After a band has existed for more than a decade without releasing a proper album, it’s usually a fairly safe bet that you’re never going to see one. That's why it’s not really an overstatement to say, even though Guinea Worms mastermind Will Foster has put together four 7-inch records and a steady stream of limited-run CDRs since the late ’90s, that the fact that Sorcererers of Madness (4rd Year in a Row!) exists is a cause for great rejoicing. Credit for this blessing goes out to three primary parties: Foster for coming up with all this stuff; the current Guinea Worms line-up for taking the songs and turning them into something that—when the band is on—makes for one of the best live rock experiences going right now; and the guys behind Columbus Discount Records for having the passion and wherewithal to make this double-album happen.
As one might expect, Sorcererers of Madness chronicles almost the entire history of the Guinea Worms. Its 22 songs date from 2001 all the way up to 2009 and feature a number of different band line-ups. While none of the tracks has previously appeared on vinyl, virtually all of them have appeared on those aforementioned CDRs, with some showing up on the album in drastically different versions. “Kick In The Door,” for example, was once a spastic, distorted rant, but switches gears here as a fantastic bluegrass jam. Another curveball comes via “Accidental Space Tourist,” a relatively new addition to the Guinea Worms canon that is as lackadaisically subtle on vinyl as it is forcefully dynamic live.
The heart of Sorcererers of Madness is comprised of the Guinea Worms bread and butter: punchy rock songs propelled by a solid rhythm section, pinpoint guitar riffs and Foster’s Midwestern Mark E. Smith vocals. Recent live staples like “B.I.S.I.” and “Maggot Therapy” are faithful renditions of the way that they’re played onstage, with dueling guitars striking with full force and the arrangements allowing for the songs to breathe and for Foster to engage in some of his trademark wordplay (e.g. “Do the right thing. Do the Frank Lloyd Wright thing”). Some songs (“Haymaker”) recall more traditional, aggressive punk, while others (“Lounge Waltz”) are pure Columbus gold—weird but catchy, precise yet haphazard.
Fans of “Box of Records,” the Guinea Worms record-nerd cult classic, will notice that there’s really nothing here that sounds exactly like that great song. But that'’s basically the point. A Guinea Worms song can come from and head toward any number of directions, and that’s the beauty of the whole thing. On this record, a gritty, funky song like “Drunk in Yr Uggs,” which takes only a half tongue-in-cheek look at those ubiquitous coed boots, fits perfectly nearby the swooping, noisy majesty of the epic “Oliver Reed,” and a tough-guy rocker like “Taking Lives” leads perfectly into “Apples in the Oatmeal” and “Zingers.” These are distinct Will Foster creations that take full advantage of his knack for making the absurd profound by combining looping keyboard and guitar riffs to lyrics that, like Dante’s Divine Comedy, can be interpreted on any number of levels.
Put simply, this nicely packaged double-LP is a fitting document to chronicle one of the great Columbus bands of the past decade. Those hip to Cowtown will recognize that that statement puts them in lofty company, but it’s something that can’t be denied after you’ve taken a listen to this record.