Ringworm – Seeing Through Fire

Cleveland metallic hardcore veterans, Ringworm, have had a distinguished career to date. They released four albums on Victory Records between 2001 and 2011 and then inked a deal with Relapse to produce three more in the period 2014-2019. Aside from an eight-year gap between their 1993 debut and their 2001 sophomore effort, Ringworm’s output remains consistent when you factor in the ten split records in their discography. It should come as no surprise that Nuclear Blast offered them a contract for album number nine. Ringworm are a thrash band at heart, but their rage emanates from the hardcore scene, and the ferocity of their music draws from both in equal measures.

You know what to expect with a violent hardcore record – energised d-beats, worn-down plectrums, purple-faced vocals with foaming mouth effects, chugging basslines. All have their place on Seeing Through Fire, yet the first three songs might persuade you that Ringworm’s agenda is an extreme metal one. The opening title track plays with the tension as if warming up for ‘Caught in a Mosh’ by Anthrax. You can hear the drums stirring towards a gallop, yet they do the opposite and find a circular motion on the rack toms as a mystical prog metal phrasing of finger-tapping psychedelia aims to confuse you. There’s a reason why frontman, James Bulloch, answers to the name of “Human Furnace”. Listen how the drums switch to blast beats every time he extends an almighty roar in the style of John Tardy (Obituary). These sharp bursts are irregular and unpredictable and terrifying. The ugly crossover/thrash of ‘Carved in Stone’ is just as intense. Bass fuzz conspires with high-treble guitar riffing to produce something akin to Suicidal Tendencies on amphetamines.

Ringworm’s home city of Cleveland is famous for its punk and hardcore scenes, but the group plant their tent in the thrash metal camp for the excellent ‘No Solace, No Quarter, No Mercy’. The guitars flirt with flamboyance, yet they pulsate like Cro-Mags covering Slayer. Imagine what this would be like on a live stage. It’s enough to give you muscle cramp. ‘Death Hoax’ is exactly what you need for your thrill-seeking adrenaline fix on a day of endless banalities.

Ringworm show no signs of slowing down at the mid-way point of Seeing Through Fire. ‘Thought Crimes’ makes you believe that a dramatic crossover assault is the default setting of this album – it isn’t. Back-to-back songs with fast open string strumming and a mid-career Napalm Death evisceration leave you stroking your chin. ‘Unavoidable Truth’ and ‘House of Flies’ are more memorable for their tempo than their dopamine effect on the senses. The songs start to blur at this stage. Likewise, placing a hardcore punk number at track ten (‘Power and Blood’) is risky. They only save it by inserting a monstrous metallic frenzy into the last part with the same zeal as the latest Enforced album. Your mind wants to rationalise it and let it settle at a consistent pace, but the emotions are high on this record – high enough to leave smoke stains on your ceiling. Bulloch’s hysterical rage sounds like a man with a caterpillar trapped in his brain.

Art of this nature can never fail to engage with those that like heavy and aggressive guitar music. Metallic hardcore is on your side. It’s the drug boost you need; it can also be your shield. Ringworm are still clear about their purpose after thirty years. They want to bust skulls and motivate minds to refocus their brains.



Release Date: 18/08/2023

Record Label: Nuclear Blast

Standout tracks: Seeing Through Fire; No Solace, No Quarter, No Mercy; You Want it To

Suggested Further Listening: Reserving Dirtnaps – Another Disaster (2020), Napalm Death – Smear Campaign (2006), Rise Above – For Better or Worse (2023)