Wretch - Wretch
Bad Omen Records
7 songs (32:50)
Release year: 2016
Reviewed by Goat

Following the tragic death of former The Gates of Slumber bandmate Jason McCash in 2014, Karl Simon began a new project, named after the final Gates of Slumber album in 2011. And Wretch initially seems very much a continuation of its namesake, although it soon becomes clear that it’s a little more aligned towards psychedelic rock jam sessions than the heavy metal-infused miserable doom of yore – closer to the likes of Saint Vitus or classic Sabbath. Which is by no means a bad thing, particularly when the writing is this good and the album continues that distinctly miserable atmosphere. Opener Running Out of Days has a hook but doesn’t focus on it, allowing the surrounding grumpy The Obsessed-esque doom to dominate, Karl’s vocals still very dark in their own way, and the almost stoner rock-ing solo is delightful. It leads seamlessly into Rest in Peace, perhaps the best tracks on the album with a hell of a catchy riff; this is all much catchier than I remember late The Gates of Slumber being.

Still, Wretch is a short album, and one that seems a little padded as it is. As good as the songs are, they fade into each other in a way that makes it hard to pinpoint exactly which is which – the Kyuss-y second half of Rest in Peace and instrumental Bloodfinger particular examples. That the midpoint of the album is a short but sweet Judas Priest cover of Rocka Rolla’s Winter is a strange decision when the following Icebound is the sort of eight-minute epic that we’ve come to expect from Karl Simon’s projects. The latter is definitely a highlight, reverting to traditional doom complete with faster melodic lead section a la Sabbath, feeling far shorter than its length. Yet it’s also the last truly excellent song on the album, short instrumental Grey Cast Mourning a little dull and album closer Drown a decent slow groover that can’t quite make itself memorable.

It feels awkward to criticise some pieces of art too much when, as here, you’re a dispassionate outsider trying to understand a very passionate bond between friends and bandmates. As a gloomy tribute to Jason McCash, Wretch’s debut album is solid, but as a doom album it lacks something compared to its parent band’s many heights; I’d have been far more eager to praise it as an EP release with some of the duller tracks cut out. Still, it has enough highlights to warrant investigation from doom fans, and you can never really get enough doom. RIP The Gates of Slumber, long live Wretch, and here’s hoping subsequent releases from the project are back to the usual standards.

Killing Songs :
Running out of Days, Rest in Peace, Icebound
Goat quoted 65 / 100
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