English upstarts Wraiths are a perfect example of why bands should not write their own genre names. The band claim to play ‘hell metal’, which conjures up all kinds of mental images of combining black metal, death metal, even some industrial/harsh noise moments. What it does not conjure up, and what is in fact delivered on their “Hollow” EP, is downtempo beatdown deathcore, with barely any metal in sight.
Those who recall the fuss that was kicked up around Black Tongue last year will know exactly what the score is: 8-string guitars tuned as low as humanly possible, and riffed out in a percussive fashion with little regard for melody or memorability, more bass drops than an incompetent roadie and irate vocals spewing forth non-specific rants of nihilism. To Wraiths‘ credit, they possess a touch more variety than Black Tongue, but they fall into most of the same traps.
The band say their name was taken from the ice wraiths of Skyrim, or the wraiths in Lord Of The Rings, but I am more inclined to believe it’s taken from the Wraiths in the Halo game series. These Wraiths were lumbering purple tanks, capable only of short bursts of speed and firing massive spheres of plasma. This matches the EP quite aptly: ‘Godslayer’ sets the pace as agonizingly slow, and it’s not long before the note-bending breakdowns thunder through. There are faint touches of tremolo guitar work, which passes for atmospheric, but the main focus is a plodding down-tuned rhythm which is more designed to appeal to the fist-swingers in the hardcore fanbase (pardon the pun).
‘Malignation’ and ‘Devoured’ follow exactly the same formula, the only thing moving forward being Rae Robinson‘s vocals. His strained screams are at least more human than the beastly growls of their compadres, and the lyrics are more intelligible as a result, but the topics are virtually interchangeable. “The suffering you endure will amount to nothing in the end” is but one choice line from ‘Gravelord’, a track only a half-step above the previous three for possessing a slightly catchy chorus.
The variety mentioned above features mostly in final track ‘Belial’. Drummer Richard Baker injects some much-needed variation in the drum lines, while Robinson‘s vocal range shifts to a respectable high-pitched shriek. And then, perhaps weirdest of all, a solid and memorable melody emerges from the speaker for a short while. A breath of fresh air among such a wealth of darkness, this moment sticks out amid the rest of the EP, although it remains fairly obvious that fans of this genre will gravitate towards the other four tracks first.
Minimalism, when done right, can have a potent effect on the music at hand. When this minimalism, however, is so self-referential and unpalatable, it means Wraiths leave little of a plasma scorch in the listener’s ears. It is clear that the “Hollow” EP was crafted more for the live stage than as a piece of recorded music, and doubtlessly the devotees of this strain of deathcore will lap it up at every show. But as a stand-alone record against a slew of bands doing similar things, it is unlikely to reach the hallowed halls of this genre.