The beauty of Ringworm is the distinction between “metallic hardcore” and “crossover thrash” simply lies in whichever direction they decide to throw their weight in, depending on what album you happen to be listening to. Ringworm has straddled that line since the early 90s, and their latest release, Seeing Through Red, is a love letter to their more metal influences. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes over 11 songs, the band doesn’t waste time exploring new territory or trying to break new ground. If you’re only going to do one thing, you better do it well. Enter Seeing Through Fire, delivering only what you want, and nothing you don’t.
The arrangements are short and tight, with blistering riffs and James “Human Furnace” Bulloch’s vicious bark that’s only gotten darker and more extreme over time. Longtime guitarist Matt Sorg really shines, keeping the sound ferocious after two decades. The songs are focused, the guitar solos don’t compromise the aggression, and the constant feel changes in the drumming really keep things interesting. Not content to let one groove dominate a song, the drums will move from blistering double-bass passages to typical hardcore beats to blackened blasts and back.
Highlights include the single “No Solace, No Quarter, No Mercy.” which also serves as a great introduction to the band for anyone unsure if modern Ringworm is for them. The real gems on this record are “Carved in Stone” and the penultimate track, “Power and Blood.” This album is undeniably raw and only has one speed: absolutely pummeling.
If there’s one downside to the album, it’s that there’s not a ton of variation here. While some tracks hit just a little harder than others, if you can’t get into one song on this album, then the whole album really isn’t for you. It’s not fair to generalize the band as a one-trick pony, as they’ve most certainly evolved throughout their career, but each album occupies its own space, as opposed to each song. The only real sonic outlier on the album is the closing track, “Playing God,” a pseudo-instrumental with buried spoken word vocals, a clean intro, and big harmonized guitars. While it’s an incredible way to end the album, a full-length offering exploring this sound would likely alienate long-time listeners, despite how interesting (and good!) it would probably be.
Noah Buchanan’s production marks this as probably the slickest Ringworm album ever released, and he brings the heavy. The goal was simple – fast, relentless, and aggressive. Seeing Through Fire is yet another monument to the Ringworm legacy. Go forth and mosh.