WRATH – Red Dragon – Album Review
I know what you’re thinking. You’re looking at the band’s name, and you’re like…well – what kind of music IS it, right? Are we talking about Folk? R&B? Classical? Alright, alright…you probably weren’t really wondering that, so much as you were assuming it was straight-up savage Metal – is that closer to what you were thinking? You wouldn’t be too far off there…though it’s much more of a digital spin on that…think along the lines of something like…I dunno…a combination of Progressive/IDM/Metal – how about that? WRATH IS hardcore, don’t get it twisted…but more than likely not in the way you’d expect.
In fact, according to the man behind the music, what you’ll experience is considered to be ‘Cybergrind.’
I put on “Of The Gods” for the first time and I knew I’d be into this record…and believe me, that’s somewhat a relief. All these titles do practically suggest Metal would be what’s on the menu, so to learn that wasn’t what I was in-store for, and that WRATH had such a powerfully innovative grip on the digital realm, was more than welcome to my ears. I think a ton of people out there would appreciate a track like “Of The Gods” and how it’s such an impressive mix of raw power and gripping hooks…how supreme the editing & production is…how engaging this is right off the drop. It’s the kind of instrumental opener that’s not only guaranteed to get your attention, but instantly proves Wrath has the strength & material to fill a hole out there in this music-scene of ours. There ain’t too much out there like this at all, and I feel like that’s not only to WRATH’s advantage, but to ours as well. You listen to a track like “Of The Gods,” and immediately know you want a hell of a lot more of whatever THIS record is gonna become.
You could probably make a few iffy comparisons to stuff like Skrillex, U.N.K.L.E., KMFDM, or maybe something like Slipknot even a little bit – and none of those names will completely cover what you’re hearing from WRATH…at least, not accurately enough. This might be a genuine case of a genre-bending new name in music that’s here to DISRUPT THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY – so be fuckin’ prepared for that! I listen to “Fire Spin” and I’m like…practically right at home if I’m being entirely honest with ya. The skills on display are ridiculously top-shelf…the guitar hooks, the pounding digital drums, the way that “Fire Spin” will jerk ya and jolt ya with bizarre stops, switches, and change-ups along the way…it’s something to behold y’all, I’m tellin’ ya. All that being said, what’s probably more remarkable than anything else, which both of the opening cuts confirm, is the level of accessibility you’ll discover. Usually anything we could describe as new or disruptive, are going to fall inside of a much more niche type of vibe that would appeal to a fairly narrow audience – but this…THIS could definitely catch on like serious audible wildfire. “Fire Spin” pumps out punishing sound in a way that’ll have you instantly wanting to repeat the whole experience the moment it’s finished…and assuming your speakers haven’t melted, you’ll do exactly that.
From what I gather, Nick Giardino, the guy that’s created all the madness at the heart of this music you’re listening to in WRATH, set out to basically combine the vibes he loved in hard Metal with the digitalized methods of Skrillex, and come out with his own sound. I’d say mission accomplished as far as I’m concerned. I’m not a major Metal fan to begin with, and WRATH is a million times more listenable than the majority of that whole genre…and would I take what I hear on a track like “Earthquake” over something by Skrillex? Every day of the week, and twice on Sundays. It’s grim, it’s grimy, it’s vibrant, it’s ALIVE…and fuck if it don’t sound straight-up INCREDIBLE to listen to y’all. It’s like Nick has taken the very best of what influences him, and managed to squeeze all that into the many twists & turns you’ll find in the music of WRATH. “Earthquake” is BIG and BOLD and basically out to KICK YOUR ASS while you listen to it…and maybe I’m some kind of musical masochist or something, but I’m freakin’ LOVIN’ it.
While I don’t know that I’d go as far as to say “Eruption” reveals a brutal crack in the armor, it does at least somewhat confirm that Nick is human in behind all this wonderful noise. Dude’s been making music for around nine years already according to legend…everything from different projects to making beats for rappers & whatnot…and a track like “Eruption” is pretty much proof that, no matter what stage of the game we’re at in whatever it is we do, there’s still always something to learn. Skill-wise, the guy’s crushing it just as hard as ever and there are no issues there…it’s more of a production/volume thing goin’ on here in comparison to the rest of the record so far. “Eruption” comes out a bit lower in the volume department, and a bit dustier when it comes to the dynamics is all…which again, is simply by comparing it to the rest of what we’ve experienced so far. Content-wise, WRATH does nothing but continually create exceptional stuff your ears have never heard before…and “Eruption” still checks all those boxes completely. But yeah…I dunno…there’s always room to grow and evolve in what we do, and in my mind, we should always be looking for those opportunities – “Eruption” doesn’t let anyone down in terms of the quality of the movement & structure, but reveals the potential for Nick to be a bit more objective in listening to the flow of his record and how much a track like this deviates from the rest in terms of how it sounds in the middle of a set-list. Because if I’m noticing it, and I’ve got like, probably about a tenth of the ear for music that Nick has…that means he’s noticed it too – so fix it! As content creators, we never hear the 95% of things going right over time, but we sure remember the 5% that didn’t quite measure up…and I’m not hearing anything on “Eruption” he couldn’t instantly solve.
