Cloakroom to Start Recording Soon; Jan. Tour Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 16th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Indiana heavy post-rock trio Cloakroom recently signed to Relapse Records ahead of what will be their second full-length. They’ve given a preview of the impending album with the track “Big World,” which seems to owe as much sonically to The Cure as to Russian Circles — actually there are moments early on that remind me of a less poppy take on Peder Bergstrand‘s work in Iaredroid, but that seems more likely to be happenstance than influence — and have announced tour dates for January that will presumably be their way of shaking off both the holidays and the post-studio rust of having not gotten out for a while. Recording is set to begin in the “coming weeks” according to the PR wire.

As you can see for yourself in the info below:


CLOAKROOM: Announce January Tour Dates; Set To Enter Studio

Newly signed Relapse artists CLOAKROOM has just confirmed a short headlining tour for January 2017. Support will be provided by Jaye Jayle with Pinkwash on select dates. A full list of dates is included below.

CLOAKROOM’s new digital single “Big World” can be streamed and downloaded via Bandcamp HERE. The single is an alternate version of a track that will appear on their forthcoming Relapse debut, which they plan to record at their own recording studio in the coming weeks. The album will be due out in mid-2017.

*All dates with Jaye Jayle*
Jan 18 Cleveland, OH Now That’s Class
Jan 19 Washington, DC DC9 *
Jan 20 Brooklyn, NY Saint Vitus *
Jan 21 Philadelphia, PA Boot & Saddle *
Jan 22 Columbus, OH Double Happiness
*w/ Pinkwash

Hailing from the harsh rurals of Northwest Indiana, CLOAKROOM consist of three initiates writing music that blurs the contemporary and resuscitates the meaning of being a “rock band” in these seemingly stagnant times. Four years and counting, the band has spun their introverted web of genre and boundary dissolving rock n’ roll. Where one may hear the high, lonesome pangs of long lost country, another may note the hallucinogen-roused layers of psychedelic-rock. Being given such apocryphal descriptors such as “shroomgaze” only seems to further estrange CLOAKROOM‘s sound and public presence from all tangibility. The band is a pensive chimera of equal parts; overdriven moody sonic-abrasion, an adherence to the pop music formula, and the quiet moments of a ghost contemplating its ethereal form. CLOAKROOM aren’t reinventing the wheel, they’re building an interstellar vessel.

Brian Busch
Robert Markos
Doyle Martin

Cloakroom, “Big World”

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Devil to Pay, A Bend Through Space and Time: Demons Come Home

Posted in Reviews on October 25th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


“[Note: Devil to Pay’s Oct. 2016 tour dates used in place of the NSFW cover for A Bend Through Space and Time. To view the art, click here.]

The top feature of Devil to Pay‘s work has always been the songwriting. Certainly the Indianapolis-based four-piece have evolved in sound since they made their debut 12 years ago with Thirty Pieces of Silver, and found a niche for themselves in a style following two guitars that play metal and heavy rock elements off each other fluidly, but even that has always come at the service to a notion of craft. Consistency and reliability, without redundancy, can be hard to come by over time, but as Devil to Pay showed on 2013’s Ripple Music debut, Fate is Your Muse (review here), they were still moving forward as a band. A Bend Through Space and Time is their second offering through Ripple and fifth overall, and underscores similar growth.

Its 10-track/43-minute span comes encased in well-painted/politically-debatable art from W. Ralph Walters and feels more efficient than its predecessor, leaner and crisper in its style, as guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak, guitarist Rob Hough, bassist/backing vocalist Matt Stokes and drummer Chad Profigle continue to refine their methods, but a big shift can be heard in the production value throughout. Janiak, of course, splits his time in doomers Apostle of Solitude, and so a recording/mix/master job by Mike Bridavsky at Russian Recording in Bloomington, Indiana, should be recognizable to those who caught that band’s 2014 album, Of Woe and Wounds (review here), and one can hear a similar sense of room in side A’s “Laughingstock” here, as well as a likeness in the presentation of the drums.

