Wraith – Undo the Chains Review

It’s always vaguely bothered me that I may have been a touch harsh on Wraith’s Absolute Power. Not enough, I should be clear, to actually go and do anything about it, like, listen to it again or something. As we all know, the life of the unpaid, overworked metal reviewer is not an easy one.1 But the appearance of third full-length, Undo the Chains, from this Indiana speed-come-thrash four-piece (following the addition of lead guitarist Jason Schulz) forced me to revisit Absolute Power. And I am pleased to say—and no doubt you’re all pleased for me because that’s the kind of supportive, safe space this is—that I stand by the review and score I gave to Wraith’s sophomore effort. Revisiting that record off the back of Undo the Chains did, however, help me to pin down more precisely what was lacking on Absolute Power and what Wraith have fixed on their latest output, for fixed it they have.

Fixes come in many different forms and this one did not involve, nor require, a complete overhaul of Wraith’s style, as set out on Absolute Power and debut Heed the Warning. Both those records were close to being good but fell short, lacking that punch, those memorable moments. Undo the Chains sets that right almost from the get-go. I say almost because there is an utterly pointless one-minute intro, which, despite seeming to open up a promising riff, goes nowhere, does not flow into first-track proper “Dominator” and feels like a leftover from the Absolute Power cutting-room floor. Overlooking this minor irritation, however, on Undo the Chains, the band have stepped back slightly from the punk flourishes that peppered their earlier efforts, albeit without abandoning the punk attitude, and leaned harder into the speed metal scene, with as much Hellripper here, as early Metallica and Black Metal-era Venom, and a few nods to the likes of early Three Inches of Blood.

Undo the Chains is a fun, mosh-ready thrash record, bursting at the seams with barely contained energy. The dual — and dueling — guitar attack of new axe-slinger Schulz and vocalist Matt Sokol churns out riff after riff. Schulz also unleashes liberal leads and solos with gleeful abandon, sometimes to the point of overdoing things, but it’s hard not to be caught up in the don’t-give-a-fuck enthusiasm of the likes of “Born to Die” and “Cloaked in Black.” Sokol’s gruff barks, falling somewhere between Cronos and Lemmy, maintain a furious pace throughout, keeping pace with the six-string antics and only occasionally being let down by the sometimes simplistic lyrics (“Disgusting”). Chris Petkus’ bass is sometimes allowed to go galloping too, like on the standout “Victims for the Sword” and the chugging start to album closer “Terminate.” Just crossing the half hour mark, Wraith aren’t trying to deliver some epic composition here. They play fast, bullshit-free thrash, which does exactly what I want it to, without overstaying its welcome or trying to get clever.

The addition of a second guitarist has made such a difference to Wraith. Where before, it all sounded thin and one-dimensional, there is a depth and heft to Undo the Chains that lifts these guys from garage band to a proper outfit. Schulz’ leads on “Gatemaster” make that song an absolute blast, while solo on the back end of “Cloaked in Black” is proper air guitar stuff. That’s not to say Undo the Chains is an album free from issues. Despite sounding massively better than its predecessor, helped no doubt by turning the DR up to fucking 11(!), the record still has — I’m guessing intentionally — a rough, DIY edge to it but the drum sound is inconsistent, with the cymbals, in particular, sounding like shit in a few places (“Disgusting” and “Born to Die” being notable offenders) and Sokol’s vocals are too high in the mix in places.

In my review of Absolute Power, I admitted—perhaps a little flippantly—to a little skepticism about bands that remain unsigned following their debut. There are, of course, tons of unsigned, but quality, bands out there but Wraith is no longer among them. Whatever my thoughts on it, Absolute Power did enough to get them signed and I’m delighted because Undo the Chains, cloaked in that great artwork, shows they absolutely deserve it. I honestly don’t know whether they have a great record in them but if they keep churning out records like Undo the Chains, I don’t care, because I’m here for it.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 11 | Format Reviewed: 160 kb/s CBR mp32
Label: Redefining Darkness Records
Websites: wraith219.bandcamp.com | wraiththrash.facebook.com
Releases Worldwide: September 24th, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Quit yer bitchin, maggot! – Steel HR
  2. Note that this probably means the DR is 10, not 11, because at degraded kb/s the DR tends to actually rise, not be lowered – AMG
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