Putting the record back on track, and likely providing its most universally accessible moment, “Fire Style” is HOT without a doubt. WRATH brings a stylistically slick vibe to your speakers that’ll have you relentlessly addicted to it…and I can vouch for that firsthand given that “Fire Style” is pretty much ALL I’ve wanted to listen for the past week or so since I got Red Dragon. Nick’s really damn good at what he does…he’s got the art of the hook on-lock, his attention to detail is practically impeccable with the exception of one dusty track on this record, and tracks like “Fire Style” are guaranteed to stand out to everyone and anyone within earshot. No joke folks – this is not only MY jam, but it’s quite likely gonna be yours as well…it’s basically the audible definition of irresistible…you can look it up, or you can just listen to this P-H-A-T track and learn what irresistible really sounds like; it’s completely your call. All I can tell ya is that once you start listening to this track, chances are, you’re never gonna wanna stop. Some tunes simply speak for themselves y’all…I don’t need to advocate on behalf of “Fire Style” because every single set of ears that ever comes across this song is gonna come to the same conclusions I have.
Which, pretty much makes the title-track end up with the biggest uphill battle when it comes to the masses listening to this record…you reach the heights of accessibility like what you find on “Fire Style,” and it’d be next to impossible to achieve those kinds of results back-to-back. So take it with a grain of salt yo…it ain’t MY fault that Nick wrote the nuts off of the track before “Red Dragon,” that’s on HIM. But look…I’m making this all way more dramatic than it needs to be – the short answer to your question is that “Red Dragon” is one of the most defiantly heavy cuts on the album, a lot more in your face about it, and yeah…it’d be tough for the average everyday listener to hang with by comparison to the cut right beforehand. For the rest of us though, that enjoy the heavy shit, the obscure, and the bizarre – and all in one shot if we can get it – we’ll all be as stoked on “Red Dragon” as we have been with the rest. WRATH goes into a whole Mastondon-level of heaviness on “Red Dragon,” but cleverly never forgets hooks, never forgets melody, and never forgets to keep the excitement & intensity flowing at full force. Personally, I’m all about it…I might be giving WRATH and “Fire Style” the fan-boy treatment forever, but I’d readily acknowledge how intensely epic & straight-up kickass the title-track of this record is for sure.
LIGHTERS UP…here comes the sing-along slow jam. Obviously I’m kidding – if there’s one thing you can expect from WRATH, I think it’s that you should never be expecting a slow jam or sing-along of any kind. Though for a BRIEF moment…maybe about like, twenty-seconds or so at the start of “Outrage,” you might think WRATH is going to go soft for a moment, or perhaps even head in a classical direction. Instead, after its intro & surrounding the breakdown mid-track, you get like…I dunno…something more akin to like what it would sound like if Primus went and made a digital-Metal record. Or…what was WRATH calling this again? Cybergrind? Yeah…that’s it. I hate genres, but that’s a pretty good name and description for what ya hear, I’ll admit. Anyhow…you get the idea…”Outrage” has got some savage level of BOUNCE to it, and a killer level of ingenuity to it too; I’d be the last person to tell ya that everyone out there is gonna get a song like this one, but like I’ve also been tellin’ ya, if you like something from WRATH along the way, chances are, you’re gonna be as ALL-IN as I have been. I put “Outrage” on and I’m 100% all about the badass textures and tones that storm through this cut. In its own weird way, it’s a perfect example of how to make music really. Do what YOU wanna do, and fuck the world…maybe they’ll like it, maybe they won’t – and honestly, who gives a shit? The reality is that there will always be an audience for authenticity…maybe it’s the freaks and geeks like me, but whatever, we’re listening with the volume cranked up LOUD AND PROUD, racing to melt our speakers before we fully melt our brains.