All told, Bridavsky‘s contributions become part of the story of A Bend Through Space and Time, along with the fleet-footed jumps between different sides of the band’s stylistic meld. Bend breaks evenly into two vinyl sides, and each one starts off with a raucous, fast punch — “On and On (In Your Mind)” (video here) opening the first half with an insistent push while still maintaining a sense of atmosphere through the layered harmonies of Janiak‘s vocals and a grim undertone that will continue to develop shortly in “Kobold in the Breadbasket” and the aforementioned “Laughingstock,” while “Recommended Daily Dosage” gets side B moving at a full-thrash clip, punctuated by cowbell with vocals deeper back in the mix to let the guitars come forward.

Come to think of it, though it cuts in its midsection to a doomier nod, the galloping chug of closer “The Demons Come Home to Roost” is plenty speedy as well, as is the bulk of the penultimate “Your Inner Lemmy” (video here), though that song too shifts in pace, touching on some more strutting fare in its quick and fitting tribute to the late Motörhead frontman, most if not all of its lyrics derived from just some of his many famous quotes — see, “I did it all/Whatever I did/I can’t remember/But I’ll never forget,” and so on.

Through all of this — and even an earlier rocker like second track “Don’t Give Away the World” qualifies, though its focus seems more to be its sing-along-ready hook — Devil to Pay maintain a sense of urgency that Fate is Your Muse touched on but was not defined by, and going back further, to 2009’s Heavily Ever After, one can only conclude that the band have in the years since let go of the trappings of genre concerns and instead set themselves to the goal of making the music they want to make. A Bend Through Space and Time isn’t about heavy rock, doom, thrash or metal — though it offers all of them with a fervent overarching groove. It’s about Devil to Pay writing the songs they want to write and executing them at their highest level to-date. That’s precisely why the album succeeds the way it does.


And though I’ve bounced around the tracklisting a bit, another of A Bend Through Space and Time‘s strengths is the flow it sets up between songs, which can be heard as side A develops following “On and On (In Your Mind)” and makes its way toward the gloomier “Kobold in the Breadbasket” — perhaps the closest moment Devil to Pay and Apostle of Solitude have shared since Janiak joined the latter in 2012 — and “Laughingstock” before the more boogieing “The Meaning of Life” revives both the mood and tempo with a still-spacious adrenaline surge and highlight guitar lead in its back half, rounding out on a relatively positive note and a long fade before the thrust of “Recommended Daily Dosage” blindsides the listener. Side B works similarly, with that opening cut running at a sprint until its finish gives way to the slower chugga-chugga of “Knuckledragger” — a song very clearly and very correctly named after its central riff.

I’ll call it a highlight because that riff is such a standout and so obviously the product of Devil to Pay reveling in a kind of sheer heft in which they don’t generally traffic, but with leads peppered over top of the lumbering thud and the still-prevalent vocal melodies, it doesn’t at all come across as one-dimensional in the way the title might lead one to believe. Because it is a relative pivot in approach, one imagines it was something of a task to place “Knuckledragger” on A Bend Through Space and Time, but five albums in, Devil to Pay are no strangers to structure.

It turns smoothly from “Recommended Daily Dosage” and precedes the also-charmingly-titled “Kerfluffle,” which is more mid-paced and in line with a rocker like “Don’t Give Away the World” earlier, setting up a transition into “Your Inner Lemmy” and “The Demons Come Home to Roost.” As a finale, the latter cut seems to be playing at once to the various sides of Devil to Pay‘s sound. Checking in at 7:42 as the longest inclusion on A Bend Through Space and Time, it uses that run to include shifts between harder and heavier visions of rock.

