Wretched - Beyond The Gate
Victory Records
Progressive Melodeath / Metalcore
12 songs (40:40)
Release year: 2010
Victory Records
Reviewed by Kyle

I had the pleasure of seeing Wretched at a small show last year, and while the plethora of cut-and-paste deathcore bands present at the concert weren’t good enough to make up for the venue’s crappy acoustics (I’m almost as tall as the ceiling there), Wretched instantly stood out. Playing a progressive style of melodeath with a dash of metalcore thrown in, the band blew through their six-song set exhibiting impressive musicianship and technicality. After their stint was over and the next and final yawnsome deathcore band began setting up (Rose Funeral), I went over to Wretched’s merch table (run by the frontman of the band), bought a shirt, and made a swift exit. Why sour my memory of the band by allowing a vastly inferior one to be the finale for the night?

Now, I realize that many an MR.com reader (and myself) has a cynical tone when it comes to metalcore. However, if there were an option on this site to change the font size of genre tags in reviews, “Metalcore” would show up at about half the size of “Progressive Melodeath” in Beyond the Gate’s tags. It’s an album that, though sometimes repetitive, is also surprisingly inventive, and has a few creative instrumentals that show a subtler and more even-tempered side to the band, with much less 'core influence showing than on Wretched's debut. Part I – Aberration and Part II – Beyond the Gate make a unique pair, with Part I focusing on heavy riffs, and Part II concentration on unique solos and guitar lines. The latter of which also has a jazzy, Latin feel to it, which actually works and fits in with the album’s style very well. This is odd considering Wretched’s North Carolina origins, but who cares? After listening to that song I’m more concerned with finding some salsa and tortilla chips.

Sometimes Wretched can be a bit predictable; when you hear a pause in the music save for a short, noodling guitar line, you know that the band is about to take off at full speed, and indeed it does, because it’s a trick pulled often. However, the band’s technical, start-stop riffing style and precise drumming makes up for it, and remains interesting throughout the album. I really dig Wretched’s sound on Beyond the Gate; the crushing guitar tone and intensity of the vocalist emulate the band’s live sound perfectly. Lots of interesting ideas riddle the album, from the guitar-viola harmony at the end of The Talisman to the various progressive time-signature changes that occur on a dime. And, truth be told, the metalcore aspects of Wretched’s sound work more as enhancers than hinderers; the band rarely sustains a breakdown or chug-a-chug riff longer than a few short seconds before delving back into the technical windstorm, which tosses yet another complex layer into the progressive blender.

The lyrics here are, in my opinion, totally compelling; they’re oddly poetic and suitably Lovecraftian, something I was not expecting in the least. Far better than the melodramatic nonsense that Cradle of Filth spews forth, for sure! But what truly sets Wretched apart from other bands that play this style of metal (The Black Dahlia Murder seems like an apt comparison; another review noted some Decrepit Birth influence, but I'm not very familiar with them) is the strength of songwriting present. I expected Beyond the Gate to be a fun-if-forgettable album (as Wretched’s debut album The Exodus of Autonomy was), but was pleasantly surprised at how much it sucked me in with its interesting songwriting.

The band here shows us how progressive music should be made: Technical, but not so much so that it sacrifices sensible songwriting in the process. Really, if you happened to stumble upon Wretched’s debut and found yourself quickly tossing it aside, then you should be pleasantly surprised with Beyond the Gate. Highly recommended for any fan of complex melodeath (though this is certainly no Arsis, which isn’t a bad thing); if this site were to put headers on its reviews, the one here would read: “Wretched? Quite the opposite, actually.”

Killing Songs :
Birthing Sloth, Cimmerian Shambala, Part II - Beyond the Gate, The Talisman
Kyle quoted 85 / 100
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