I don’t relish when the artists I like find their muse and magic in pain. Quite simply, I don’t like to see people hurting. Yeah, metal is kind of fertile ground for such thing, as are most genres of rock, and just because the music of tortured souls appeals to me doesn’t mean I find gratification in their woes. I just find pleasure in their art and ability to express such blackness.
There’s no certainty that the members of Wreck and Reference have suffered personally, psychologically, or physically while making their new opus “No Youth,” but holy shit if it doesn’t sound like they did. Much like their excellent debut “Black Cassette,” the 10 songs that appear on this new album are raw in a human perspective, emotional in a sense that mimics thick, dry thorns being dragged across your heart, and naked like one’s name day. You can’t hide from what’s going on, and it’s really difficult to just listen to these songs for music’s sake. The gushing veins are flowing too hard and forcefully that you can’t help but get lost in this. And it hurts.
This dual-headed electronic doom beast has put out this album themselves as a pay-what-you-want release on their Bandcamp. It’s pretty easy to hear from just a few minutes of this that their musical worldview has expanded somewhat. The sound is richer and fuller (they recorded at the Howling Wasteland, and it was mixed and mastered with Colin Marston at the Thousand Caves), and while they still relish noise — a ton of noise — there’s even more melody than what they unfurled on “Black Cassette.” As for the vocal emissions, they’re honest and direct. Often, the diatribes sound like a wounded man’s poetry he writes to himself because he understands no other voice than his own. Sometimes, such as on “The Solstitial,” it sounds threatening and menacing. After the admission, “I hope you die before springtime,” we get the next step: “You were skipping stones, toes in the water, when I opened you.” It’s like a real-life horror movie. It’s the work of someone that, if you heard a person talking this way in public, you’d alert the authorities. It’s that real and affecting. Know that going on, because a weak-hearted listener might have a hard time dealing.
As noted, the music is much more wide-open this time. It’s not like they added a hundred instruments to the thing or an orchestra or a fucking choir. It just sounds more in your face, more opened up, and a lot of that likely has to do with the production end of things. But it works, and while “Black Cassette” is great for its muted fury, Wreck and Reference lose not one ounce of their danger by the music sounding better. It’s a glimpse into what this band can accomplish, and it’s an exciting look ahead to what the band’s future may hold. Truly, they are one of the most interesting bands in all of music.
The elements of doom and even black metal still remain in the mix, but the band has moved a little closer toward post-punk fire. Yes, comparisons can be made to Bauhaus and Joy Division, but a metal fan isn’t going to feel lost in the dark forest, unless, of course, that person has a closed mind locked to anything other than riffage and brutality. “Spectrum” opens the collection with buzzing noise, quiet strums, and raw singing, eventually dissolving into hisses and siren-like madness; “Nausea” has some calm, borderline prog-rock vocals, sort of like gentle Alan Parsons Project (there’s a band you wouldn’t expect to see referenced), and the music is dreamy and Goth-like. “Inverted Soul” is built on robotic beats and alien vocals; “Cannot” reveals more sprawling poetry and eventually erupts with manic screams and shouts, eventually choking out a panicked, “I cannot breathe!” “I Am a Sieve” contains our album title in its lyrics and floats on fluttery melodies; “Winter” has some stronger, poppier vocals, but of course it’s layered over total weirdness. Closer “Edifice of Silt” is zapped with lasery sound effects and machine-like chaos, with a storyline that would chill the hardest-hearted heathens.
Wreck and Reference might not be pure metal, or even close to it for that matter, but their work is as bloody and scar-filled as any black metal warrior’s heaviest transmissions. This music is can’t-look-away mangled and miserable, yet there’s a beauty and vulnerability to it all. So far the limited amount of material this band has put out has captivated me in a way few bands do these days. Wreck and Reference are real human beings who aren’t afraid to unleash their worst nightmares upon you. I don’t exalt in their misery, but I do appreciate and bathe in their red, penetrating lights that burn their way through my soul.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/wreckandreference
To get “No Youth,” go here: http://wreckandreference.bandcamp.com/album/no-youth
To get “Black Cassette,” go here: http://theflenser.bandcamp.com/album/black-cassette-remastered