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Kyuss- Wretch Beginnings - 75%

enshrinedtemple, May 13th, 2016

Hellfire in their veins! Kyuss my ass if you do not like Wretch! The first recording from Kyuss is not a terrible thing to listen to. While the band would go on to make some of the most original sounds on later albums, it is no denying that Wretch is the starting point. It is far from a cohesive project, but it has many brilliant classic Kyuss moments that the fans may have skipped over. It is too bad that this album was not embraced by the band because it is not something to be ashamed of.

With Kyuss, there is such a quality in their discography that Wretch gets easily passed over for the likes of Blues for the Red Sun or Welcome to Sky Valley. Those albums alone are enough to cement their legacy as one of the originators of stoner rock and the heaviest band from the desert. Wretch should be celebrated a little more and it should be recognized as humble beginnings. It is a solid start rich with Black Sabbath worshiping heavy riffs and that instantly recognizable voice of John Garcia. It sounds like a young band getting their feet wet and jamming out. Wretch has a raw and primal sound to it which makes me believe that the album was recorded on a limited budget and in a short amount of time. In fact, many of the songs were taken from previously recorded demos. I really appreciate a young and hungry band jumping into a studio and ripping out some tracks in a week. I think it captures the live energy and shows the raw passion of the band. I understand that sound quality is a big issue with Wretch, but for me it is easy to look past when understanding how Kyuss started out and blossomed into the legends that they are today.

God Damn Son of a Bitch! The music is heavy, explosive and straightforward rocking! It is clearly evident that the band was honing in on their sound and the musicians were finding their ground. Songs like Deadly Kiss and Son of a bitch are ultra-heavy slabs of down tuned metal. Many of the songs have a punk rock vibe clearly found on Katzenjammer. One thing Wretch missed the mark on is the psychedelic desert style that the band perfected on BFTRS. Wretch features two different styles extremely fast punk style or slowed down metal riffs. We don’t quite get the moods or the different styles that Kyuss would feature on later releases. Variation is definitely an issue with Wretch and it is the main downfall of the album as a whole. Still, it is important for a hardcore Kyuss fan to give it a listen because it has plenty of rewards. Please, do not let the band shunning this project inhibit you from taking a listen. If you like their more classically praised albums, there will be something for you to enjoy on Wretch

In 2016 bands like Kyuss and albums like Wretch are a dime a dozen. They are the promising bands that you can find on Bandcamp or Soundcloud that are trying to get some music out to the public. Of course it is a much different time from when Kyuss started in the 90’s or very late 80’s. There was a time when Kyuss was an extremely unknown name and nothing to lose. Wretch is an accurate representation of just that, a hungry band that wanted to please the hardcore desert fans that were coming to their shows.

A solid start - 79%

Doominance, October 5th, 2014

Kyuss is a legendary desert/stoner rock band that has released some of the heaviest rock 'n' roll in music history. 'Blues For The Red Sun', 'Kyuss (Welcome To Sky Valley)' and '... And The Circus Leaves Town' are quite possibly the finest stoner rock albums out there, but before those great records were done; there was 'Wretch'.

While one might think that Kyuss were influenced by heavy/doom/stoner giants such as Black Sabbath, Pentagram and Saint Vitus, this was not the case. Punk rock was always Kyuss' main influence and it becomes crystal clear when listening to 'Wretch'. Hard, loud, fast riffs topped with some blazing, yet simple solos are scattered all over the album. The bass is fat as fuck and is heard quite clearly, despite the poor production quality, and the drumming is fast, intense but fairly basic, too. The stand-out individual performance goes to vocalist John Garcia. His voice is great and suits Kyuss' music perfectly. With that said, the doom/stoner influence is there. The guitar is extremely heavy and fuzzy and reminds me of Dave Chandler's (Saint Vitus) tone, and to a certain extent; playing.

'Wretch' pales in comparison to the band's later albums, but is generally a solid stoner rock album. I think due to the awesomeness of the the later records this album is overlooked and neglected. While this makes sense, I think it's fun to see where this little ol' band from the desert started. And one has to remember that they were basically kids when this was recorded, so while they were in the process of growing up, so was the band's music. 'Wretch' is wild, intense and fun, and truly reflects the band members' stage in life at that time.

"Poor" mostly in comparasion - 90%

DemonHellSpawn, January 6th, 2012

With Wretch, Kyuss started their legendary run as the stoner metal champs of the desert. However, this album would find itself left in the dust of its three brethren, being scorned by even Kyuss themselves as a weak recording. While it certainly doesn't have what the others do, it still remains a pretty good album in its own right. My own first experience with Wretch came after exposure to the other three albums, and it is true that Wretch sounds like a different Kyuss than what most know and love from Blues For The Red Sun or their self titled. It's not bad though, just a little different.

