Ringworm represents the blue-collar, working-man metalhead in all of us: steadfast, bent out of shape, and 100 percent loathe to sugarcoat one goddamn fucking thing for you. Born from a hulking early-’90s hardcore scene, the Cleveland band quickly called it after just a handful of years on the circuit—a demo, split, and single full-length, The Promise, in tow—only to reanimate at the end of the decade and perform its due diligence to the genre by signing with Victory Records. Over the course of those Victory records, however, and since moving to Relapse with 2014’s Hammer Of The Witch, Ringworm has swapped its bandanas and hardcore bulk for long, scraggly hair and a delightful spit-on-the-cross metal mentality. And that’s not even making mention that on the new Snake Church the band’s sole remaining original member, frontman James “Human Furnace” Bulloch, sounds like he’s gargling more ounces of bile now than ever before.
These dudes certainly aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here—and they would probably tell you to piss off for suggesting they should be. Snake Church is in-your-face and blunt, as poignantly demonstrated by the not-so-subtle sound of stalking rattlesnakes that introduces you to the not-so-subtle opening title track. A soaring metalcore breakdown riff splits the record open prior to the pace picking up when the growl of the Human Furnace rips through (it would probably be a nickname to ignore if it weren’t so spot-on). The command of the vocals quickly provokes the image of an armor-clad madman snaring the rest of the members with a giant mace-and-chain and dragging them behind him at breakneck speed. Though the track, like some others, does at one chunk devolve into greasy-riff soup—really about as Warped Tour metalcore as the band gets—it’s pretty negligible when paired with double-kick rolls and Bulloch spewing “Rise, serpent on the cross!”
So Snake Church barrels forth. “Brotherhood Of The Midnight Sun” features Motörhead-style rhythms getting sliced up by power-metal solos, while the relentless “Destroy Or Create” carries with it the quick-burning glow of a circle pit. The longest track of the bunch, “Shades Of Blue,” offers a nice respite from the bludgeoning onslaught, its hardcore sludge and room to breathe giving Bulloch more time to muster gravelly yowls. The second half of the album smokes right by, no one track standing above another as they meld into a billowing mushroom cloud. Endlessly touring in the middle of five-band bills, Ringworm epitomizes what it is to be a road dog: Keep your head down and keep the stage ablaze so that you’re lucky enough to do it all over again next month.