I hadn’t registered so much as a whisper of St Louis trio Wretched Empires…until I learned that vocalist Tom Ballard was also the frontman for UK Sludge-Doomers Allfather. THEN my ears pricked up. Debut EP Bloom (Independent Release) shows the new outfit to be of a Blackened persuasion, which is even more of a surprise upon realising that the other two members of the unit were formerly part of Alt-Indie sextet Redbait. Curious indeed…
Opening track ‘Ghosts’ reveals a raw, home-made production, and really suits the hostile feel of the music. Ballard’s holler is an emphysemic rasp, and while Cody A.‘s pummelling drums carry more weight than you’d expect from the genre, it’s only the more impressive given his relentless delivery of blastbeats. There’s some great NWOBHM-style dual soloing, complemented by the acoustic flavour of the second movement which nods to the creativity the trio possesses. What’s outstanding here is the contribution of third arm Will J., handling all of the string responsibilities for the EP. This gives rise to what will happen in the live setting, but for now, his work is hugely effective and diverse: the seriously emotive leadwork of the title track segueing effortlessly into the returning obsidian bluster; while the Country-Folk meanderings and slide guitar of ‘Home?’ are a tear-jerking joy and just the latest example of those dual-layered leads.
Closing track ‘Shadows’ is a return to the raw Black feel of the initial stages, Cody’s drums underpinning proceedings at a breakneck pace and with a delightful ‘paint pot’ sound that evokes the early years of the scene. Even the drop in tempo is delivered in angry fashion until Will’s melodic reprise: a flamenco-style lead and acoustic flurry, nicely accompanied by Cody until a fresh explosion signals the endgame.
If this is an indication of the typical fayre Wretched Empires will provide then a damn fine future beckons. The tunefulness of certain aspects may well attract those who dislike Black Metal to their sound and maybe even find an appreciation of the harsher core. In any case, there’s some serious promise here.
7 / 10