The problems in Wretch are pretty clear. To begin with, one of the first things to note is the production, which is rough. While not horrendous, it is on a muddy, slightly uncomfortable side of the garage rock style. This style on the album does add uniqueness and charm to this offering, but it also contributes to the unevenness the album suffers from as well as not doing full justice to Kyuss' sound, however much in its infancy at this point. Another issue the album has is simply the songs being all over the place. Something that can be said heartily about Kyuss' later albums is how well they mesh together. Each one has its own nuances and styles, unique against the others, and a feeling that the songs were written together with natural flow. Wretch, on the other hand, has a sort of "pre-band syndrome" in that the songs aren't always coherently fitted together, showcasing a band still formulating its signature sound. This aspect of Wretch is easily understood when taken into account that it was made from earlier demos that were rerecorded (and some not) that date back to the formative years of Sons of Kyuss (one of the reasons that the band doesn't think of it as their true debut).

With the problems aside, what does Wretch have going for it? Well, it's a very fun album with lots of raw power and Kyuss-style stoner metal goodness. To be honest, I find most of the album to be quite strong on its own and the shortcomings usually seem larger when comparing it to what Kyuss would later accomplish. The album starts off strong with [Beginning of What's About to Happen] Hwy 74 and stays strong as it rips through several more songs with energy. Son of a Bitch is one of my favorite Kyuss numbers and Katzenjamer is pure fun. Deadly Kiss melts speakers with some of Kyuss' sludgiest moments and The Law follows it up with some frantic riffing. After one of the strongest tracks being I'm Not, the downside follows with Big Bikes with its average bluesy riff and weird, uncharacteristic vocals, making it the one song I tend to skip. But thankfully, the album goes out on a good instrumental jam in Stage III. The last song is prophetic of the psychedelic jams in Kyuss' next album, but it contains the rawness of their debut, so it's an interesting representation of the Wretch-era Kyuss before they perfected their sound.

Overall, while Wretch does have many things to criticize and can be called uneven and rough, it still manages to be a worthy entry in Kyuss' discography. Wretch isn't a fully realized album, but it contains enough uniqueness in itself to stand on its own two feet as well as highs that are as good as anything Kyuss has done. Some might not find it appealing for its deficiencies, but I think it's far from unapproachable or worth ignoring. Ultimately, no fan of stoner metal or Kyuss should pass on this.

Every band has to start somewhere - 70%

Thumbman, May 23rd, 2011

Some bands start their career off with a bang. Both Black Sabbath and Metallica had legendary debut albums, with the former providing the beginning to the genre we all love. It doesn't always happen like that. Just like many bands with great first albums never make anything good again, there are lots of great bands that start off with average albums. Kyuss is one of those bands. While their first full length isn't amazing, everyone who knows Kyuss knows that the next three albums are amazing. This is Kyuss before they found their sound.

This release is one of the first things legendary guitar player Josh Homme performed on. He is currently the front man for the incredibly successful rock bands Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures, as well as playing drums for Eagles of Death Metal. It is intriguing to see the humble beginnings of this talented man. For the most part, the guitar playing is competent, but hardly adventurous. Sure there is that really good riff on “Son of a Bitch” and a few fairly cool solos here and there, but as a whole, it is really nothing remarkable. The rest of the band perform in a similar manner. The bass is not very noticeable and Brant Bjork isn't yet the great drummer he would later be. John's whiskey laced vocals are the best thing about this album. While they are not nearly as powerful as they would be on the subsequent releases, they are miles above everything else.

Wretch is marred by a horrible production. Even the band themselves admit this. While bad production can sometimes be a good thing if your playing a genre like black metal or punk, it is certainly not the case here. The sound is very muddy and dull. The guitar is the worse offender; it plods along with really mediocre distortion. This lasts the whole album, so it can make it a bit hard to finish.

While much of this album is not very exiting, there are some breaks in the mediocrity. “Son of a Bitch” is among Kyuss's best songs. Sure, the riffs are extremely simple, but that doesn't mean they're no good. Some of the best riffs of all time are dead easy to play. The vocal performance on this song is the best thing Wretch has to offer. The chorus, which repeats the song title, is irresistible. “Black Widow” is another one of the album's better moments. The guitar, while sometimes hard to make out, is a classic example of the right way to play rock'n'roll. The vocals are even better; if the production was not as shitty, this song could have become a classic in Kyuss's discography. Everything about “Big Bikes” is extremely cliché, but its hard not to like it; even if its only for a good laugh. With lines like “I want some pussy, from a back bitch on a big bike”, it is hard to look away.

Kyuss themselves have disowned this album, insisting that “Blues for the Red Sun” is their real debut. After they realized they had released a painfully average debut with Wretch, they got their shit together and went on to create truly spectacular music. What we have here is an average rock album with some punk and metal influences. It is nothing like the desert rock sound they later developed that proved to be so important to the stoner metal genre. While this album isn't bad, its by no means good. It would be wise to skip this one and go straight to their sophomore album. Still, do yourself a favor and check out “Son of a Bitch” and “Black Widow.”

How about some ether? - 90%

zeingard, January 4th, 2009

Kyuss are well known for being one of the initial bands in the burgeoning stoner rock scene; however their debut album 'Wretch' is anything but. Whilst there are certainly traces of 'Master of Reality' being channelled into their riffs, the hardcore punk influence that has always stirred beneath the surface of their sound rears it's ugly head in a far less subtle manner. The result being that 'Wretch' is more of a rough and dirty rock 'n' roll album that brings to mind 'Raw Power' and 'Kick Out the Jams'.

