With Vilest of Worms to Dwell

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Hollenthon's second album, the ambitious With Vilest of Worms to Dwell, sounds like the combined work of a death metal band, a full symphony orchestra, a massive choir, and then some, so the fact that it is actually the work of mainly two people -- multi-instrumentalist/band mastermind Martin Shirenc and drummer Mike Groeger -- is impressive in itself. Even more impressive, though, is how they are able to combine such a wide and unusual range of styles and instruments in their songs and actually make it work. The opener, "Y Draig Goch," combines mid-paced death metal riffing, fast double-bass drumming, growled vocals, and dramatic horn section flourishes straight out of a '60s spy movie soundtrack. The next track, "Woe to the Defeated," explores the meeting point between '80s thrash metal and Eastern European folk music, complete with a virtual (but very realistic-sounding) ethnic-instrument string section and guitar breakdowns alternately reminiscent of Thin Lizzy and Slayer. And so the rest of the album goes, with each song marked by bizarre orchestrations, sweeping melodies, and an overall feeling of grandeur. Sure, some of this stuff is over the top -- Wagnerian touches abound in the string and choir sections and "Conquest Demise," with its "wear banshees play" lyrics, has a bit of a Spinal Tap/"Stonehenge" flavor -- but that all kind of comes with the territory, and besides, when things are done this creatively, it's hard to argue with the results. Epic and entertaining (though probably just too much for some folks), With Vilest of Worms to Dwell is an album that really needs to be heard to be believed.

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