Review Summary: Wretched forcefully improve
Melodic death metal-influenced deathcore. Eh, not bad, not too shabby; a few things needed to be changed next time around, but all in all, you could say that Wretched’s 2009 debut full-length, The Exodus of Autonomy
, wasn’t too boring, pretty swell even. Breakdowns? Sure, there were a few too many, and some were not as well placed as they should have been, and further, alright, fine, maybe vocalist Billy Powers needed a little more bite
to him throughout the whole of the album in order to stay interesting and memorable. But it's fair to say that Wretched had a firm foundation to build on, you know. You could tell that the band were on a path that could have very easily lead them to an album like this year’s Beyond The Gate
And it seems that Wretched have arrived on this path to the present as a better, more interesting band. Beyond The Gate
isn’t another overly influenced–core-expresso shot akin to The Faceless
this time around; the band are obviously trying to do some new things for themselves, while keeping elements of their initial sound intact, too - if perhaps struggling while doing so. Well, for starters, how about an orchestrated string section, “On The Horizon”, to segue the album in half, one side mostly traditional melodic heaviness and the other featuring more instrumental-based material? Yes, that happens on Beyond The Gate
. A little jarring as you might have guessed, true, and it turns out that the album’s flow does happen to suffer on a number of occasions because of like sudden changes throughout its length. But hey, give it up to Wretched for switching it up, you know, taking the big step forward that many of their contemporaries have yet to take.
There’s even a very ambitious concept to Beyond The Gate
. Vocalist Powers explains it as a tale about an alchemist named Sylvester Alédoe who ends up trapped in the realm of Uraitahn, until he comes in contact with its guardians, with whom he must negotiate – that’s the gist of it. Right, it’s science fiction-y, and for a technical melodic death/deathcore album, it may be a little too
ambitious for its own good, and probably a little unnecessary, but it does at least give some purpose to the middle segueing set of instrumental pieces on the album: “On The Horizon”, “Part 1: Aberration”, and “Part 2: Beyond The Gate”.
The more traditional screamed vocals and technical riffing on the rest of Beyond The Gate
, though, play like a large step up from last year’s The Exodus of Autonomy
. Powers indeed has more bite to him this time, thankfully, staying more memorable and acting as a driving force of acceleration through guitarists Steven Funderburk and John Vail’s improved playing styles. Instrumentally Wretched have clearly moved forward: production-wise they sound even better; the number of breakdowns has been largely reduced; and the solos and melodic riffing are faithful to keep the music memorable most of the way through. While a distraction mentioned earlier, the middle concept pieces of the album really go a long way in keeping Wretched’s music from becoming monotonous and stale as well.
The changes Wretched have taken with Beyond The Gate
give evidence of a band that’s struggling a little to both appease their critics and their fans at the same time, while perhaps overstepping the emphasis placed on the contentedness of the critics. So their debut sounded a little too undistinguishable and monotonous, big deal; hey guys, it happens frequently in this subgenre, so you’re not alone. They took a step forward with a bloated concept and added some diversity to their follow-up, but the problem with this is that Wretched overstepped themselves a little and perhaps tried too hard to force some growth into their music. The actual technical melodic death metal playing sound of the band has greatly improved, however, all band members hitting the ground on all fours, reducing breakdown lag-time overall greatly, and adding a number of memorable sections for listeners to enjoy. Good and bad, Beyond The Gate
is an ambitious step up from a band that's moving in the right direction, but perhaps trying to reach their destination a little too quickly.