(DemiGodRaven is in review mode, with his second assessment in as many days. Today’s subject is the latest release by North Carolina’s Wretched.)
There’s something to be said for the old grind of, “Third time’s a charm,” when it comes to Wretched.
They’re a band that have been consistently good, but for some reason just never quite clicked with me. Exodus Of Autonomy was an excellent disc that stood in the bridge between metalcore and melodeath, leaning heavily as hell on the melodeath side, and the follow-up, Beyond The Gate, took the group even further into territory that probably made them unrecognizable to the breakdown crowd. Personally, I thought Beyond The Gate retained a lot of Wretched signature style, including their tendency to write some very interesting instrumentals in order to break up the flow of the album.
Two years removed from that album, we find ourselves again with Wretched knocking at our door, this time with a disc that honestly surprised the hell out of me, and finally, finally, got me to say more than, “Yeah, Wretched are a pretty good band.” Son Of Perdition is a huge album with as many swings and frantic movements as Wretched could pack into their run time. It’s dynamic as all hell and morphs the band into a much darker beast than they were beforehand.
Choral openers seem to be the go-to announcement-that-your-new-album-is-going-to-be-epic-as-all-hell intro track these days, and Wretched make good use of it. Afterward, the band pour into an absolute monster of a song with “Imminent Growth”, which is probably the most violently teeth-gnashing release they’ve done so far. New vocalist Adam Cody makes an amazing first impression with a vocal style verging on the edge of sheer panic before dropping into some death metal styled lows.
Of course, at first I wasn’t even aware that the band had switched vocalists away from mid- to high-screamer Billy Powers. I just thought that he had developed some serious skill in between releases, but nay, my optimism was to be replaced with mild bemusement that the band had just switched to another thin, bearded frontman.
Some of you may recognize Adam Cody from Glass Casket, Vehemence, and numerous other groups, but he sounds as good here as he ever has. He gels incredibly well with the newer, more tech-death style that Wretched have slowly eased themselves into on Son Of Perdition. He turns in an inspired performance and, surprisingly enough, “Imminent Growth” isn’t even the highlight of this album.
For that, I would recommend the following song, the mournful sounding groove of “At The First Sign Of Rust”. It’s a percussive song, moving as fast as the drums allow them to move, so that each guitar part slams down as the drums do, and it is here that the band sounds their most angry — the highlight being the second pass they make at the line, “Is the sun too much to ask for?/Watch me, I’ll grab it, and smash it, to fragments”.
Wretched have been one of those groups that are able to absorb new elements as easily as The Blob and constantly morph themselves in order to hang with their contemporaries. As the current metalcore/deathcore scene has begun to veer more into the death metal side of things, a group like Wretched found themselves adding a ton of tech-death elements to their already manic, almost European, melodeath style.
This means that whole songs are propelled forward by blasts, and about eight of the eleven songs on the album move at a breakneck pace. But the guitar duo of Steven Funderburk and John Vail don’t move into faceless buzzsaw guitar territory. Instead, they focus on some deep drills as well as some technically proficient stuttering guitar mechanics.
Yes, this means you get a bit of guitar playing familiar to fans of groups like Born of Osiris and Veil Of Maya’s latest, but where Wretched have always carved out their own path is in their ability to switch at a blink of an eye from something consisting of vicious beatings to start/stop mechanics to something with an incredible lead. Not only that, but they’ve been able to do it at an incredibly fast pace, making Son of Perdition something of a dynamic wonder of a listen.
Not everything on Son Of Perdition is perfect, as improved as it is. A couple of songs do tend to meander too much into faceless riff and groove territory. Whilst “Dilated Disappointment” has a music video and a short run time, it’s honestly a bit on the weaker side. It’s like Wretched sat down and went, “Hey, here’s two motherfucking minutes of manic vocals and blasts before we go into a three-minute song of manic vocals and blasts”. It almost doesn’t feel like its own song. Instead, it feels like a primer for the followup, “Repeat? The End Is Near”. Another one that has this effect is album closer “Decimation”, which is part of the group of songs that helps close out Perdition.
Speaking of instrumentals, the group have again decided to do a group of three, this time under the “Stellar Sunset Of Evolution” banner. They’re interesting and feel like a continuation of the collection that they did on Beyond The Gate. Some decidedly Eastern Asian influences have begun to work their way into the songs as extra layers. They’re interesting as hell, and Wretched are definitely better than a lot of bands who do instrumentals and sound as if someone just left out the vocal track. Elements of flamenco-style guitar playing meld into the song, as well as some of the odd time signatures that bands seem to be fond of these days.
On Son of Perdition, the instrumental tracks are just places for the band to play around with stuff that they wouldn’t dare put into other songs, feeling like a bit of welcome levity from the frantic madness that the songs before and after them embody. They fit well with the theme of Son Of Perdition, and whilst nothing in the songs really hints at the philosophy behind titles such as “The Stellar Sunset Of Evolution Part 1: The Silence”, I am sure that the story behind them is fascinating.
With Son of Perdition, it finally feels like this is Wretched’s time to shine. It is an impressive album from beginning to end and features improved musicianship on all fronts. The band have expertly morphed themselves into a hybrid of all good things going around the metal scene these days, and it does truly seem that there is something for everyone laying on this disc.
I am a huge fan of the frantic vocal stylings of Mr. Cody and I hope he sticks with this band for a long time, because on Son Of Perdition Wretched have evolved into something that they had always hinted at becoming, while previously just scraping up against the glass ceiling. The band have packed a real monster into the album’s forty-minute run time and are smarter than to try and overstay their welcome. They just show up like phantoms in the night and hit you with some expertly played metal before taking off. While there are a couple of down moments, they don’t weaken the CD one bit. They just make other songs seem longer and larger, and it feels like they have a greater purpose for being there.
Son Of Perdition is easily the best release that Wretched have kicked out to date. If there were an award for the Best Surprise of 2012, at the moment it would probably go to these guys. If you haven’t listened to them before or brushed them off due to label affiliation, I suspect you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I was.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Son of Perdition is out now on Victory Records and available for order here. Wretched’s Facebook page can be accessed through this link. And here’s the band’s official video for “Dilated Disappointment”: