So I’m a way late getting this review out. However, ever since 2005’s Justice Replaced By Revenge, Cleveland’s Ringworm has been catapulted into the upper tier of my favorite hardcore bands. Sure Birth Is Pain is a great record but Justice was a flawless delivery of that “too hardcore for metal, too metal for hardcore” sound that tugs at my heartstrings and they’ve continued to raise the bar with every outing since. Hell, even when it was rumored they were going to be half-assing it for a record just to get out of the Victory Records contract, they still crushed most other releases the year that Scars came out. Fast forward a few years and the heathens from Ohio are back with their second release on Relapse Records, Snake Church and I, for one, have been ready for the gospel.

One thing that has always attracted me to Ringworm was their sense of rawness. I’m not saying that they sounded shitty, in which raw is typically the nice way of putting it, but that their sound was pure. The riffs and lyrics come from within as if etched into their DNA. There isn’t a specific agenda that needs to be met when writing. In 2014’s Hammer Of The Witch, they were able to capture that energy, in what I’d describe in a flawless recording. That record, specifically, had some serious oomph to it. The punch from the low end and the bite from guitars made my car stereo sound like it was worth a hell of a lot more than I paid for it. However, with the enhanced sound, it did kind of take away from some of the charm of Ringworm. Ringworm isn’t meant to sound clean. They are a band that talks about the inhabitants of the gutter and their recordings should reflect that. With the band’s newest record, Snake Church, they have seemingly found the balance. It’s not as unrefined, as say Birth Is Pain, but it’s also not as pristine as Hammer. This is how Ringworm should really sound. The cut off tuxedo shirt of metal; It says they have some class but also here to shred.

Musically it reminds me a lot of Scars, or well I guess what Scars should have sounded like. I’m not 100% sure, and I’m not even sure if the band would/could legally comment, but the rumor was they half-assed that record to get themselves out of their Victory contract. While it was a step down from albums like Venomous Grand Design and Justice Replaced By Revenge, I still love the shit out of that record. I’m actually bummed they don’t play songs like Used Up, Spit out and Unravel live. Those songs are legit fucking rippers. The experimentation with some melody was a nice addition but overall, I feel like that record lacked that signature Ringworm snarl. With Snake Church, they have brought back a lot of the theme from Scars but the fury returned as well and songs like title track and The Razor And The Knife are some of the best, most vicious songs they’ve ever wrote. Not to mention, James “Human Furnace” Bulloch has never sounded more like the devil than on this record. Wherever he channels this rage from, I don’t want to go there.

Once again Ringworm has released an Album Of The Year contender. Their unapologetic and seamless blend of thrash metal, punk, and hardcore is a beautiful, yet horrifying concoction that is, unfortunately, becoming a dying breed in the metalcore world. It’s a shame because in the sea of downtuned, chug heavy mosh sound that is reemerging from years of dormancy, bands like Ringworm are a breath of fresh air. If you want a well-written, non-conforming to recent trends record, then look no further than Snake Church. Relish the sacrament and praise the sermon.