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The Go-Between Between the Temple and the Synod - 90%

bayern, January 7th, 2017

In 1998 the restless spirits of the old school started “yawning”, a clear sign that it was planning to brace itself for another indefinite spell with the music industry. These “yawns”’ echoes reached everywhere, including the cold Canadian North, and before you know it the thrash metal legends Infernal Majesty were up and running. This second coming, however, was laced with both more aggressive death metal and more technical leanings seeing the band inaugurating a new chapter from their career, one that was finally going to fulfil the promises for death metal exploits, something which the guys failed to provide as an immediate follow-up to their eponymous debut. It was ironic that the other stalwarts on the 90’s Canadian scene, Obliveon, were becoming more modernized and industrialized with each passing effort seemingly playing strange to those classic echoes... The veterans Razor were also hesitant which path to take their return effort “Decibels” also smelling some scary modernisms.

Not to worry since their Infernal Majesties’ bass player Chay McMullen decides to try something new, and partners with the guitarist Bryan Mallon and the drummer Chris Mezzabotta from the industrial doomsters Soulstorm for the foundation of this new outfit called Wetwork. The guys need one more piece to make the puzzle complete, and it arrives in the face of Kristen Parker… yes, a female throat, the singer whose manly semi-recitals on the debut “Temple of Red” make her sound like the little sister of Dawn Crosby (R.I.P.); Détente, Fear Of God). The music is dark atmospheric metal, quite an unusual slab for its time, and even nowadays, with numerous samples from films and news broadcasts inserted in a somewhat random fashion. The band unleash hell on the title-track and “The Executioner’s Song” at the end, marvellous technical thrashers in the best tradition of Megadeth’s “Rust in Peace”; Kirsten, under the alias Doc, switches to more brutal death metal semi-shouts on those two showing bigger vocal bravado which would find fuller realisation on later works.

The guys (and a girl) take their time, though, and it’s not before four years have passed when they strike with something new, “New Start Human”, to be precise. Yes, indeed, it’s a new start for the whole of mankind including for the band who have embraced the thrash metal idea a lot tighter. Starts the opening “Cyanogen” with violent thrashing riffs with Doc’s hellish screams tearing the air the infernal atmosphere erased at times by more normal cleaner recitals. A fairly unusual vocal approach which by all means matches the frenetic riff-work which also reminds of another female-fronted act, the French Witches. “Flaw in the Game” brings back the dark atmosphere from the debut which also comes accompanied by harsher vocals; this is a mid-tempo piece which creeps forward with foreboding overtones ala Fear of God; no flaws here. “Radio-D” shreds in an impervious dramatic manner with sharp guitars Doc seldom interfering with the casual brash hysterical shout.

“My Poltergeist” is a deeply atmospheric composition lasting for over 7-min with heavy, seismic rhythms which have a break in the middle thanks to a short quiet interlude; expect choppy jarring fretwork in the second half with Doc assisting in a subdued, minimalistic way. “Obsidian Black” is a short cutting headbanger bordering on proto-death; wild stylish thrashing with Doc exploring her more attractive, cleaner vocal side. “The Endearing Flesh” returns to the dark atmospherics with doom “fighting” with thrash the whole time the latter waking up at the end for the provision of several more vivid riffs. All roads inevitably lead to the closing “A Symphony in the Dead Zone” which begins with a marvellous sinister passage with threatening bass presence; the guitars sneak in at some stage with macabre technical undercurrents which grow into a great technical “skirmish” mid-way before foreboding balladisms take over later, creating the ultimate soundtrack to a terrifying wintry fairy tale a few sparse riff strokes further disturbing the listener towards the end.

