The extreme negation that black metal proposes might actually act more as panacea than poison. Consider: the tortures that Satan endures must dwarf your minor complaints about the inadequacy of your life or the injustice you feel. When devouring you, demonic horrors don’t give a fuck about your resume or your love life, good or bad. Even on a personal level, black metal’s morbid lyrics persistently remind you of the most crucial human problem: your own mortality. Casting your eyes down toward the deepest abyss enables you to see past the troubles that surround you. That’s not to say that black metal is totally escapist, for the sort of dread that black metal invokes is at once very real and very troubling. On The Feral Wisdom, Wormlust gives us glimpses of the poisonous abyss, using it as a powerful cure against the pitiful sorrows we hold dear.
Wormlust, the project of Icelandic black metal artist H.V. Lyngdal, combines dark ambient soundscapes with brutal but psychedelic black metal. Whereas some bands have used ambient textures primarily for intros and segues, Wormlust fully integrates these textures throughout the course of each piece, revealing the dual nature of the darkness he inhabits. The encounter with cosmic nothingness consists not only in the torturous, primal howl of a torn soul, but also in a blissful, empty void, infinitely receptive and totally enveloping the traveler in absence. I don’t know Icelandic, but an online translation of “Sex augu, tólf stjörnur” yields clues into Wormlust’s design: “Wake thou abyss… Let us rest in your arms.” For all the anti-Christian sentiment that has made the genre famous, that sounds awfully close to a yearning for deliverance.
These and other invocations open the void to our eardrums, a ghostly afterimage left behind in place of the increasingly cosmic guitar and echoing, warped vocals. The most metallic passages of The Feral Wisdom seem to fulfill, even enhance, the urges of the death drive. In yearning for the empty hell where fell the highest of all being, Wormlust seeks both prison and asylum. This urge, despite its darkness, is as fully transcendent as any other mystical striving. Death annihilates, but in annihilating, it also reveals. Uttering prayers to the abyss, Wormlust creates an altar of sacrifice through which that void may enter the world.
In his essay “Sacrifices,” Georges Bataille characterizes the nature of thought as follows: “…thought lives the annihilation that constitutes it as a vertiginous and infinite fall […] it is itself absorption in the nothingness that supports it and at the same time slips away” (Visions of Excess, 134, Stoekl translation). Thought itself rests on nothingness, is itself built of its initial, catastrophic fall from the divine. However, thought has not yet fully crossed over, the nothingness in constant flight before the mind’s incessant fall. “Death is the only salvation of the word,” “Sex augu, tólf stjörnur’s” translated lyrics continue. This crossing over is the pouring of the suffering of the fallen soul into nothingness, thus a full purification. It’s a kind of self-sacrifice, achieving intimacy with darkness, its final goal. The worms that await us guard the gateway into complete assumption.
Wormlust’s supramundane black metal provokes both the pain of hearing Lyngdal’s voice ripping apart at the seams and the energy of his progressive guitar lines. But the sudden twilight drops on the listener, soon suspended in a calming emptiness. In this shifting structure, the constant oscillations of mood ultimately nullifies the emotional content, emptying it like a vessel poured back into a well. It’s this dialectic that sets apart The Feral Wisdom from its traditional peers, breathing new life into increasingly static forms.