Wretched Fate – Carnal Heresy Review

I like the Swedeath subset of death metal, but I don’t like it enough to delve into it on a regular basis. Perhaps this is due to its lack of character; or, more accurately, its abundance of character, one which has largely remained unchanged since Entombed ventured down the Left Hand Path. As such, while countless notable Swedeath releases have come and gone, the only ones that truly stick with me are those that inject a fun little twist while staying true to the tenets of the style. The melodic grotesqueries of Lik and the horror soundtrack stylings of Heads for the Dead are a few recent examples, and with their sophomore record, Carnal Heresy, Wretched Fate aims for similar prestige. With its creeping Lovecrafitian atmosphere and a side helping of Cannibal Corpse-isms to accompany its main course of Bloodbath inspirations, it nearly gets there.

Carnal Heresy possesses a structural flow that feels borderline conceptual in its execution. While its opening two tracks are mostly boilerplate Swedeath, Wretched Fate gradually evolves their record into something more evocative of otherworldly horror, with the final two tracks positively dripping with atmosphere. It’s the five tracks in the middle, however, where Carnal Heresy burns brightest. These compositions each possess distinct personalities while remaining utterly ferocious. “Harlots for Suffering,” for instance, engages with an ecstatically catchy lead riff, leading into alternating technical and methodical passages before naturally cycling around. “Upon the Weak” immediately follows with a palpably creepy central melody and pummeling d-beat passages, culminating in an exhilarating sequence of escalating blastbeats. These tracks – and really, the record as a whole – exhibit much-improved songwriting over Wretched Fate’s debut, and is exactly what I had hoped for from their sophomore outing.

That’s not to say the end result is ideal, as Carnal Heresy’s aforementioned distinctive flow leads to a structural imbalance. Wretched Fate is at their best when melding technicality with atmosphere. With the opening two tracks being purely visceral, and the final two being mostly tenuous, Wretched Fate has opted to bookend Carnal Heresy with its weakest material. These cuts are by no means bad and occasionally expulse flashes of brilliance (see: the absolute ass beater of a tempo change in “Mind Desecrator”), but nearly half the record still finds Wretched Fate operating sub-optimally. The opening section would be improved if it incorporated the Cannibal Corpse-esque guitar complexity that bolsters tracks like “Utterance from the Inhuman Tongue” and “Umbilical Suffocation1,” but as-is, the album’s earliest riffs feel somewhat flat and featureless.

Carnal Heresy’s production only serves to further temper my enthusiasm. While Wretched Fate sounds authentically Swedeath (I mean, they are Swedish) with their expected HM2 guitar tone, the listening experience feels flat. Everything (except the bass guitar, obviously) is as loud as everything else, resulting in a cosmic sonic soup that drowns impact and nuance. It’s a shame, as Wretched Fate is a very talented group, and I would have loved for a more dynamic mix to bring out the quality of the performances. Guitarists Mats Andersson and Fredrik Wikberg are of course the stars of the show, as would be any guitarists successfully nailing Cannibal Corpse-styled riffs. Andersson’s dual role as frontman reveals impressively colorful growls, which are nearly as ferocious as those of Corpsegrinder himself.

Carnal Heresy clocks in at nearly twenty minutes shorter than its predecessor, 2019’s Fleshletting, and surpasses it on nearly every level. Wretched Fate has significantly tightened up their songwriting and has further excavated the atmospheric and technical aspects of their sound that help them stand apart from the Swedeath crowd. There is still a ways to go for this band to reach their full potential, however, and that is by no means a bad thing. I don’t get the impression that Wretched Fate is spinning their wheels in the HM2 swamp, but rather actively striving towards the best version of themselves, album over album. I may not have fallen head over heels for Carnal Heresy, but it is a completely recommendable release all the same, one that is hopefully a springboard towards more refined efforts down the line.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 192 kb/s mp3
Label: Redefining Darkness Records Official | Bandcamp
Websites: wretchedfate.com | wretchedfate.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/WretchedFateBand
Releases Worldwide: February 24th, 2023

Show 1 footnote

  1. If anyone in the band is reading this, can you please confirm whether that one tremolo riff in this song is inspired by Ridley’s theme from the Metroid series? Thanks, ‘preciate ya.
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