HMTLD’s The Worm offers unique sounds and narratives


In 2020, British art pop-rock outfit HMLTD released their acclaimed debut full-length record West of Eden, and they’ve returned in 2023 with sophomore LP The Worm. 

The group established themselves in the music scene in 2018 with their EP Hate Music Last Time Delete, an artistic dance pop piece full of club energy and in-your-face attitude.  

The Worm, released on April 7 of this year, manages to touch upon influences of progressive rock, chamber rock, jazz fusion, and pop-punk all within its nine tracks and 41-minute runtime.  

Lyrically, West of Eden provided general criticism and cynicism toward the western world, with hard-hitting tracks including “The West is Dead” and “Satan, Luella, and I.” 

It is hard to compare the two records considering The Worm’s shift in context and musicality—but the commentary is notably similar.  

The same perspectives are revisited but sheathed within a grand narrative of a medieval battle between a giant worm and England.  

Garnering praise both critically and audience-wise following their debut, hype surrounding HMLTD rose higher and higher despite receiving criticism for supposedly appropriating queer aesthetics through their flamboyant fashion and performances. 

Frontman Henry Spychalski addressed in a New Musical Express (NME) interview that their stylistic decisions exist as a form of alternative masculinity that challenges the ideas of how straight white cis men should appear and act.   

Controversies aside, I was personally excited to see what the band had in store for their next project, as West of Eden was one of my top listens of 2021. 

Admittedly, the first single for the album released on Jan. 31, “Wyrmlands,” had me entirely lost from their vision. I was unsure about the departed, syncopated jazz style as well as Spychalski’s radio-muted vocals. 

What pulled me back in was their second single, “The End is Now” released on March 7. 

The track returns to the familiar sound of their debut—experimental, electric and energetic paired with an intriguing story of betrayal and doom.  

The last single, “The Worm” absolutely surprised me—as the project’s concept seemed to hit me all at once, especially in context of “Wyrmlands.”  

The grand instrumentation paired with choral embellishments makes for an experience that honestly sold the vision of “The Worm” to me.  

The track hits like an opener to a musical, which is interesting considering it is the seventh song featured on the record. Thematically, the song works perfectly alongside HMLTD’s dramatic allusion of the western world. 

“Worm’s Dream,” the first track on the record, sets up for a theatrical tone with a choral ensemble epically building up to fade into “Wyrmlands.”  

Following is “The End Is Now,” then “Days,” a softer ballad featuring gorgeous horns and a duet featuring Spychowski and Abigail Morris.   

“Saddest Worm Ever” follows, featuring fun grooves and guitar work. The hook’s repetitiveness and breakdown are particularly structured. The chanting Power gets you high / power gets you high and the nonstop energy throughout is infectious.  

Next, “Liverpool Street” is a gorgeous, encapsulating track that showcases Spychowski and Morris’ vocal prowess—especially as a pair. Morris’ angelic, operatic singing paired with strings generates a beautiful, haunting sound. Sections of this track feel as though it originates from a video game or movie soundtrack. 

The title track follows “Liverpool Street,” with “Past Life (Sinnerman’s Song)” next. Expertly sampling Nina Simone’s iconic jazzy piano riff, “Past Life” reeks of intensity and features a message of unity.  

The final track, “Lay Me Down,” is a pop-leaning ballad that feels out of place on this record, especially as a closing track.  

Although a great performance, I just wasn’t really expecting the track to go in this stylistic direction, especially after all they had established prior to it on the record and West of Eden 

Overall, The Worm is worth a listen, even if you aren’t entirely sure of the concept based on my review. Much like any of HMLTD’s work, it truly an experience that one has to jump into and get familiar with.  

HMLTD’s music is available to stream on Apple Music, YouTube, and Spotify.