Every band has a story behind it, from how it formed, to the way the members gelled their respective talents together, to the meanings behind what they created in the first place. Sure, not every listener may care about what went into the bands they listen to, but those paths are as vital as the music itself.
For newly birthed traditional doom squadron Wretch, their formation was the result of tragedy and picking up the pieces that were left behind. You may know Karl Simon better from his days with gargantuan crunchers Gates of Slumber, a band as responsible as any modern-day act for bringing traditional roots back to the music. They had a strong run for about a decade and a half, releasing their final record “The Wretch” back in 2011. Since that time, tumult came home to roost, and the death of Simon’s longtime friend and partner in Gates of Slumber Jason McCash brought that group to its end. Surely it could have been easy for Simon to chalk up all of his past accomplishments and move onto other things in his life, but his heart lies where it does. Thus his musical rebirth as the vocalist/guitarist for Wretch, a band that does GoS’s legacy, and metal in general, a lot of good.
Any Gates of Slumber fan likely will fall right into place with what’s offered on the band’s seven-track, self-titled debut album. The only notable difference is there is less emphasis on fantasy elements and more delving into the horrors of the real world. The snarling doom of decades past remains, bolstered by Simon’s bellowing voice and smothering guitar playing, and anyone with a thirst for Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Cirith Ungol, Trouble, and bands of that ilk will find plenty to love on this record. Along with Simon in this band are bassist Bryce Clark and drummer Chris Gordon (who played with Gates of Slumber in the past), and this power trio mauls your senses over and over again, but also treats you with swaggering, bluesy doom that, when in the right hands, can be the finest form of heavy metal there is. These guys do it just right, which is clear from the get go on this album.
“Running Out of Days” kicks off the record with charged-up guitars, meaty riffs, and the band wasting no time to get rolling. Simon’s singing, as good as any in the doom category, start delivering welts, while the soloing rips out, sounding a lot like a 1980s “Headbangers Ball” staple. “Rest in Peace” has a smoky start, with Simon bellowing, “Set me free!” The verses are strong and contain plenty of sustenance, while the riffs deliver energy that sticks to your ribs, and the rhythm section makes your inner core rumble heavily. On the back end, a psychedelic haze rises up in which the song gets swallowed, and then it’s into instrumental cut “Bloodfinger,” which has a different vibe altogether. The track simmers at a middle pace, with this sounding like something mined from the middle of the 1990s, when the world was begging for something like this. The song ends in a fuzzy cloud, and then it bleeds into a cover of Judas Priest’s “Winter” from their “Rocka Rolla” album, a nice surprise and a track Wretch naturally covers with bluesy aplomb and crawling might.
Wretch keep us in the deep freeze with their own “Icebound,” a song built on buzzing riffs and a tempo hell bent to barrel into you. The guitar playing is tripped out, making your head go numb, while the strong verses and pace changes keep your blood flowing and you continually engaged. Later on, the band hits a speedy shuffle, crushing and powdering bones, and the soloing cuts through the center of everything, with pure Sabbath charm. The final moments bring the pace down, drubbing you senseless as the track bleeds away. “Grey Cast Mourning” is an instrumental with a very fitting title as it sounds exactly how it’s named. Solemn guitars and psyche-rich melodies drape over the thing, ending in a rainy mood. Closer “Drown” is bluesy as fuck when it starts, with the singing sounding waterlogged, as if you’re submerged and hearing these lines with full ears. “Waves that pull me under, I’m going to drown,” Simon laments, as fiery, warm guitars create a beacon of light, and the driving pace disappears under the black waves forever.
It’s great that Simon remains standing, fighting the good fight despite what’s been dealt to him in the past. He is one of doom’s mightiest warriors, and he and his new mates are the flexing muscle of that style of metal over these seven songs. The gates may be closed on Simon’s old band, but this new, fiery Wretch sounds like it’s ready to take over that mission and blaze it right into the future as slowly and brutally as they possibly can.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Wretch-469537983166326/
To buy the album, go here: https://bad-omen.backstreetmerch.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.bad-omen-records.com/