By no means is it the first time Devil to Pay have sought to execute their stylistic swath as a single idea, but it might be the most effectively they’ve done it yet, and in terms of a look at where their progression might continue to carry it seems reasonable to think further bridging the gaps they’ve explored in these tracks might be at least part of their story. But likely only part, because what has always typified Devil to Pay can only keep doing so for as long as the band exists, and that’s their songwriting. I don’t think they’d have it any other way, and as A Bend Through Space and Time demonstrates, they have the ability to cover a range of ground while keeping that ultra-solid foundation beneath them always.

Devil to Pay, A Bend Through Space and Time (2016)

Devil to Pay on Thee Facebooks

Devil to Pay BigCartel store

Devil to Pay website

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

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Wretch Announce Midwest & East Coast Touring

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Having had the pleasure twice now, I can only recommend checking out Wretch live for anyone who hasn’t and might find themselves in a position to do so. The post-The Gates of Slumber project of guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon released their self-titled debut (review here) back in August through Bad Omen Records, and as you can hear on the full stream below, it captures the classic downtrodden vibes of Simon‘s prior work at its best while expanding on it in new directions, up to and including flourish of psychedelic jams. That’s right, I said it. Psych doom. Check it out and tell me if I’m wrong.

But I’m not. Also noteworthy that Wretch were included in the last round of additions to Roadburn 2017. Info and show dates follow, courtesy of the PR wire:


WRETCH (ex-The Gates of Slumber) Announces U.S. Tour Dates

True Doom Metal Trio to Hit the Road In Support of Celebrated Debut LP

Indianapolis-based doom metal trio, WRETCH, has announced U.S. tour dates in support of its self-titled debut album. The trek will launch on November 8 in Indianapolis, when the band shares the stage with Nik Turner’s Hawkwind. The WRETCH tour will run through November 22 in Chicago, hitting Detroit, Philadelphia, Brooklyn and more, along the way. Released on August 26 via Bad Omen Records, Wretch has met to staunch acclaim.

eaturing vocalist / guitarist Karl Simon, formerly of critically-acclaimed underground legends The Gates of Slumber, alongside drummer Chris Gordon and bassist Bryce Clarke, WRETCH rises from the ashes of the musician’s past project, which ended tragically with the passing of Gates’ bassist Jason McCash in 2014. With WRETCH, Simon carries on valiantly with the musical mission he began some eighteen years ago. In Wretch, the trio has laid down a fearsome salvo of cast-iron riffage and heartfelt traditional metal heraldry, shot through with a steely conviction instilled by the experiences of recent days.

Additionally, WRETCH has been confirmed as one of the featured acts at the 2017 Roadburn Festival, set for April 20-23 in Tilburg, The Netherlands. The band will perform on Thursday, April 20. Read the festival’s official announcement at this location.

WRETCH tour dates:
(additional dates TBA)
November 8 Indianapolis, IN 5th Quarter Lounge (w/ Nik Turner’s Hawkwind)
November 11 Detroit, MI Small’s
November 13 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie
November 14 Pittsburgh, PA Cattivo (w/ Bongzilla and Wizard Rifle)
November 16 Brooklyn, NY Saint Vitus Bar
November 19 Baltimore, MD Metro Gallery
November 22 Chicago, IL Live Wire

Wretch, Wretch (2016)

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Devil to Pay Premiere “On and On (in Your Mind)” Video; Tour Starts Oct. 20

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Tripping out on home-grown effects while winding their way through deceptively metallic riffing, Indianapolis four-piece Devil to Pay deliver their signature style in their new video. The song, “On and On (in Your Mind),” comes from their fifth and latest album, A Bend Through Space and Time (review pending), which is out on Ripple Music as the follow-up to 2013’s Fate is Your Muse (review here), their label debut, and emphasizes the core songwriting approach that has always been at the very heart of their sound. Devil to Pay have become one of the most reliable acts in the American Midwest when it comes to offering quality craft of light-on-frills rock and roll, and even as they share guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak with the more doomly Apostle of Solitude, that remains unchanged.

