Black metal is a strange world in which there are not supposed to be rules and chaos is expected to reign, yet there so many damn regulations used to judge artists that one must wonder just how loose those chains really are. It doesn’t make acceptance very easy to achieve in some ends, but perhaps it shouldn’t matter.
There have been forces in black metal that have pushed back against antifascist messages, deeming black metal too dangerous for such ideals, which is the most ridiculous fucking thing ever. Working their way into the terrain is new project Wretched Empires that combines Tom B. of Allfather on vocals and former members of Redbait Will J. (guitars) and Cody A. (drums) in a force that is as heavy and menacing as any band plying their trade in this world. Mixing in elements of hardcore, punk, and folk, they present four tracks on their debut EP “Bloom” that has them examining their own place in black metal and what their own heritage means in that world. The music is punishing and satisfying as they work to bludgeon with their sound, and B.’s voice even takes on additional levels of menace, which is saying something based on his fiery past performances.
“Ghosts” opens the record by pounding away with melodic guitar lines and gruff vocals from B., punching through with a punk-flavored edge. Strong leads utterly soar before everything calms into acoustics that add serenity amid barked wails that leave welts. The track erupts again as B ends wailing, “We are the ghosts, the ghosts of broken earth.” The title track delivers fierce stomps and hard charging as the ferocious growls lay waste as B. hammers, “We thought these lands fertile and free, such entitlement, hateful tendrils should’ve been clear.” The pace is both volcanic but also super catchy as it levies its attack, while a warm solo that reminds of classic metal liquifies the center. The track then starts its assault again as the growls corrode, and everything comes to a fiery end. “Home?” is a quick instrumental track built by acoustics and moody slide guitar, feeling sunburnt and setting the stage for closer “Shadows” that floods the grounds and delivers tremendous guitar work. The playing stampedes as the vocals settle in and add to the storming, while soloing bubbles over, again feeling like traditional metal. Acoustics and slide guitar return and add an Americana vibe while gigantic melodies surge, and wild cries add to a gigantic end.
Wretched Empires are carving their own way through black metal’s often disease-infested lands, and this debut EP proves they back down from no one, and they’re not afraid to place their own flag in the ground. “Bloom” is a powerful, earth-quaking first statement from a band that shows heaviness and true black metal spirit do not have to be rooted in hatred and can instead have an open mind and heart.
For more on the band or to buy the album, go here: https://wretchedempires.bandcamp.com/releases