Monday, September 24, 2012

Wretch- The Senseless Violence EP

"To love a murderer. To love to commit a crime in cahoots with the young half-breed pictured on the cover of the torn book. I want to sing murder, for I love murderers. To sing it plainly. Without pretending, for example, that I want to be redeemed through it, though I do yearn for redemption. I would like to kill." - Jean Genet, Our Lady of the Flowers (1943)

Grindcore does not mean the same thing to everyone. When meeting new people, in the real world or online, a discussion of taste expected to yield a high degree of common ground can quickly find you at angles with your discussion partner on what grindcore should sound like, what makes it great, and even what it fundamentally is and is not. This shouldn't suggest a clear one-up, one-down, right-or-wrong situation; rather, it’s a question of experiential data, and, like more aspects of music than most critics care to admit, largely a matter of personal tastes.

Take this Wretch EP, for example.

Fundamentally, it scans as some amalgam of death metal and grindcore. However, someone with a more or less exclusive interest in high-speed grindcore could have a tendency to read it as death metal or goregrind, while a metal fan with a casual interest in Pig Destroyer and Nasum might find it exactly in keeping with their definition of grindcore.

The death metal and grindcore signifiers in Wretch’s sound share a fairly equal amount of weight in their vocals. Their pitch is for the most part binary and split between low and high patterns. Low vocals are a guts deep (but not pitch-shifted) marriage of death metal’s growl and gore music’s gurgle, while the highs are spat out in a raw, violent manner that values emotion over sheer height (vocalists: to translate that criticspeak, “emotion” means that it’s going to hurt—a lot).

Lyrics on The Senseless Violence EP haunt classically gore territory, with hatred, violence and grotesquery dominating the subject matter. The taboo and disturbing are common fodder here, and songs like “(Dis)located,” with its focus on sexual violence, might warn off some potential listeners outright.

Guitar tone and recording fidelity both rest around the midpoint between 80s extreme music demo-trading and the height of major label metal in the 90s. Mid-fast death metal is roughly the band’s cruising speed, and blasting grindcore serves as a counterpoint to that principal tendency.

The first of 6 gore-soaked tracks, “Purveyors of Senseless Violence” splits open the EP in fitting fashion. A sample from Australian Nazi skinhead flick Romper Stomper sets a violent tone that is matched deftly by a fast, metallic intro riff, the call of which the rest of the instruments rush to answer. An energy builds around their playing for a few seconds until Joel, the band’s vocalist, brings that energy to a head in a long, hate-filled high scream that serves as one of the track’s high water marks. The rest of the song rolls along at a deathgrind churn, and later sections lock into some especially head-nodding death metal grooves.

Death-thrash grinder “Shit Shovel” performs some gut-level satisfying maneuvers and is one of the faster numbers on The Senseless Violence EP. It’s a track with the most chocolate-and-peanut-butter moments of any found here, and a good one to play to a mixed room of death fans and grinders. With both an intro that recalls a schlock-horror foggy graveyard and an energetic later half, it’s a pretty good example of where the band’s interests extend musically.

The material’s overall metallic proclivity means that, as expected, Wretch is stocked with a talented cast of players. However, talent without savvy editing can lead to flaws in song structure, as found most notably on “Gorging.” A destructive drum fill transitions into a tasty groove that buoys the song, until that groove becomes mired in an errant breakdown that sees the song slowly collapse onto itself, dissolving into a disoriented pause/count-off that briefly restores order before an unfocused dual guitar exercise leads the song to a somewhat puzzling, abrupt end.

Wretch will especially appeal to the listener who identifies first as a metal fan and a grindcore fan second. Fans who tend to be hardline toward either metal or grindcore might tend to focus more on the musical notions that they’re unfamiliar with than the ones with which they are, but someone whose graph meets somewhere in the middle of that continuum will be right at home here.

You can purchase/download The Senseless Violence EP from Wretch’s Bandcamp page, either as a name-your-price download or as a physical cd.

[Note: The band sent me a digital copy for review.]


  1. THAT'S where that sample came from. i've been trying to place it. but my knowledge of australian cinema pretty much begins with mad max and ends with yahoo serious.

  2. It took me a little to place it, because it sounds so much like the A Clockwork Orange film, only with Russell Crowe and Australian accents. The sample on "(Dis)located" is Charles Manson, and I'm almost positive I've heard it used in at least one other song.