I’ve done a number of video premieres for Devil to Pay over the last couple years — including one earlier in 2016 for their Motörhead tribute, “Your Inner Lemmy” (posted here) — but there’s yet to be one I haven’t been happy to host, as the basic fact of the matter is I’m a fan of the band, which is Janiak alongside guitarist Rob Hough, bassist/backing vocalist Matt Stokes and drummer/backing vocalist Chad Profigle. They have tour dates coming up this month which will take them through Kentucky, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Tennessee, where they’ll join several other choice acts along the way — Howling GiantDestroyer of LightKin of EttinsOrthodox Fuzz, etc. — and one can only imagine they’ll tape a significant portion of those shows, as is their wont, and use it to make their next video, which if the opportunity comes my way, I’d be glad to premiere as well, or even just put up, because, you know, fandom and all that.

You’ll find the complete list of tour dates under the “On and On (in Your Mind)” clip below. I think you’ll find the song all the more aptly-named for how often its hook repeats in your head after you hear it.

Please enjoy:

Devil to Pay, “On and On (in Your Mind)” official video

Through ten years of soul searching and survival – crawling out from the dank underbelly of the Indianapolis heavy music scene – Devil To Pay eventually established themselves in the underground rock community after signing to Ripple Music to release Fate Is Your Muse in 2013. Recorded in 2015 by Mike Bridavsky at Russian Recording in Bloomington, Indiana, A Bend Through Space and Time picks up where its predecessor left off and further develops Devil To Pay’s songcraft and explorations in heavy, riff-oriented rock and roll. By now, followers of the band should have already heard ‘Your Inner Lemmy’ – the quartet’s fitting tribute to Motörhead legend Lemmy Kilmister and the first track lifted from this new record – released earlier this year.

It serves as just one of many reference points, dotted across a constellation of hard rock influences at play on this, their best album to date. The band hit the road this October on a US tour (see full list of dates below) in support of their new album A Bend Through Space And Time, out now on Ripple Music.

Devil To Pay 2016 Tour:
October 14th Indianapolis, IN Melody Inn
October 20th Louisville, KY Highlands Taproom w Blind Scryer
October 21st Huntsville, AL Coppertop w Parlangua, the Moose
October 22nd Birmingham, AL the Nick w Parlangua, Firewater Revival
October 23rd New Orleans, LA Parasite Skatepark w Donkey Puncher, AR15, Samm Bones
October 24th Houston, TX Dan Electros w Stonework
October 25th San Antonio, TX Hi-Tones w Curses, Over the Top
October 26th Austin, TX Hotel Vegas w Destroyer of Light, Crypt Trip, Lawman
October 27th Dallas, TX The Door w Kin of Ettins, Crop-Dust, Orthodox Fuzz
October 28th Memphis, TN Hi Tone Cafe w Glorious Abhor, Hellthrasher
October 29th Franklin, TN the Pond w Flummox, Battle Path, Howling Giant

Devil to Pay on Thee Facebooks

Devil to Pay website

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

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Apostle of Solitude Announce European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 14th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

apostle of solitude

Happy to host the announcement today bringing word that Indianapolis doomers Apostle of Solitude will head abroad shortly to tour Europe. The week-long run will be their first time going over, and they go supporting their excellent third album, Of Woe and Wounds (review here), released on Cruz del Sur Music in 2014 — so all the better for them to be getting out.

There are two festival appearances to be had. The run begins with a stop at Doom over Vienna XI on Nov. 12 where they’ll join Mourning Beloveth and others and cap with one at Hammer of Doom XI in Würzburg, Germany, where they’ll be part of a lineup on Nov. 19 that also includes The Skull, Antimatter, Witch Mountain, Universe217 and Cauchemar.

They’ll also be playing with The Skull and Witch Mountain — oh, and a little band called Saint Vitus — on Oct. 9 at the 5th Quarter Lounge in Indianapolis. Hell of a going away party.

