Fans of eighties metal rejoice and raise the horns on high for Cleveland’s Wretch. Featuring current and former members of Seven Witches, Breaker and Ripper Owens’ new band, Beyond Fear, Wretch have reunited after releasing only one song (“Life”) on a compilation back in 1990 for their aptly-titled full-length debut, REBORN. Influences are clearly drawn from bands such as Accept, Metal Church, Judas Priest and Meliah Rage as Colin Watson’s falsetto shrieks and commanding mid-range echo the vocal gods of those bands, while Nick Giannakos (also in Breaker) and Dave Hayes roll along with galloping power/traditional riffs that are ripe with melody. Hard to believe albums like REBORN are still being released in North America but it is always a reminder of just how timeless this style of metal is. Blame it on my 35 years but this is one solid release that sounds as good today as it would have twenty years ago.
Double bass and a galloping rhythm with choppy guitar riffs (think Metal Church) thunder through “Mental Wars” as Watson’s growls and screams pierce the air. “Life,” which originally appeared on Auburn Records’ 1990 HEAVY ARTILLERY compilation, is very reminiscent of classic Accept in terms of vocals and the Giannakos/Hayes guitar tandem really cooks. “Eyes of Fate,” a rollicking power metal anthem, glides along on a chugging groove and infectious chorus that is instantly unforgettable. The dark, brooding “The Winners” acts as a power ballad for the first four minutes then takes off on a speedy middle section before coming back down to close. For some strange reason, its melodramatic vocals remind me of Tenacious D, too. “I Am Storm” is pure heaven with its aggressive pacing and European-styled guitar crunch not unlike that of newer bands like Primal Fear and Hammerfall. Album closer “’Til Death Do You Part” charges along powered by the rhythm section of Dennis Hayes (Beyond Fear) and Jeff Curenton (Seven Witches) but Watson’s stunning vocal performance is the real draw here going from a low growl to an impressive piercing shriek.
Where European power metal is usually met with chuckles and mockery on this side of the Atlantic, its similarly-styled, though less “busy” American counterpart has remained a respectable outlet for metal fans the world over. Strangely, Wretch never made it out of Cleveland or produced any more than one track which is inconceivable after listening to REBORN. The band members may look a little long in the tooth these days but their status as quality, professional musicians is undisputed on this recording. The fact of the matter is, REBORN deserves to be heard because metal of the leather, spikes and steel variety is pretty few and far between these days and this is top-notch material in which to bang thy head.
KILLER KUTS: “Mental Wars,” “Life,” “Reborn,” “Eyes of Fate,” “The Winners,” “I Am Storm,” “’Til Death Do You Part”
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