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Wretch : Wretch

Wretch do everything they need to to honour their origins in The Gates Of Slumber, and add their own personal twist.

To say that Wretch's eponymous debut has a lot to live up to would be something of an understatement. Frontman and guitarist Karl Simon was the founding member of US Doom legends, The Gates of Slumber, a band that played no small part in the resurgence of the Doom genre in the 2000s. Tragically, bass player, and lifelong friend of Simon's, Jason McCash passed away in April 2014, leading to the end of the band after a career that produced 5 full length albums and a number of EPs. Now Wretch have risen from the embers of past glories to stake a claim for the future with a new band, a new album, and, lyrically, a new direction.

Fans of The Gates of Slumber will recall a heavy swords and sorcery theme in much of their work, certainly up until their final full length release, 'The Wretch'. Gone now are the references to the works of Robert E Howard or H.P. Lovecraft, in favour of themes just as dark and macabre, but rooted in firmly in the horrors of the real world. First track, 'Running out of Days', as the name suggests, deals with mortality, with the clear reference to McCash, "Sad song/sung again/The needle stole away my friend", a poignant reminder of the loss of a former friend and comrade. As sorrowful as the lyrical content is, musically 'Running out of Days' is a rollicking blast of Trad Doom with a relentless riff that gets the album off to a barnstorming start.

The death theme is further explored on 'Rest in Peace', another Trad Doom rocker with a crunching riff, but with an air of defiance, nihilism even, in the lyrics as Simon drawls "I'm on the road to nowhere/no one is my name/nothing matters to me/the ends are all the same" with obvious relish. A wild solo underpinned by a tight rhythm section adds to the swagger of this early album highlight. There is some light and shade on the album, though, and a little respite from the heavy subject matter is provided along the way with a couple of trippy instrumental numbers that add a bit of smoky, Stoner flavour amongst the Doom.

Addiction and drug use are both dealt with unflinchingly, particularly on the epic 'Icebound', which, at 8 minutes long, is the longest track on the album. With references to 'powder on the glass' and the confessional "My sleep is tortured/over wasted time/drunken haze/and blind drugged haze", it's deep, down-tempo Doom from a band that have seen life and death, and survived to tell the tale. And that, more than anything, is the sense that this excellent debut from a new band with an illustrious past creates; that against the odds, a new path has been found.

The songs of the strange and the wondrous may have gone, but with this debut, Wretch have tackled demons far scarier than anything Howard or Lovecraft created, and produced a balanced, thoughtful, often sad, but always compelling and rewarding release. With some outstanding songwriting, and a real cohesion between the three parts of this Doom trio, this is a debut to remember.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Running out of Days
2. Rest in Peace
3. Bloodfinger
4. Winter
5. Icebound
6. Grey Cast Mourning
7. Drown

Duration : Approx. 33 minutes

Visit the Wretch bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-04-30 by Nick Harkins
Aesthetic Death
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