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WrenchNeck - "WrenchNeck" (CD)

WrenchNeck - "WrenchNeck" CD cover image

"WrenchNeck" track listing:

1. Coalescence
2. 2012
3. FML (Found My Life)
4. Quitter
5. Wasted Nightmare
6. Hope Street
7. The Game
8. Demolition
9. Broken Skin
10. Distance Between

Reviewed by on November 6, 2012

"It’s simply there to remind anyone willing to listen that the magical ingredient of prime Massachusetts metalcore was, at the end of the day, metal."

Plainly and simply, I detest subgenre labels. I believe they’ve fractured the metal community beyond reconciliation and done more harm than good to the metal music industry. I say this because circumstances are forcing me to frame this stellar band within the context of the constantly disputed “metalcore” scene, when all I wish to do, in my heart of hearts, is bang my stupid head off to some superbly executed, intense, masculine, swinging-dick metal – “with a heart,” as filmmaker Alan Rudolph hastened to add in Robert Altman’s “The Player.” All told, that’s what “WrenchNeck,” by WrenchNeck, is.

From the very first seconds of opener “Coalescence,” if you’ve been paying close attention to American metal over the past decade, you’ll know where these guys are coming from. That place is Western Massachusetts, birthplace of genre titans Killswitch Engage and All That Remains, and current home to a surprisingly plentiful number of interesting bands that honor their forefathers’ legacy – nay, lovingly polish said legacy after its tarnishing by interloping screamo kids. WrenchNeck is one of these bands. I’m a helpless sucker for groove, and the pulsing, rhythmic spine established on “Coalescence” – and threaded throughout the album – ditches today’s djenty, break-chugging concept of “groove” and reaches straight back to Pantera and Machine Head. The dominating, beastly riff and bona fide thrashing on “2012,” and speedy Iron Maiden influence on “Wasted Nightmare,” kill the trends even deader than they were without WrenchNeck’s help.

Not that there’s any serious innovation going on here, mind you, or that this album will trigger a mass Enlightenment. It won’t. It’s simply there to remind anyone willing to listen that the magical ingredient of prime Massachusetts metalcore was, at the end of the day, metal. The masterful weaving of British New Wave and Swedish melodic death lead guitar harmonies amongst galloping thrash ‘n’ roll (“FML”), between thick, ballsy riffs and thundering grooves (“Hope Street”), and alongside breakneck blasting (“The Game”). Perhaps the percussive pounding of “Quitter” offers the clearest glimpse of what today is casually chalked up to a “breakdown,” but in 2002 was simply a bitchin’ hardcore-influenced riff, end of story. The presence of two co-frontmen does make things a little top-heavy at times, as there’s little variety (such is the case when you employ two harsh vocalists), but at least the clean melodies are kept to a sparing minimum, avoiding sappy Howard Jones balladry by a wide berth.

Do I protest too much? Take a listen and you tell me. What I hope you’ll discover, as I have, is a band that lovingly culls everything fresh, exciting, and compelling about the original metalcore movement – back when it was still truly METAL – and serves it to you straight up in a sledgehammer blow, chased with a soothing ointment and bandage to dress the bruise. Fans of Killswitch Engage’s “Alive Or Just Breathing,” All That Remains’ “This Darkened Heart,” and Unearth’s “The Oncoming Storm,” to name a few, will find themselves thrilled. Pantera, Machine Head, In Flames, and DevilDriver fans ought to take note, too. This is no trendy “false metal” flavor of the month. “WrenchNeck” is the real thing.

Highs: "Coalescence," "FML," "Wasted Nightmare"

Lows: The use of two lead vocalists feels redundant, given the comparative lack of variety.

Bottom line: Top-notch Massachusetts metalcore the way it used to be played: with an emphasis on METAL.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)