14 May 2021 - Knut
Avantgarde Metal/Black Metal/Industrial/Piano Music | Handsmade Records | Release date: 14 May 2021
This second release from Wreche will satisfy those of us who want a challenge and reward when listening to innovative music immersed in black metal and extreme metal soundscapes, we who relish multilayered metal music.
John Steven Morgan is the musician behind Wreche. He has hauled his piano around the streets of Oakland, CA, for some years and busked for passers-by. In 2017 he hauled the piano on to the black metal scene, thus introducing piano as a central instrument in his unexpected approach to black metal music. He has played solo concerts, at the Monterey Jazz Festival and with the ragtime & swing band John Brothers Piano Company. And in 2017 he turned his fierce energy to black metal and released the debut album Wreche with drummer Barren Baumgart. The monolithic blast beats and piano of the first album may seem impenetrable at first and may impress on repeat listening.
The new release is a far more accessible album, but the artist is still uncompromising in his approach to black metal and avantgarde metal music. It is hard, it is cold, it is heavy, it is inventive, it is soaring, it is confusing, multilayered and wretched. On this album he handles all the instruments himself. While the piano is his main instrument, he fills his music with atmospheric metal soundscapes created by the synths, drums plus his screeching, desperate vocals. This slightly insane music, is music that will keep one sane.
The first track ”Mysterium” starts with a gong and the music explodes with almost untamed piano in black metal mode, vocals, drums and synths. It is like the artist wants to drag you straight into his own desperate lonely darkness. After some ferocious minutes he lets you take a breath with slow light piano. But not for long. The music detonates again with the insanity you feel while the music hits you. But in this insanity, there is beauty, represented by the flowing synths that long for sanity. The music grows more intense and pushes you straight into the next vicious track.
”Scherzo”starts with a scream and the piano together with the rest of the instruments played in atonal and dissonant notes – it leads you into the madness. It repeats itself and is almost impenetrable in its fierce beauty. It is manic. Suddenly the music stops and only the piano is left with the vocals, the artist shifting fast between the dark and light keys. It rolls on into the lunacy, which underlines this track. You stare into the dark abyss, and the abyss stares back at you. The heavy music loosens up, tighten and head into the last section which has an industrial metal sound to it. The title of the track, ”Scherzo”, is ironic. In classical music a scherzo in a symphony is often the joyful part. There is no joy here, there is only woe.
So one braces oneself for the onslaught of the next track ”InAgony - to Earth and Heaven”. But the onslaught does not come. Here the drums are an inch away from blasting, accompanied by heavy dissonant piano playing more slowly and quietly together with synths adding an atmospheric sense to the soundscape. The drums fade away and the piano is more playful and in less dissonant mode under the soaring melodic synth. The piano sounds reflective, almost in jazz mode, before the screeching voice returns again building up towards desperation, quiets down, and ends in agony.
On next track, ”Severed” he is joined by the drummer Baumgart and the indie/dark-folk musician Leandrul. In the first part of this track we are back again at the roots of black metal. It is steered by blasting drums and dark and melodic synths rise over them. The screams are far away in the background - in darkness, behind the almost industrial metal sound. The synths are masterly fitted to the black metal sound he has crafted for himself. It takes several intense minutes before it all disappear and the piano plays it all down. The piano is on its own and let us regain sanity as he plays classical style over slow drumming and the windy synths in the background. We can breathe and look away from the abyss as the relaxed music fades away in the fog of the ambience created by the synths. It is a masterful composed track.
When the next track, ”The Darkling Thrush”, starts we feel consoled and relaxed, but of course not for long. The music is back in full force and it becomes harder and heavier, accompanied by the desperate vocals and the virtuously played piano. As we follow the music, we discover that in chaos there can also be beauty when the piano assumes ragtime-style for a short time before it turns staccato and leads us to the end with full heavy grand piano sound over drums and synths. Together the instruments build up a large dark wall of sound. It is not strange that the vocal is snarling desperately by now, matching the intensity of the music.
At the end of the album comes a track that is split in two, ”Les Fleurs I” and ”Les Fleurs II”. The first part is a surprise. The piano is played in classical style and lets the light in. It is almost as Dr. Jekyll has pushed away Mr. Hyde for a while. This track reminds of Morgan´s more traditional album Solo Piano Works from 2017. But Mr. Hyde returns for ”Les Fleurs II”and the madness begins again. Although the piano flows and swirls, the rest of the instruments does not. The vocal sounds angry, more growling now than before. Everything quiets down before the grand finale ends the album.
This release is an astonishing achievement and brings many new musical ideas on to the scene of extreme metal music. Music like this needs a clear production for the listener to separate each instrument from each other, and at the same time the interaction between them. The production of this album meets all those demands and will bring delight to the listener who are willing to be immersed in its soundscape.