Rotting Forms is the first full length offering from Pacific Northwest industrial/metal unit At the Heart of the World, released in January 2018 via Glory Kid Ltd. The group is composed of guitarist/programmer Danny Porter and vocalist Joshua Greene, who come together to assault the listener with walls of distortion, mechanized beats, and sneers of static and rage on every track.
ATHOTW favors a stripped down approach to songwriting, with each piece on Rotting Forms being comprised of minimalistic riffs and beats designed to plod and pound. Greene’s vocals cover the machinery of the songs with an oxidizing coat of disgust. Much of the material on the record brings forth a nostalgia for the band’s forbears, particularly material from Godflesh, Ministry, and Pitchshifter. However, Rotting Forms grows beyond just a parroting of influences as it progresses, and shows itself to be more of a bridge between two eras of industrial metal, linking their predecessors with well known contemporaries such as Youth Code.
Part of how this occurs is through the use of subtle dynamic shifts over the course of the record and the incorporation of synth melodies that bring in the feel of gloomy synthwave and the gritty sub bass of power electronics. This is most apparent on tracks like Golden Cross, in which the verse sections feature sparse, surging bass synth and drums tinged black with Greene’s spiteful vocals. Similarly, on songs like Embrace the Cripple and If I Have Loved You I Have Failed You, flirtations with melody in the midst of dark waves of mechanized punishment lend a sense of depth and emotion to the music beyond just what is presented at the surface level. On the latter track, Greene’s vocals are often repeated lines, and there is an extended section of pained, wordless screaming that somehow manages to not feel staged or cringe-inducing. This sense of genuine emoting is frequently something that seems to be missing from material that falls within the confines of the Industrial genre.
As for the more “metal” aspects of ATHOTW, there are plenty of RIFFS on this record that bring both the sludge and the grime that rounds out the assembly line sounds of the electronic elements. Danny Porter’s guitar playing brings a heavy dose of distortion along with some biting atonal flourishes that are infrequent enough to be memorable and poignant. Additionally, while the percussive elements seem purposely designed to sound like programmed distorted drums, they have a sonic depth and presence that seems difficult to achieve with that sound. Where many an Industrial record has thin-sounding drums that can feel like a secondary consideration, the percussive sounds of Rotting Forms were clearly seen as a primary part of the aesthetic.
Bottom Line: ATHOTW has produced a tight and at times, surprisingly multi-faceted little chunk of industrial/metal that doesn’t totally break new ground but definitely does more than just scratch the surface. If you dig on that aggressive 90’s industrial sound pioneered by Godflesh and Ministry, this is up your alley, only with an updated vibe and careful, big sounding production. Clocking in at just a little over 20 minutes, its well worth the time investment.
Release Date: January 26, 2018
Label: Glory Kid LTD
Favorite Tracks: Golden Cross, If I Have Loved You I Have Failed You
For Fans Of: Youth Code, Godflesh, Ministry