This is a highly unusual recording, one that may not enchant the diehard thrash metal fans on first, and maybe even a second listen. It’s far from the aggressive exploits the seasoned audience are used to, and at times it sounds as though it’s giving up the thrash metal ghost before a sudden razor-sharp section restores the thrashing order. For the umpteenth time the ominous atmosphere plays a vital role here, and in this aspect this effort sides quite well with the debut. It’s way more aggressive than that first coming, though, as already mentioned, but at the same time it can hardly be viewed as a byproduct of the rising resurrection thrash metal wave due to its unorthodox nature. It belongs to this restricted group of brooding atmospheric thrashers like Fear of God (“Within the Veil”) again, Witches (“4.3.1.”, above all, but minus the brutal speedy outrages), the Poles Dominium’s “Mohocks Club”, and it has this weird quasi-industrial miasma reminiscent of their compatriots Malhavoc (“Punishments” in particular), too. Whatever it represented and resembled, it was a sure indication that the band would easily stick out of the crowd of conveyor-like retro thrash practitioners of recent years…

Well, not for long as the follow-up “Synod” showed; arriving three years after the “New Start” this next instalment sees the band joining the centrepiece of the Canadian music scene outside the Big Five (Celine Dion, Rush, Triumph, Bryan Adams, and Voivod), technical death metal that is. And not only, but this “Synod” is one of the ten best recordings from this fraternity, a fully accomplished intricate “assault” preserving some of the atmospheric “coating” of its predecessors as well as the scary “singing” exploits of Doc thus sounding quite different from the countless overdone super-speedy riffmongers with which the field is full nowadays. So this “New Start” wasn’t exactly a “new start”; it was rather a well-crafted “go-between” paving the way for the band’s finest hour so far, serving as a clever exercise in unique, off-the-path metal that proudly continues the Canadian music scene’s perennial quest for creativity and innovation.

Wetwork - New Start Human - 30%

ConorFynes, December 12th, 2011

'New Start Human' - Wetwork (3/10)
Wetwork is a Canadian technical death metal band, and while they have all of the musicianship as the style might imply, I have never found myself much connected to the music they make. After a somewhat interesting debut with thrash metal in 'Temple Of Red', Wetwork change their style to what they are best known for in their second album, 'New Start Human'. Here, this quartet plays a somewhat odd brand of death metal, dabbling in some mild psychedelic influence all the while being fronted by a female growler. Although technical death metal has never been my thing, I do know what I like, and I'm afraid to say that 'New Start Human' does not meet the standard for me. While their sound has hints of promise, all too much of it is laid waste by shoddy production values, a lack of band tightness, and shallow songwriting.

Likely the thing that Wetwork is best known for is their still-rare status as a female fronted death metal band. Although this particular trend is spearheaded by Archenemy, there are a few bands that do this, although I have rarely felt that the use of a female growler is anything more than a gimmick to pull in listeners with sex appeal. Vocalist Kristen Parker does have a growl to her that's unlike the gutturals of a male, and it does well to give Wetwork a slightly more identifiable sound when they're doing their tech death material. As far as their death metal goes, there are some good, crunchy riffs here, and even slick bass licks. All of these musicians are quite good on their own, but recording together, everything feels just a bit out of sync. It is entirely understandable that an underground act would not have a load of resources to polish up their albums with, but not playing well together is something that cannot really be excused.

As far as the vocals go, they are arguably Wetwork's most defining trait, and also the worst. Parker's growls are alright, not suitable to my tastes in death metal, but I would not call them bad. Where things start to go wrong are these spoken word sections that the band does so often, where she simply speaks words in what sounds like the most contrived monotone imaginable. Sound fun to listen to? It's really not, and by the end of the half hour that this album goes on for, every gimmicks wears thin. In terms of highlights or anything, 'My Poltergeist' is a track that stands out for me, particularly the instrumental build-up ant the beginning. It demonstrates some dissonant work with the bass guitar that I really like, but as a whole, the song never goes anywhere within its six minute length.

I would say I am disappointed, but I have never found myself too impressed with anything Wetwork has done, unfortunately. Perhaps elements of this band's sound such as the female vocals are simply a matter of taste, but the lack of band precision is something that I cannot really excuse.