Though they record infrequently, rarely play live and toil in semi-deliberate obscurity, Worms have puked up some of the most single-mindedly abrasive and beautiful riffs in the history of all that is loud, heavy and slow. Their seemingly endless, monolithic songs — awash in unvarying rhythms, three-guitar black magic and drenched in feedback, reverb and distortion — are the soundtracks to your most hallucinatory nightmares. It makes total sense that the roar of the local airforce base in tiny Tikkakoski, Finland, helped provoke drummer Petri Leini and guitarist/vocalist Heikki Ikäheimo to form the band in 1983.
Having completed college and military obligations in 1987, the pair moved to Jyväskylä, a comparatively cosmopolitan university city. The sloppy, raucous sets of their early years consisted of covers and a few grimy originals reminiscent of the Stooges, Pussy Galore and certain acts on the Amphetamine Reptile label (see 467th Anniversary‘s “Luther-Spengler Overdrive,” taped in Tikkakoski with a nascent lineup). Worms began forging a real identity with the addition of guitarist/singer Veli Pesonen and bassist Perttu Paulasto, both formerly of the absurdist hardcore collective Kastraatio (that’s “Castration” to you). Still, Worms’ awkward debut EP is a fairly mundane cesspool, sunk by too many overdubs, poor mastering, dumb lyrics and tinny fidelity. The content clumsily approximates the era’s prevalent sewer rock, though the emerging wall-of-shit guitars on “American Son” are a taste of noise to come.
The stupefying, five-minute massacre of “I Saw Jesus Walking By,” which ushers in the aptly titled and markedly better Brutalizer (cover art: the monster from the Predator movies), introduces a drastically different approach. Leini keeps the tempo at an insistent, snare-less pummel, upon which Pesonen demonically shrieks and bellows as he, Ikäheimo and new recruit Markus Latvala scrape, torture and disembowel an array of uncooperative six-string instruments. Like his immediate predecessor Ukri Pulliainen (who appears on the revved-up, thrashing title track), Timo Vuorio detunes his bass to an impossibly low B and mates with the percussion in a constant, resonating thud. Worms’ metamorphosis is nearly complete.
At the end of the ’80s, Pesonen became the quintet’s leader and sole composer. For 1992’s cavernous and polished “Heaven” single, he agitates the coldest, hardest elements of metal, goth and ambient music into a vertigo-inducing, psychedelic whirl. Rather than heave his lungs out, he solemnly mumbles about death, silence and the occult in a distant baritone reminiscent of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis or Swans’ Michael Gira. A nonstop mudslide of feedback and tremolo oozes out of the speakers on the thundering A-side, while symphonically layered descending notes cascade like lunar rays on the harrowing “Towards.”
In 1995 Worms contributed the likeminded “Drown” and “There is No Other Day” to the Surprising Encounters compilation, released by the venerable Finnish indie Bad Vugum. The latter number strips away the aggression and adds the rippling swat of Eastern piano figures. Two outtakes from the same session later turned up on the group’s long overdue full-length, Pelican Songs, issued by San Francisco’s tUMULt Records. A medley clocking in at 27:32 launches the disc with a trippy haze of pure stasis and wind-tunnel atmospherics; for the finale, the vast, 18-minute “Border” simply annihilates everything in its path. These unforgiving epics bookend three subtler pieces completed in 1997, after Ikäheimo had departed and taken some of the stormclouds with him. But even the cozy, acid-pop jangle of “Early in the Evening” never fully conceals the shadowy, intoxicating whoosh that has become Worms’ signature.
As if to offset any perceived humorlessness, Latvala, Vuorio and Pesonen (on neck-snapping drums) accompany scatology- and porn-obsessed pervert Jussi Kokora in Penis Surprise, whose fast, fist-waving punk is another animal entirely. Blinding chops, memorable hooks and Worms-ish amp abuse invigorate the quartet’s Dwarves/Meatmen-inspired buzz. The Automatic Table features extra guitarist Teppo Haapasalo and packs nine 45-rpm blurts onto one vinyl side. In a garbled, quizzical accent, Kokora shouts his way through gay sex, defecation, debasement and sports (not to mention a must-hear cover of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”). There’s also some wacky motif about javelins and earning “ten grand.” Sample: “There are two things to happen before the statue comes alive/The first one is anal sex and the other one is sex bizarre/Alive.” Or, “This fucking piss made me shit in my pants/I got to know what it is to get pissed/Already fucked by shit and dildos/I enjoyed falling down to dirt.” Fun.