I haven’t heard much from them about a follow-up to Of Woe and Wounds, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that if they haven’t started writing for one yet, they likely would in the New Year, hopefully with a 2017 release in mind. In the meantime, I’ve yet to put that record on and not get a return on that investment, so it’s not like there’s any rush.

Poster and announcement come courtesy of the band:


Apostle of Solitude Announce European Tour dates

Apostle of Solitude have announced details for a European Tour this November.

The tour begins on Saturday November 12th, and is bookended with performances at both the DOOM OVER VIENNA festival in Vienna, Austria, as well as the HAMMER OF DOOM festival in

Wurzburg, Germany. Complete tour dates are as follows:

Apostle of Solitude live:
09/24 5th Quarter Lounge Indianapolis IN w/ Destroyer of Light, Gorgantherron & Archarus
10/09 5th Quarter Lounge Indianapolis IN w/ Saint Vitus, The Skull & Witch Mountain
Saturday Nov. 12th: DOOM OVER VIENNA festival – Vienna, Austria @ Viper Room Vienna
Sunday Nov. 13th: Marburg, Germany (with Barabbas) @ Szenario
Monday Nov. 14th: Lille, France (with Barabbas) @ El Diablo – Live Rock Club
Tuesday Nov. 15th: Roeselare, Belgium (with Barabbas) @ De Verlichte Geest
Wednesday Nov. 16th: Tilburg, Netherlands (with Treurwilg) @ Little Devil Bar
Friday Nov. 18th: Szczecin, Poland @ Szczecinski Loft Kultury
Saturday Nov. 19th: HAMMER OF DOOM festival – Wurzburg, Germany @ Posthalle Wurzburg

The band’s last US performance prior to the tour will be Sunday October 9th in Indianapolis, IN at the 5th Quarter Lounge with Saint Vitus, The Skull, and Witch Mountain.

Apostle of Solitude is:
Corey Webb (drums)
Chuck Brown (guitar/vox)
Steve Janiak (guitar/vox)
Mike Naish (bass)

Apostle of Solitude, “Luna” official video

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Void King Perform There is Nothing in Full in New Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 30th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

void king

It’s amazing more bands don’t do this. What does it take — a couple friends with DSLRs and some rehearsal? Indianapolis four-piece Void King, who just released their debut album, There is Nothing, on CD via Off the Record, have posted a new live clip of them playing the record front to back from a (relatively) recent hometown gig that served as the release show for the tape version (given away here). And yeah, the concert DVD has kind of gone the way of network television — still there, but rarely breaking new ground — but something like this, for the effort of getting a few cameras together, booking a space, and editing to a rhythm, Void King have managed to capture in its entirety a pivotal moment for the band.

I mean that. We live in a multimedia age. One tends to think of albums as documents charting a given act’s growth. Why can’t live videos be the same thing? Throw them up on YouTube, sell burnt DVDRs at the merch table if you want, but even if the number of people willing to shell out for such a thing is limited and the number of people who are going to sit through all 47 minutes of the video and watch it front to back is limited, if you were a band, wouldn’t you want to have that document? Even if it was something you never looked at again when it was done, why wouldn’t you want that behind you as you continued to move forward?

Of course, Void King rose to the occasion of the tape’s public arrival, as you can see for yourself. They reportedly have vinyl in the works for There is Nothing as well — as the PR wire says under the video — so this may not be the last release show they play for their debut.


Void King, There is Nothing Live in Indianapolis, July 16, 2016

Indianapolis Stoner Rockers VOID KING have released a video of the band performing new album There is Nothing in its entirety. The performance was captured by Heavenridge Films during VOID KING’s Cassette Release Show July 16 at the 5th Quarter in Indianapolis. Live audio is courtesy of Niko Albanese.

There is Nothing is out today on CD format via Off The Record. A vinyl LP version is also in the works.

