“Ominous” was only released in October of 2010, but man oh man, I feel like I’ve been listening to this album for at least two years. That’s not to say that this sounds like everything else I’ve been reviewing; not at all. On the contrary, given the amount of playtime I’ve alotted this album, it’s remarkable that I’m just now finding time to sit down and write out a review.
So, at long last, here we are with THE WRETCHED END’s debut full-length album, “Ominous,” one of my favorite Death and Thrash efforts from last year. Comprised of a pretty mean line-up that includes bassist and vocalist Cosmocrator (WINDIR), guitarist Samoth (EMPEROR), and drummer Nils Fjellström (AEON and SANCTIFICATION), this Norwegian trio have created an album fraught with apocalyptic landscapes, human desperation, and a Noah’s ark of driving, crunching riffs. I have to admit, it seems a little ironic to talk about the end of days on an album produced as clearly as this…I’m not complaining, though.
In considering the work that Samoth and Cosmo have collaborated on in bands like ZYKLON and SCUM, and the always reliable beat-keeping of Fjellström, it's not surprising that “Ominous” is absolutely water-tight. Cosmo’s bass play mirrors Samoth’s guitar work fluidly, but it’s his rasping bark, half-pit-bull and half-drill sergeant, that really does a solid job leading the way. Samoth’s guitar playing is excellent and varied from beginning to end; his arrangements are consistently interesting, mindfully conceived, and, most importantly, diverse. There’s only so much you can say about Fjellström’s drumming that hasn’t already been regurgitated again and again. He may not be the most technical drummer in the world, but the guy has Metal in his genes; his kit decisions are bullet-proof.
While it would be amiss to state the first four tracks of the album act as the warm-up section, the strength of the rest of the album nearly makes it so. The (really) short intro (questionably so) effectively sheds a brief offering of what “Ominous” holds within (melody and strength), but while songs like “Red Forest Alienation” and “Last Judgment” storm in and offer decent plates of Thrashing Death, this initial cluster of songs is a little sterile, a bit too familiar. “Of Men and Wolves” changes this trend, and thankfully, it never reverts back.
Beasts like “Numbered Days” and “With Ravenous Hunger” have the aggression that the earlier tracks wielded, but also in tow is a greater sense of uniformity, a heightened attitude, and simply better hooks. “Fleshbomb” is pristine Melodic Death, the chugging “Human Corporation” may be the most progressive of all the numbers, and the searing closer, “Zoo Human Syndrome,” is a rolling monster intent on exposing the ills and drawbacks of a doomed modern society.
As far as debut albums go, "Ominous" really doesn’t sound like one. Samoth, Cosmo, and Nils know what works and what doesn’t, and they don’t waste their time fiddling with identity issues. The premiere of THE WRETCHED END is impressive and memorable Thrashing Death (with shades of Black) that roars, rips, and does a solid job of bringing Armageddon a little closer to home.
(Online May 11, 2011)