Album Review: Wretched - "Cannibal"

Hailing from the hardcore halls of North Carolina, Wretched has come into some kind of stability and kept together the lineup that has solidified the band since 2011. The band returns with “Cannibal,” a new full length record that much like every album these days, promised to be ‘heavier’ than their efforts to this point. Veterans of the death metal tour circuit, Wretched is looking to break off a larger chunk of the pie and establish themselves in the vanguard of their chosen genre.

Okay, let’s divide Wretched’s “Cannibal” down the middle and look at the two sides of their primary descriptor: technical death metal.

The ‘technical’ side of this record is not merely a showpiece or catch-all label designed to satiate an expectant fanbase. From the pure perspective of assembly, arrangement and flow, “Cannibal” is put together pretty well, with a finely crafted stew of complementary pieces that function well as a mobile, if perhaps abominable, core. The centralized stop and go riffing of “Calloused” speaks to a band that understands the viability of open space when writing a riff, allowing their inherent phrasing to make its own unabated statement.

While it would be a pretty liberal stretch to say that Wretched is progressive in even the vaguest sense of the term, it is worth noting that the band is capable of mixing up their signatures and providing differing visages for the listener to absorb. Unlike so many other technical death bands, Wretched is not confined to one idea per song, which is a refreshing and dare I admit, surprising turn of events.

Of particular note is the title track, an instrumental monolith that stretches over seven minutes and creates a tangible picture of Wretched’s talent and vision. It’s rare to see a death metal band that’s willing to step outside the conventional boundaries of death’s ideal to spin a long yarn that bravely changes both tempo and color, but Wretched has done that here, truly crafting a piece that can be broken down and devoured or savored in its totality.

Surprisingly enough, it’s actually the ‘death’ side of ‘technical death metal’ that drags down “Cannibal” as a total product. First and foremost, the album succumbs to the temptations of the double kick. The constant percussive hammering of most bands in this style is an accepted risk of the trade, but it’s often also a crutch to cover up unimaginative songwriting. Wretched’s talent is evident in the construction and composition of “Cannibal,” so that makes it increasingly frustrating that they don’t see fit to let off the gas more often. While the band strikes a lopsided balance for “To the Flies,” it totally drowns out “Morsel,” and several other cuts that could have been more.

Speaking of “To the Flies,” vocalist Adam Cody varies his delivery for this cut, and it should be mentioned that his road-grated screaming is more interesting and more suited to the tone beneath than his pure, volcanic growling. Going forward, Cody could and should flex his leathery vocal wings and experiment more with the dichotomy of his own talent.

“Cannibal” is a solid, respectable record, and that’s coming from a guy who’s not typically a flag-bearer for technical death metal. It has its share of flaws, but shows a lot of progress for Wretched as a whole. At the very least, scope out the title cut. Buried in this record are the nuggets of a really great record, but it’ll be up to Wretched to capitalize on it.

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