Sensory Overload: Guinea Worms channels its angst into explosive Ace of Cups set

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From the October 31, 2013 edition

The biography on Guinea Worms Facebook site begins like the first line of a post-apocalyptic novel.

“For millions of years the Earth was fertile and rich,” the band writes. “Then pollution and waste began to take their toll.”

This is precisely where the local quartet stepped in during its performance at Ace of Cups on a recent Wednesday evening. The band arrived armed with an array of herky-jerky, slashing post-punk riffs that hinted at the aftermath of some great disaster, and singer/guitarist Will Foster frequently sounded as though he were delivering his words from the bottom of a dried-out well, his voice thin and hollow amid the metallic clatter. Because of this, it was often impossible to tell what the frontman was singing about, though the few phrases that did escape the din (“Waste of time and space…the human race!” he taunted like a schoolyard bully on “Man Will He”) suggested he doesn’t have much faith in humankind as a whole.

For just a tick over 30 minutes, the Worms channeled this angst into its music. “Maggot Therapy” sounded as unapologetically queasy as its name, building around repetitive guitar riffs that weaved together dizzily. “The Credit Card Slide” was all tension and no release, climaxing in a ferocious display that left one guitarist with a broken string and Foster shrieking as though he were witnessing some great horror unfolding directly in front of him. The band followed this explosion with a new tune (“New [guitar] string, new song,” Foster said) that was both slower and more ominous than its predecessor, creeping forward on an unsteady riff that lurched onward like a pub-goer heading home long after last call.

Between songs, Foster channeled a persona best described as a co-op customer from a would-be “Portlandia” sketch, ranting about “two-for-one Kombucha” and “blueberry goat’s milk Keifer.”

When the music started, however, the jokes quickly melted away. There was nothing to chuckle about as the band locked into a death march on the snarling “Doomsday Propers” and pitched and rolled its way through the muscular “Sober Jerk,” which sounded somehow punch-drunk in spite of its teetotaler of a title.

Photo by Andy Downing