Review: Wrathblade – God of the Deep Unleashed
There are several traditions of wimp-slaughtering classic heavy metal that defy all trends to crush listeners under an avalanche of epic (in the sense of Manilla Road) riffs, and Wrathblade are one of my favorites doing so.
Their first album, Into the Netherworld’s Realm, is a massive recent paragon of mine, as are the gruff, powerful vocals of Wrathblade’s barbarian howler Nick Varsamis (who some listeners might also recognize from his doom band, Litany, or the label he co-runs, Eat Metal Records– a must follow for fans of the genre!). Everything about Wrathblade evokes a vision of the old- from the production, to the lyrics, to the riffs- without ever feeling dated or any more nostalgic than is appropriate. The riffs pound through gallops, epic rhythms, sped up doom metal riffs, sexy leads, and are complimented by flashes of audible clanging bass that emphasize the power of the songwriting with their appearance each time. The band knows when to dial back on the riffs to let Varsamis take the lead, but even then, the riffs that he takes charge over are always good enough to stand on their own, and the solid (if barebones) drumming perfectly complements the mood that these guys are going for.
Considering that this is a sophomore album, some comparisons must inevitably be made to the debut, especially given how much I love it. Into The Netherworld’s Realm felt like a really fucking good love letter to a lot of the same bands that I’m into- callbacks to Slough Feg, Omen, Manilla Road, and many others constantly come out in the riffs and in Varsamis’ vocals- while also having the hints of a more unique future to come.
In God of the Deep Unleashed that more unique future has been achieved; while some riffs are still straight out the of Slough Feg or Manilla Road playbook, they’re so lovingly delivered and carefully placed that they’re only obvious when you really look for them, coming across as an influence filtered through a heavy handed dose of Hellenic warrior spirit before coming to our ears. The overall pacing that the group uses has really improved, with songs flowing better together than ever, sparsely (though right from the opening notes of the album) interspersed with acoustic or a capella parts. Varsamis has really built on his vocal delivery, going from already impressive all the way through to the realm of unique, singing powerfully with grace and theatricality without forgetting gruffness or earnestness at any point.
True epic metal is fairly rare these days, especially with the skill that Wrathblade deliver it with. If you’re into the stuff, I can’t recommend them enough- and even if you’re not, this is a good chance to try it out.
All images courtesy of Wrathblade.