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I recently received an email from Earsplit PR that told me that Six Feet Under (bleh) would be headlining a tour with Cattle Decapitation (oh snap) and – I quote – “metal newcomers Wretched”. Now, at this point in time, the five-piece deathcore act from North Carolina (who began their career seven years ago) has released three albums, the latest of which has not only made it onto my personal top ten of 2012, but has actually claimed the prized first place. This left me with only a single question; who the fuck thought it was a good idea to call them “newcomers”? We might as well call Six Feet Under “ancient” for all the journalistic accuracy that statement’s worth.
Enough about all that nonsense, though; the record in question did indeed make it as album of the year. Yes, I know, there’s still another two and some odd months before the closing of the year, but fuck you. I’ll make them number one if I want to. Their latest record was the stunning Son of Perdition, an album that should have been hailed as one of the best deathcore releases ever. Now, let’s not kid ourselves – within the genre, the good albums are a slim pickin’. Son of Perdition, however, is on a whole ‘nother level. If you can hail any album as the top of its genre, deathcore’s crown is Son of Perdition, and the king who bears it is Wretched.
Forget any preconceptions you might have with regards to the album. I’m sure deathcore fans have shoved it down your throat that ‘not all deathcore is the same’, but they’re absolutely right. They might not list off the proper bands, but they’re right. Son of Perdition is not filled with breakdowns – there are very few on the entire album. The guitarwork isn’t made up of directionless chugs – the guitarists are technically proficient, and know how to craft catchy and complex melodies. The bass isn’t there just for the sake of being there – it’s there to give the album a dominating presence. The drumming is not a collection of uninspired ‘follow the guitar’ fills – they are some of the most spot-on I’ve heard all year, on par with the scores I gave Hour of Penance and Cattle Decapitation. In short, fuck your bias for or against typical deathcore, and fuck you too, because that’s not what we’re talking about. This album isn’t typical deathcore.
There are eleven tracks on this album. Four of them are instrumentals, one of which being the thematic a capella introductory, “Oblivion”. The vocals here set an apocalyptic mood – quite apropos considering the rest of the album – and the melodies heard here will be reflected in the second track, “Imminent Growth”. The absolutely gorgeous guitarwork really does the concepts justice, and the drums support each note with an oomph that just kicks your fuckin’ ass. The vocals are nowhere near merciful, cutting against your ears relentlessly in a somehow-pleasant fashion, not sparing a single breath to let you gather your bearings. Everything about this album is explosive, in all the right places, and in all the right ways. This is what Son of Perdition sounds like – it sounds like “Imminent Growth”. But wait, you haven’t heard the next track yet – and it’s not completely different, but it’s nowhere near the same thing. The melodies on this album really had my balls in a vice, because I had no idea how to respond at first – they catch you off-guard, and some of them are really lengthy, but every last bit of it sounds good.
I have to dedicate an entire paragraph to the vocals. I do this for every full-length review, but I felt it was necessary to point it out this time around, because the vocals are that intense. Most of them are highs and lows layered together in the studio, but they occasionally come out one at a time to keep things fresh and interesting. The real hallmark of Wretched’s vocals is the way they seem to dictate the song structure, but you can tell there’s more going on in the background. They mesh so fucking well with the rest of the album that, after a few listens, it becomes evident that the band is a driving force together – they’re all leading. They’re all sounding off, each role just as important as the next. The vocals won’t just tear you a new asshole, they’ll sound amazing while doing it – whether you’re hearing the piercing shrieks or the brutal lows. Whoever produced this record knew what they were doing, too, because it’s spot-the-fuck-on.
You know what else is spot-the-fuck-on? Everything about this album. Everything. Nothing is missing anything. But hyperbole doesn’t write my entire review, so let’s get on with this shit. The guitarwork is fantastic, as I said earlier, but not just because it oozes technicality or because the melodious riffs are through the fuckin’ roof. No, the guitarwork is amazing because it achieves the precise balance that it needs in order to distance itself from mindless wankery and claim the award for utmost proficiency. I say this to death, but there’s no need to be a virtuoso. If you’ve got the skills to play and the intelligence to structure, the world of music is yours for the taking – and boy, do Wretched fuckin’ take.
The drums, as I said before (again), are just as incredible as the guitars or the vocals. So far are they from typical that I can’t help but air drum every time I hear a song. And let me tell you, I do a good fuckin’ job of it. The drums here aren’t as fast as ones from Hour of Penance, or as brutal as ones from Cattle Decapitation, but they fit right in with the rest of the album. To do even that takes fuckin’ skill, but there are plenty of moments where the drums are the source of the melody, instead of the guitars or vocals. That’s some pretty sweet stuff right there. Of course, the drums wouldn’t have nearly the same effect without the bass (well shit, neither would the rest of the fucking album…), and the bass fuckin’ delivers. Way better than your mother, anyways. The bass carves its own path, hopping between backing support and frontal devastation, but regardless of what position it’s in… it sounds fuckin’ great.
Is it any surprise? It better not be, motherfuck. So now I have to take the time to thank you. Thank you, Andrew Grevey. Thank you, Marshall Wieczorek. Thank you, Adam Cody. Thank you, Steven Funderbuk (that’s an amazing last name). Thank you, John Vail. Thank you, Wretched, for delivering the first album in 2012 that left me with a need. Not the need to listen again – believe me, I listened. Forty, fifty, sixty times, I listened. No, Son of Perdition left me with the need to hear more. It’s the only album I’ve heard out of this year’s releases that could make me actually desire more than I got, in a positive way. This album has redefined my definition of musical perfection. In the past, I thought perfection was what you gave five out of five, ten out of ten. Nope. Perfection is what you give out to an album that makes you need to hear more, makes you need to look and listen beyond the running time of the record.
So you better read this shit, Wretched, and you better release your next album with the same amount of care and attention and brutality and emotion. You have a fucking job. You did it right. Do it again.