an evolution from the first concepts of the last human wandering alone in [the] cosmos to a complete history of the last human civilization (The Agliptians) fighting with the artificial intelligence they created, which has mutated [into] a virus due [to its mistaken use in the] cyborg army (the Chryms). So Krighsu is the first part of the trilogy.
Why did you decide to present the story this way instead of in chronological order?
We decided to make a prequel because the concepts in Planisphaerium [were] incomprehensible to many people. So instead [of going] far away to distant interstellar void narrations, we preferred to explain the why of some early events. [It’s] less ethereal and a bit more tangible.
Krighsu is also the name of the main character in your story. He’s the last human in the cosmos, with all the scientific, cultural and historical knowledge of mankind stored in his brain. What else you can you tell us about him?
Krighsu didn't wake up when the Neomorph Protocol was activated (the awakening of the one hundred Chryms). He is the last living Chrym, and he is the key to save human existence, but not the humans [themselves]. Krighsu is the last post-human being of a new era, a new existence within an immense robotized galaxy. His last mission is confronting it in order to restart organic life without artificial intelligence.
You’ve got a new song called “Eukaryotic Hex Swarm.” What is that?
It is the second part of the track "The Singularitarism,” when the nano-machines start replicating as a swarm on the galaxy and begin to take the control of the stars.
What’s the significance of the song “57889330816.1”?
Try to write it backwards and check the results in Google.
This is your first album with drummer G-Calero, who joined the band in 2014. What did he bring to the new material?
G-Calero is a beast. We are very happy with [his] work. He is a young guy with a long way to go still but starting with very solid skills and methods of work. His consistent blast beast and double bass drumming skills along with the freaking patterns he plays and the fresh vision he has is superb. He has given us the necessary level up in regards of machinability and velocity—and without steroids!
Now that the trilogy is complete, what do you have planned for your next album?
I don't know yet… maybe a new history of the far beyond our lovely galaxy. Who knows? It’s [too] early to think on this yet.
J. Bennett lives in Los Angeles and loves a good trilogy.