The monstrously riff-tastic There is Nothing was released earlier this summer on digital format.

Track Listing:
1. Skull Junkie
2. Raise the Flags on Fire
3. Brandy Knew
4. Canyon Hammer
5. Healing Crisis
6. Box of Knives
7. Release the Hawks
8. That Was Not An Owl (DFI)

Derek Felix – Percussion
Chris Carroll – Bass
Jason Kindred – Vocals
Tommy Miller – Guitar

Void King on Bandcamp

Void King on Thee Facebooks

Void King at Shiny Beast Mailorder

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Void King Announce There is Nothing CD Release

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 16th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

void king

In under two weeks’ time, Indianapolis burl rockers Void King will issue their debut album, There is Nothing, on CD via Off the Record. It had previously been available digitally and on tape, and I for one have yet to look at the title and not think of what was easily the best scene in the 2012 film Prometheus, in which the corporate manipulator Peter Weyland says to the android David, “There’s nothing,” as he’s dying, only to have David answer back with a sort of glib C-3PO-style courtesy, “I know. Have a good journey, Mr. Weyland.” Brilliant scene in an otherwise mediocre movie. I don’t know if that’s where Void King got the title from, but that’s certainly where my head takes it.

The album has been streaming for a while now, and you can partake below if you’re so inclined. Preorders for the CD are also available, as the PR wire informs:

void king there is nothing

VOID KING to Release ‘There is Nothing’ on CD via Off the Record

Indianapolis Stoner Rockers VOID KING will release There is Nothing on CD format August 26 through Off The Record. Pre-orders are available at this location. A vinyl LP version is also in the works. Stay tuned!

VOID KING recently released the monstrously riff-tastic There is Nothing on digital format. Stream/Purchase:

There is Nothing is also available in limited edition cassette format (both green and red versions) at this location. Tape purchases come with a free MP3 download of the album.

There is Nothing was recorded by Carl Byers of Clandestine Arts Recording. The artwork was created by Maia (aka “The Glitch Witch”).

Track Listing:
1. Skull Junkie
2. Raise the Flags on Fire
3. Brandy Knew
4. Canyon Hammer
5. Healing Crisis
6. Box of Knives
7. Release the Hawks
8. That Was Not An Owl (DFI)


Derek Felix – Percussion
Chris Carroll – Bass
Jason Kindred – Vocals
Tommy Miller – Guitar

Void King, There is Nothing (2016)

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Wretch, Wretch: Deep Freeze, Deep Thaw (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 16th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Wretch wretch

[Click play above to stream ‘Icebound’ from Wretch’s self-titled debut, out Aug. 26 on Bad Omen.]

Doom has anxiously and rightfully awaited the return of Karl Simon to the fold. Formerly the guitarist/vocalist for The Gates of Slumber, Simon formed Wretch shortly before the untimely passing of Gates bassist Jason McCash in 2014, that band having called it quits some months earlier after the release of a final EP, Stormcrow (review here). The Indianapolis outfit make their self-titled debut on Bad Omen Records with seven tracks that in some ways stand very much in line with what Simon brought to The Gates of Slumber and in other ways are a marked departure. Bassist Bryce Clarke and drummer Chris Gordon both make a striking impression as the rhythm section, particularly in the Judas Priest cover “Winter” and the tempo-shifting “Icebound,” which follows, but a lot of Wretch‘s Wretch is Simon directly confronting the death of a close friend, and even in stylized moments like the churning, mostly-psychedelic instrumental solo showcase “Bloodfinger,” that sincerity and intensity of feeling are palpable.