“Jörmungandr,” you say? Well why the hell not. If there’s anything I’ve absorbed from years of listening to Aphex Twin, it’s that you should have a little fun with a title or two. According to good ol’ Google translate, it detects Icelandic…and also according to Google translate, in English, “Jörmungandr” means “Jörmungandr” – so stick that in your pipe and smoke it. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by this record overall, and certainly by tracks like this one…there’s such a thick-ass meaty groove at the core of it all…you give something like “Jörmungandr” a puncher’s chance of making an impression on ya, and chances are it’s gonna become a part of the soundtrack of your LIFE before you know it. All-in-all, WRATH has an exceptionally riotous record goin’ on here, and tracks like “Jörmungandr” fuel the fire that never seems to stop burning this set-list into your mind. The most you’ll find me conceding to ya is that “Jörmungandr” is a bit more of a static track in terms of its dynamics and how it moves from start to finish…it’s got a bit less to it by comparison to the others in that regard I suppose…but whatever – when things sound as killer as this does, why fix what ain’t broken? There’s more than enough happening in the surrounding details searing the atmosphere while the main groove continuously kicks out the main jam…”Jörmungandr” is BEEFY, and sounds like it could physically take your lunch money.
It’s definitely fair to say that Nick knows his way around his programs and knows precisely how to use all this wonderful technology to his advantage in order to create his realm filled with mischievous mayhem in audible form, and I’m here for it. You listen to the punch and power of a track like “Caro” and know the guy’s got a serious gift not only for composition & making music in general, but Nick’s also got a remarkable understanding of how to use sound selection effectively – everything you’ll hear will catch your attention, either for the slickness of the tone, the barbarism of the force applied, or simply because it straight-up sounds interesting & intriguing beyond the vast majority of what you’ll find out there in the scene. My feelings on genres certainly hasn’t changed, but maybe this whole Cybergrind thing IS for me after all! All I know is that this record continuously crushes, and I feel like WRATH could justifiably stand behind any one of these tracks – Red Dragon is essentially bulletproof, even way down here in the set-list at track nine, this guy ain’t remotely letting up even one iota…if anything, he’s still going hard AF. It’s obviously not a style of music that’s going to be for everyone out there, and I get that just as much as I’m sure Nick does himself…tracks like “Caro” would scare the skin off of some folks out there, but for those of us that dig uniqueness, dig a whole range of stuff goin’ on from every angle, and are unafraid to push play on music made with confidence as it surges into the unknown, then this here Bud’s for you.
“Eternatus” found that missing 10% of volume on “Eruption” earlier on and balances things out with a more treble-up attack for the finale of Red Dragon. And I ain’t gonna lie to ya folks…if you feel like you’ve somehow been able to keep up with WRATH and you think you’ve got some kind of grip on this record, hang the fuck on, because this show ain’t done yet. Of all the tracks on this record, I felt like this was the one that makes the most effort to separate the wheat from the chaff…even those out there like myself that thought they were able to hang with WRATH and this onslaught of superior sound, could very well get thrown straight off the bandwagon with this last cut. We’re talkin’ about savage degrees of fierce sound, playing around with tempo until WRATH warps your sense of time completely, and a level of detail in the editing & production that’s massively staggering. All these things combined makes “Eternatus” its own beast and an entirely different animal…closer to what you’d think of something like Venetian Snares if that project decided to go Metal, you feel me? Ultimately though, to me, if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that “Eternatus” is who Nick REALLY is, you know what I mean? I’d say this is more of a representation of the music he wants to make than perhaps any other cut on this record, and that he’s basically been kind enough to not necessarily compromise all the way through Red Dragon to this point, but allowed us regular humans the opportunity to keep pace with him and find our way into the Cybergrind sound & style with a bit more accessibility in the mix for ya. “Eternatus” is the hold my beer track…the song that separates those that really dig this kind of creativity, from those that don’t; it spares no one any quarter, and brings complexity & bone-crushing ideas to every second you’ll discover. While I’m always the first to admit I’ll listen to anything & that my palette for music is really widespread, I’d also probably recognize I appreciated “Eternatus” more-so than I was into the nine cuts beforehand – I might not need the level of accessibility in the music I listen to, but it was really working for WRATH. This finale’s an intense one to say the least…there’s no doubt I still dig this last cut too, even if I felt like I was more prone to want to repeat the first nine personally…maybe that’s me trying to process all I’ve experienced with this record, and maybe this ending speaks pure volumes on behalf of how far WRATH raises the stakes at the end of Red Dragon, to leave you on a final cut that’ll blow the rest of your mind.
Red Dragon comes out officially on November 19th – consider yourselves warned, because y’ain’t ready for it no matter how much you might think you’re prepared. Follow all-things-WRATH at this multi-link: https://linktr.ee/goddamnwrath
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