by Tom Dare
You may not have heard of The Wretched End, but the chances are you know one of the guitarists. After all, Tomas Haugen – better known as Samoth – played in one of the finest metal bands of all time for their brief but superlative career. Yet the former Emperor guitarist does not seem content to disappear quietly into the night. On this evidence it looks like he is determined to continue tearing up your ears for years to come.
When Emperor went their separate ways the question arose about the futures of the key players, particularly given their youth. While Ihsahn floated ethereally off into the realms of mind-expanding prog, Samoth headed back to Zyklon. With Zyklon now also defunct, he returns with The Wretched End, a project incorporating former Scum cohort Cosmo, and recently departed Dark Funeral drummer Nils Fjellström (who appears to have ditched his ‘Dominator’ moniker). And they certainly seem to know how to make an unholy racket together.
The plan of attack is laid out rather clearly early on – halfway through second track proper ‘The Armageddonist’, The Wretched End have firmly established a sound of their own. It’s not Emperor, it’s not Zyklon, and it has it’s own distinct stylistic reference points. The band has mixed the predominantly nastier end of thrash with some chunky death metal, adding just a whiff of black metal to add a touch of sinister grandiosity to the grubbiness. But for all that aggression and crushing heaviness, there is a surprising amount of groove and melody to proceedings. What initially feels like a perfectly fun romp of brutality slowly reveals itself to have plenty of depth as well, with roiling riffs overlaid by lead lines that meander between atonal horror and more lyrical territory that is no less bleak.
It would be a mistake to confuse Ominous for a record that harks back to the days where the lines between thrash, death and black metal were rather blurred and the terms almost interchangeable. Unlike Daath Shadow (who do the latter and sound gloriously retro) The Wretched End draw influence from all three but keep the distinctions clear, resulting in a thoroughly modern interpretation. Yet the effect is strangely similar, generating a sonic violence that is as sinister and frightening as it is aggressive and pummeling.
In case you don’t know who Samoth is, watch him headline Wacken:
If it were not for the pedigree of the musicians involved, Ominous could almost be said to be of surprising quality – while plenty of good music arises from similar such blendings of extreme metal styles, rarely do they manage to be as interesting, gripping or intricate as this. The Wretched End have roared into life with a record far more intelligent and accomplished than is initially apparent, and rewards more with repeated listens. Crucially, at no point are you left contemplating “what might have been” regarding certain prior projects.
Ominous is constructed from excellent crunching riffs, underpinned by top-drawer drumming, articulated by fearsome vocals and adorned with chilling melodies, all assembled into engaging and atmospheric songs. This is a vicious and engaging record of genuine class.
Sounds like: Kreator, Unleashed and Dissection rolled into one, then updated
Top tracks: The Armageddonist, Fleshbomb, The Juggernaut Theory
The Wretched End – Ominous tracklisting:
Red Forest Alienation
Of Men And Wolves
With Ravenous Hunger
Residing In Limbo
The Juggernaut Theory
Zoo Human Syndrome