Unlike those previously mentioned albums however, 'Wretch' is inconsistent to an almost schizophrenic degree with songs varying in structure, length and style. It's like watching some sort of prehistoric fish/lizard desperately crawling and flopping around on land before attempting to swim across a lake whilst it's limbs flail about, throwing water all over the place but producing very little forward motion. Songs like "Katzenjammer" and "The Law" are worlds apart in their construction and sound; the former being based around a simple palm-muted riff for two minutes whilst the latter is an excellent example of the kinds of songs that Kyuss would go on to write; bizarrely up-beat, fuzzed-out doomy riffs with some faster sections and a psychedelic overtone that is particularly pronounced in the lead work.

The remaining songs on 'Wretch' are easily categorised depending on which of the two songs they happen to emulate, although admittedly the former crowd is the less creative and varied of the two with "Katzenjammer", "Isolation" and "Love Has Passed Me By" all being suspiciously similar due to being boiled down to the most basic elements of a song. "[Beginning of What's About to Happen] Hwy74" is the strongest of the faster tracks with some ferociously bludgeoning riffs that flattens all it's wake, only briefly pausing to let you know that the bass guitar is severely down tuned. From the more evolved tracks "The Law" is easily the most well defined and thought out, but shorter tracks like "Black Widow" and "Deadly Kiss" are just as good with the same style of song writing employed. "Stage III" is the perfect album closer, and despite the main riff being fairly insipid, the majority of the song is taken up with solos which help to make up for the lack of their presence in some of the earlier songs.

Of course there are some awful tracks here, and not even Kyuss is exempt from my disdain over their extremely amateur song writing. "Big Bikes" is probably the biggest offender, gleefully meshing inane lyrics with piddling riffs that crunch along in the most automaton-esque fashion ever. The solo is a nice touch but making it that far through the song is far too taxing on my patience. Despite thinking "Katzenjammer" is very fun and catchy, it's obvious that the song lacks any depth and the lack of development makes it feel hollow and shameless. Even "Isolation" and to a lesser degree "Love Has Passed Me By", suffer from this problem of poor song writing and lack of progression (not the superfluous wank kind mind you).

Really though, despite the overwhelming lack of homogeneity in the track listing, after about a million listens the album flows in a bizarre fashion that works almost too well. The whole tone of the album, thanks to the god-awful production and the mediocre song writing, instils an aura of reckless and uninhibited behaviour. I know that I'm always the one to shoot down pretentious cockwits who spout bland prose on why recording some bloke throwing toasters at a washing machine is deep and meaningful, that it is somehow more than the sum of it's parts. 'Wretch' is the exception to the rule, of course I think it's anything but deep and meaningful and in fact is quite superficial and shallow but in a "We could die tomorrow, so let's fuck shit up" kind of way.

'Wretch' is happy hour at the university tavern on any given Wednesday. It's the wind rushing past you as you fly down the freeway at 140 in a car with the music turned up so loud you can't hear the suspicious noises the back left suspension makes. It's waking up drunk at 10am on the floor of your room with an entire backyard furniture set on your balcony and no memory of anything of the previous night from 6pm onwards. To spell it out, despite all its flaws 'Wretch' is an enjoyable album provided you enter with some greatly lowered expectations and a carton of cheap, disgusting beer.

A different beginning, but still excellent. - 89%

GreenMachine, December 20th, 2005

I don’t see why people give this average reviews, perhaps they’re weighing it up against the mighty 3 albums that followed this, but that shouldn’t detract from what is an excellent album.

You can really see the “Punk” influences in here, the entire rhythm section of Kyuss were Black Flag fans, and a fair few riffs wouldn’t be to far amiss on one of their albums. However, for every Punk-esque riff, we have some beastly Stoner riffs destroying your speakers through the incredibly fuzzy production, the bass is so bottomed out it’s unreal.

In terms of tracks, the aptly named “Beginning of what’s about to happen” kicks of proceedings at 100 miles an hour. This is a stonking track, and still remains one of my favourite tracks by Kyuss today. The track that defines Kyuss is a 4 minute, fuzzed out, psychedelic riff monster that is Stage III. You can’t help but give your vertebrae a bashing while listening to this. It’s strange that on their first real album released (since “Sons of Kyuss” was barely circulated) that you find a track that really encapsulates their sound without been too extravagant.

“The Law” is another outstanding track that switches from riff to riff effortless and really serves as a prelude for the next 4 or 5 years of Kyuss’ existence. You really do get the feel that this album is the beginning of what was about to happen. Even though it serves more as a prelude, and is quite different from later releases, it is still a bona fide Kyuss album that commands as much respect a Bruce Lee in a Pub Brawl.

The Good:
Amazing Riffs
Well Paced
The Law, Stage III, The Beginning of What’s About to Happen

The Bad:
Feels like a prelude and experiment