Published November 18, 2014
‘To Them We Are Only Shadows’ is the latest album from veteran Icelandic musicians Worm Is Green, a band celebrating its fourteenth year of operation. The group uses electronics and samples along with vocals, drum pads, and bass to create a blend of austere textures, often with trip-hop influences. On ‘Shadows’, we hear a wide range of shifting moods, sometimes even abruptly within individual tracks. Nearly unaccompanied vocals might pause for a moment before choruses of synths enter; some glitchy beats might follow, only to conclude with a bass line and backup harmonies.
‘…Shadows’ also offers a surprising dryness; there are no lengthy echoes or delays to the synths or vocals. Singer Guðríður Ringsteð provides the vocals on the album, sometimes in unison with a male voice and other times breaking away into harmony. Along with the dryness comes darkness, both in brooding instrumentation and through lyrics. One gets the feeling that Worm Is Green seek to highlight humanity’s uncanny ability to conform to a gloomy status quo, as shown in declarative text like, “move along/form a single line/your soul is mine” and “stand your ground/don’t let them change you.”
If the variety of sparingly produced electronic music and slower tempos is refreshing, it does come with a price, as some sections lack momentum. Many songs are quite sing-able but can also seem a bit heavy on trip-hop nostalgia. Overall, the album presents itself like a live performance, and one wonders if Worm Is Green might give audiences denser textures or more dramatic tempos when performed on stage. “It is time/it is now or never/we need nothing short of forever”, as they sing “for the last show on Earth.” We’ll keep you posted if Bárðarbunga, Ebola, ISIS, etc. might make that final show a reality.