The Gates of Slumber told stories about conquerors and monsters — Wretch seem more grounded in the actual pains of living on. Of course, anyone who has heard Simon‘s prior work will recognize crucial elements like the early NWOBHM darkness and, in closer “Drown” particularly, the influence of Saint Vitus‘ Dave Chandler‘s style of lurch-riffing. What Simon has managed to do throughout his career — and most especially on the final The Gates of Slumber album, 2011’s The Wretch (review here), from which this band takes their moniker — is bring something fresh to that influence and to that of Scott “Wino” Weinrich, preaching a true doom ethic that has both won over and created converts for more than the last decade.

Wretch‘s Wretch is hard to separate from this context, but it’s important to note that the album does have a personality of its own that’s separate from what The Gates of Slumber might’ve done even on a follow-up to their last offering. A seven-track run provides a dense but manageable and varied 33-minute listen, and between the gallop of opener “Running out of Days” and the hook of the subsequent “Rest in Peace” — not a Trouble cover, but no doubt nodding in that direction — on which Simon delivers the lines “Set me free/Let me rest in peace” in such a manner as to make one wonder who the speaker in the song is, himself or McCash, the new band is quick to establish itself as something separate. That one-two punch — the leadoff track crashing directly into the second — gives Wretch an immediately distinct feel, and it’s one that feeds into even the later crawl of “Drown” or “Icebound” or even the minimal guitar interlude “Grey Cast Mourning” that separates them.


A general downward trajectory in tempo for the linear front-to-back listen, Wretch split the album neatly into two sides, and though the whole thing is downtrodden, it’s clearly side B where that comes through most in the material, though even the Wino-style solo layering of “Bloodfinger,” which is as close to classic psychedelia as anything I’ve ever heard Simon play, and probably closer — Gordon does an excellent job holding down a central groove to give the guitar space to flesh out — there’s an underlying melancholy. “Winter,” which originally appeared on Judas Priest‘s 1974 debut, Rocka Rolla as “Winter/Deep Freeze,” plays that up as well even as it basks in “War Pigs”-esque bounce and an element of swirl that feeds off what “Bloodfinger” accomplishes before it in expanding the overall scope of the record.

As “Winter” fits thematically with “Bloodfinger”‘s instrumental feel, so too does “Icebound” pick up smoothly in lyrical theme from “Winter.” The eight-minute cut is the longest on Wretch and while its main riff brings to mind The Obsessed and is trad doom of the highest order, the three-piece find room as well to sneak a bit of boogie into the midsection, which is unexpected and satisfying in kind, particularly following a wah-soaked solo from Simon. They return to that main riff without ceremony and ride it through a verse and shift into a long minute-plus fadeout that ends the song and brings on “Grey Cast Mourning,” a 2:34 piece for standalone guitar that reinforces the emotional crux of the album in its atmosphere of grief and melancholy. It’s an interlude, but both for how it splits “Icebound” and “Drown,” and for what it brings in mood, is more than justified in its presence. Its peaceful meditation makes the “I Bleed Black”-ish riff of “Drown” feel that much more weighted as it introduces the album’s closer.

A massive, rolling nod ensues, Simon‘s vocals buried under his and Clarke‘s tones and coated in effects, and it becomes clear quickly that Wretch are hitting bottom as regards the atmosphere of the record. I’m not sure if there could’ve been a more appropriate finish for the self-titled than “Drown,” which not only contrasts the relatively upbeat — at least in pace — beginning of the album, but emphasizes the spiral that led them to that point while mirroring that downward movement in the lyrics with masterful cohesion. The end comes with a final crash from Gordon and a short ring-out, leaving the listener with the feeling that there’s more to say. This too is no doubt purposeful on the band’s part, and it ultimately makes their debut all the more resonant, as if to ask what good it would do to keep going, emotionally or practically. In taking these issues head-on, Wretch‘s Wretch would be grueling were it not for the work the early portion does in building forward momentum, but as it stands, the balance positions the album among 2016’s best in doom. It is brutally honest, conceptually and aurally weighted, and, one hopes, cathartic.

Wretch, Wretch preorder at Bad Omen Records

Wretch on Thee Facebooks

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