Wretch – “Man Or Machine” (Pure Steel)
Battle Helm Rating
I don’t know why these guys have such pitiful name – cos they have nothing to be miserable about judging by this stupendous 3rd album! One of Cleveland’s cult power / thrash metal bands going right back to the mid 80s, Wretch soon rose to prominence through a series of demos, but tragically, in a bid to get signed by moving to the west coast, disintegrated. Then, some 20 years later, the band reformed and released their “Reborn” album and it couldn’t have been more apt, playing live shows including festivals like Headbangers Open Air and Up The Hammers, thundering the way for 2 more albums and the return of this legendary band. “Man Or Machine” is Wretch’s 4th album and nothing short of a 5 star release, vindication for a band whose success eluded them for over 30 years. Making up the current band are guitarist Nick Giannakos and drummer Jeff Curinton, both from Wretch’s best known line-up, and they have recruited an all star group around them who hammer and shred along with the best of them! Inspired by classic Priest (judging by the cover of ‘Steeler’) and Maiden, from Juan Ricardo’s soaring but soulful vocals to the twin melodic guitars of Giannakos and Michael Stephenson, along with a steaming rhythm, Wretch deliver 10 tracks of faultless US metal equally resplendent with deep harmonies, epic passion and catchy melodies. From the massive pounding on ‘Destroyer Of Worlds’, the double bass drumming of Curinton sets the chugging riffs ablaze as Ricardo heaps in the highs along with plenty of emotion to get the heart racing and the head banging right from the off before the melodic solos send you straight to metal heaven. Losing no momentum and actually getting even heavier is ‘Schwarzenberg’ with its fast dexterous riffing giving way to a massively melodic singalong chorus led by Ricardo’s touching but stirring voice, backed by Curinton’s pistoning drums preparing the way for the shredding mixed with soul neo classical solos of Giannakos and Stephenson – amazing! Going for light speed but increasing in technicality on ‘The Inquisitor Trilogy Part I: Castle Black’ with its catchy neck snapping groove whose brilliance is radiated even more through Ricardo’s highs and the simply beautiful solos from Giannakos and Stephenson, one can only wonder in disbelief why Wretch didn’t make it – and make it big – the first time round? Still, it’s not one to be dwelt on, because the breathtaking wonder of “Man Or Machine” makes it clear that only the future matters for this incredibly talented band.