Review Summary: An intense and technical assault on the senses that will leave you blinded by its non-stop approach to speedy death metal
Cannibal Corpse are a name synonymous with the words death metal for the simple fact that they are one of the longest running currently active bands within the scene and that they have consistently pumped out great albums of nothing but pure, unadulterated death metal. Never in a Cannibal Corpse song will you find hook-ridden clean choruses or acoustic passages to make for an impression of beauty, nor will you find condensed lyrics that speak of feelings of anything other than the darkest and most morbid desires that may catch a human being off guard. Over the years it has genuinely been agreed that after peaking on The Bleeding the band has maintained a high standard and gotten considerably more technical whilst retaining the brutal aspect that made their early works so influential.
The Wretched Spawn is an impressive ninth installment in their bloody rampage of gore-soaked albums fourteen years since the release of Eaten Back To Life in 1990. Across this album is nothing but bloodshed and violence in both musical and lyrical form featuring the dual guitar attack that has become prominent in death metal circles in its most potent and deadly form with some highly technical riff work. Whilst some of the less technical efforts may seem relatively simplistic and uncomplicated, frenzies of schizophrenic guitar playing such as Frantic Disembowelment come across as even being impossible to nail on air guitar. The band utilizes various different playing techniques throughout the relatively short song lengths they use such as quick scaling solos in many songs, the sweep picked riff in Frantic Disembowelment and the quick shifts between chord based groove riffing and tremolo picking insanity as found in the title track. This is an album in which the guitar work is nearly unparalleled on both a technical side and in terms of how interesting it is and one gets the impression that the band were pushing themselves to outdo anything they had previously done. Whilst when stacked up against the trill-infested madness that The Bleeding was this pales in comparison, The Wretched Spawn is a prime example of perfectly executed technical death metal.
If you thought that Cannibal Corpse was a one-trick pony that merely knows how to string some fantastic riffs together and call it a song then guess again as the band are all possess some degree of talent. The bass work is one of the things that the band has become best known for over the years, with memories of the bass fills in songs such as Hammer Smashed Face being more than enough to provide a content smile to most death metal fans. On The Wretched Spawn it is a little less audible but that does not mean that it is completely buried in the mix, and the bass lines themselves are fantastic and usually deviate away from the guitars a little. It is always nice to hear a bassist that has gone that extra mile to create some bass riffs that are both incredible to listen and also hyper-technical at the same time. The thundering work found on the title track and the magnificent bass work to Cyanide Assassin are some of the highlights for Alex Webster on The Wretched Spawn and prove once again why he is one of the most reliable and highly revered artists in the genre. The drumming is fast and intense with a more varied performance than usual as songs such as Decency Defied show with their slower, more groove-ridden beats. Paul does use blast beats a lot as is the standard for many death metal bands and they really are used to great effect as the second half of the title track and the opener Severed Head Stoning show brilliantly. Often an unsung hero in the death metal world, Paul anchors this album down with a solid rhythm whilst the rest of the band are performing finger amputations with their instruments.
The vocal performance on The Wretched Spawn ranks up their among George's finest to date from the lyrics spewed forth as fast as possible on Severed Head Stoning through the guttural tones achieved on slower-than-usual song Festering In The Crypt right to the thrilling closer. His growls are absolutely demonic and whilst not being as low as on prior albums like Gallery Of Suicide or Vile and certainly not nearing the indecipherable grunts of his predecessor Chris Barnes, George definitely keeps an intense sound to the album. He is the perfect voice for the gore-soaked lyrics that were written for this album and it is impossible to mention a later Cannibal Corpse album without singling out his performance on them. His high screams are also absolutely inhuman as is evidenced by the final word in the line "it was made to kill" from the title track, upon which he unleashes a monster shriek that few could hope to emulate. Whatever oxygen pump George had pressed up his backside whilst recording this deserves to be mounted in a museum as he really does put on the show of a life time for The Wretched Spawn. The lyrical content is a massive step down from earlier albums with songs about killing people just because they have tattoos standing out as being a little questionable, but some of the lyrics such as those on Festering In The Crypt are a little more thought provoking than usual. That particular song is merely about the feelings as one is alone and dying in a crypt and really work well with the dark atmosphere provided by the haunting and slow, chugging instrumental work to it.
For those looking for a slab of nothing but brutal death metal that never lets up in intensity, The Wretched Spawn may well be the perfect album. It has just enough melody to it to be listenable time and time again without growing boring whatsoever. Highlights include the extremely catchy riff-set to the title track, which later morphs from a slower-paced number into an all-out assault on the ears, and Festering In The Crypt for its morbid atmosphere. The other songs are all of a high standard aside from one or two that stick out as being a little too generic and samey. From the minute the album kicks off with the sub-two minutes opener Severed Head Stoning, this is an intense roller coaster of a thrill-ride that adopts a never say die attitude to death metal and thunders by in a technical blitz that leaves you starved for breath.