Some bands can easily blur the line separating thrash and death metal. You find yourself enjoying blast beats with screams, mid-tempo chugs with blistering solos, a trebly production with some deep throat growls. They are the elements we all love so much about those two very convincing reasons for man’s existence on this planet. But what do you actually call it? Is it Death metal? Thrash metal? Death/Thrash metal? And how about that ridiculous tag ‘deathrash’? Inroads, the sophomore album by The Wretched End had me thinking about that because it has elements gathered from all over the metal spectrum. And when you consider that Samoth of former Emperor and Zyklon fame and Nils Fjellström from Dark Funeral are two of the three men behind this record, you wonder where the black metal elements are?
You need not wonder my dear black metal enthusiasts because all the elements are quite absent here. Keep the corpse paint for another time. Even though Inroads is quite un-black metal, it sounds pretty heavy. This Scandinavian conglomerate seems to enjoy exploring various metal influences within the scope of The Wretched End while stretching their muscles. The drums are sounding massive all over the album which is the result of a well rounded production job. The bass drum sounds very crisp and the toms have a beefy low end punch to them. The drumming is one of the more appealing aspects of Inroads; especially that on “Cold Iron Soul” where Nils exploits the space he gets with some tricky breaks and on the opener “Tyrant of the Mountain” where he plays some odd patterns on the cymbals. Blast beats make their first appearance as early as the second track “Dethtopian Society”; a track that it as jagged and vulgar as the society which it describes.
The guitars are somehow locked in that mid-range with enough bass and treble to keep you wondering which range of frequency is dominant. The chugging is usually muddy and methodic while the riffs are executed at the breakneck speed you’d expect from Samoth. The lead guitar work in the second half of the aforementioned album opener “Tyrant of the Mountain” is the first of several stern warnings that this is a metallic force to be reckoned with. More warnings are to be found in the form of the guitar solo on the closing track “Throne Renowned of Old” and the wailing lines on “Death By Nature” and the torrential trills on “Fear Propaganda”.
It may be a bit of a challenge to distinguish between the tracks. It does get easier with multiple listens but that happens linearly and without a noticeably steep slope. The nine tracks comprising Inroads fall very close to each other in terms of length, pace and extent of variation which makes them not so individually identifiable; except for the plodding “Blackthorn Winter”. The slightly bigger bone I’d pick with The Wretched End is the vocals. While performed up to the generally high Scandinavian standard, it seems to me that they could have needed some mixing up. Had the vocal sections been spaced out a bit further, the instruments could have had more room for technical variation and Inroads would have made a stronger impact on this reviewer. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check it out by any means though.