Seventeen years or so after their emergence, and three of those years in the making, the debut album from Finnish metallers Wrathage is a proposition which no matter how it initially takes you, leaves a compulsion to explore more and more of its ultimately enjoyable depths. Discipline is a striking and increasingly thrilling slab of dark extreme metal, a collusion of black and death metal predation and ferocity embracing an avant-garde and experimental nature. It is not always as successful with personal tastes as it is other times but when it hits the sweet spot, which are numerous, the album is one of the most intriguing and exciting propositions heard this year.
Wrathage began way back in 1997, formed by identical twins Scythe (bass, vocals, guitars) and D.V Grim (vocals, guitars). With only the intent of creating music which lit their own fires, the band has gone through numerous line-up changes, especially early on, whilst exploring and honing an ever evolving sound. A self-titled demo in 2000 was the first of three over the next five years whilst 2008 saw the release of the well-received Crawlspace Antipathy EP. The gap to its successor and first album has again been a long time waiting but now with Scythe and D.V Grim joined by guitarists H-beast and Viha, keyboardist Tero Nevala, and drummer Kuismahc, the Oulu band is poised to ignite highly anticipating appetites and a horde of newcomers with their enthralling offering.
As soon as opener Dark matter engulfs ears, thoughts of Emperor and Morbid Angel come to the fore, yet equally a fresh individualism in presence and sound too. The song opens with epic sways of guitar around dramatic vocals, a mix soon immersed in a wash of equally theatrical keys and heavily jabbing beats. It is an attention grabbing start, a respectful one too as every element from guitar to keys, voice to rhythms create imposing but restrained proposals on the senses. Of course it is a thought too soon as within moments the factors collude to create a rapacious tempest of sound and intensity. The song proceeds to entwine classical and blackened enterprise with predatory ferocity, twisting and lurching through a fascinating and enticingly turbulent landscape of invention.
The following Born girt for war blends a ravaging hostility with a broader celestial atmosphere whilst also providing a more intimate stalking at times. Within its first half minute the song is already an unpredictable theatre of textures and sounds driven by the equally dramatic and enjoyable mix of vocals, which include a guest appearance by Catamenia frontman Olli “Oujee” Mustonen. The underlying persistent prowl of the song keeps everything on course before Of the great chief comes in on an opening blaze of guitar endeavour within a sinister climate. As the previous track, it does not make the same impact as the first song but every turn, every twist in its body brings further bait for ears and appetite to keenly devour, especially its rhythmic enticing.
The album truly comes to life from fourth song Walking to death; it is like Discipline has sized up personal tastes and then gone to work on instinctive wants and pleasures. The track marches in on a horde of synchronised boots, vocals swiftly leading the way with equally imposing intent. They are soon joined by a web of sonic ideation which alone ignites the imagination, whilst the broader melodic sweep of keys only enhances the addictiveness veining the song. It is a masterful enslavement which only tightens its grip with a slip into an almost carnal landscape of dark drama caged by an excellent bestial bassline. Riffs equally have an animalistic snarl to their touch, and a raw tang which reminds of Scottish band Skids. It is an inescapable anthem matched by the exceptional Unslaved, which also sees Mustonen guesting. Celestial keys caress ears first, their ethereal theatre tantalising but barely hinting at the temptation to come. A vocal lure bridges the start with the mouth-watering and grizzly bassline which follows; this the spark to an infection of hungry riffs, antagonistic rhythms, and bad blooded vocals. It is the magnetic swagger and blood thirsty character of the grooves which provide the fuse to the strongest ardour, their infection intertwined with the spiteful provocation elsewhere.
Distortion sees another guest in the shape of Khaos from Deathchain & Deathbound within its midst, and also sparks a new urge of greed for the release with its carnivorous presence and contagiously creative rancor. Once again expectations are given a cold shoulder as the track explores death and blackened scenery with thrash bred ferocity and a hellacious attitude of sound and invention. There is never time to catch a breath upon Discipline, but one is needed after the torrential hostility and intensity of the excellent encounter. A quick gulp those is all that is allowed as the insidious scavenger Reptilian crawls over the senses and into the psyche with primal and sonic animosity. It is great toxic incitement, its rhythmic and driving riffery an insatiable onslaught but above it guitars and keys are almost flirting with slow and devilish seduction.
After a vocal enticement, Sadicum is an erosive sonic tempest which alone would satisfy if lacking the spark of its predecessors, but the band is soon spearing it with shards of melodic spicing and a persistently evolving and enthralling weave of progressive fuelled keys to create another tasty assault. The song is still more of a smoulder on the passions than a roar like other tracks, but a lively simmering pot of adventure which over time brings thoughts and appetite to the boil very nicely and hankering for more.
The album concludes with firstly The crawlspace, a bordering on psychotic smog of sound and enterprise which is as suffocating as it is explosive on the senses. Some of the vocals are less successful on the ear but a mere blip in another pleasing track before the band brings it all to a close with a cover of the Morbid Angel track Dawn of the angry. It is a very decent and enjoyable offering but the meat and major joy of Discipline is in the band’s own slices of distinctive predation.
Discipline gets better and more revealing with every listen, even a handful plus of plays unveiling fresh elements and greater craft in the creative flow and sculpting of the release. As mentioned some moments create a bigger blaze in the emotions but from start to finish Wrathage has delivered one impressive encounter to revel in and to heartily recommend.
Discipline is available from March 30th via Maa Productions and at http://wrathage.bandcamp.com/album/discipline
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