wretchedsoulDamn I love this line of ‘work’ at times.

Ever bought an album without knowing anything about the band, but purely on the cover art? I have. Many times as a kid just started on the road to metal nirvana I’d flick through the racks in Downtown Records, Romford…. Without a clue as to what I was looking at to be fair. Remember, these were the pre internet mid 80’s. ‘Taking Over’ by Overkill….. “Christ, these blokes look like bad-asses”. ‘Walls Of Jericho’ by Helloween “look it’s a giant pumpkin faced monster smashing the shit out of everything”. Judas Priest’s ‘Screaming For Vengeance’ “fucking hell it’s a psychedelic robot sparrow”. Every one of those was bought purely on the rad looking record sleeve by a spotty teen without ever hearing the music first. This method rarely if ever failed….. although I remember buying ‘Penetration Point’ by Nasty Savage…. great record but utterly dog-shit sleeve….. so maybe the reverse is also true.

Anyway, Wretched Soul have released a belter of a record with possibly the most METAL album cover of the year. I mean look at it…..it’s a giant three headed werewolf tree monster emerging from a swamp about to mangle some poor fucker. Dan Goldsworthy I salute you….. this would most certainly have been plucked from the racks by the pre-pubescent me on that painting alone. Of course, if the music sounded like some spacky ‘trumpet punk’ pop vomit or wafty post beard-core bullshit you’d be most pissed off. However the boys deliver the METAL by the skip load and what a tasty bunch of tunes this monster has within it.

Sleeve art aside, the other thing that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling about this album is that Wretched Soul are British. Canterbury in Kent to be exact. Now Kent may be more famous for Blue Water shopping centre, traffic jams and a disproportionately large population of ‘light-fingered caravan dwellers’ but this is obviously a fertile breeding ground, death metallers Monumentomb and killer grindcore band Harrowed all come from those parts.

Now British they might be but this band can hold their own against some of the better known thrash acts from across the pond and I’ve a sneaking suspicion this will be a better album than a certain Bay Area band whose newie is released this week.

Now this is the band’s second album coming three years after their debut, the well-received ‘Veronica’ and it solidifies the band’s sound and personality as well as showing off quite a few different styles from trad metal, thrash (oooooh I love de thrash) and even a bit of black & death metal.

Kicking off with what has to be either a set opener or closer, ‘Necromancer’. This is a glossy thrash masterpiece with its singalong chorus and fist pumping, neck wrecking Priest style riffing. Reminds a bit of a good Savage Messiah tune and Chris Simmons vocals are killer.

‘War Wolf’ next which hurtles along at a right old pace with the band giving it some serious Testamenty / Skeletonwitchy welly. Chris’s vocals are more savage on this and the tighter than Dawn French’s pants, guitar work of Steve Clifford propels this one along at a fair old lick. The more mid paced and epic sounding ‘The Silent God’ is next, atmospheric and uplifting.

‘The Great Destroyer’ has another vibe. Heavy, melodic and with again, cracking vocals. A mix of growly nastiness and Chris showing off his pipes with some soaring clean vocals.

Every track is primo quality meaty metal. Prime English topside! Album closer and title track turns the epic up to eleven without resorting to wanky keyboards (ok, there’s a bit towards the end) or other poncey effects. This has a bit of an oppressive, black metal flavour to the vocals and solos.  This record has a very polished yet organic feel to it, probably due to the cracking production job, as on the bands debut, by veteran knob twiddler Chris Tsangarides (Anvil / Helloween / Priest / Exodus & Overkill to name but a few) and mastering by the ‘busier than a brick layer in Texas’ Dan Swano.

UKEM records have a knack for snaring some great British up & coming bands (Abomnium, Solitary, Primitive Graven Image and Morti Viventi) and Wretched Soul might just be the jewel in their crown and I’m certainly looking forward to catching them at the ‘Disciples Of Extremity’ fest next March. You should be too!

A brilliant British metal release.

(9/10 Mark Eve)