Wrathblade - Into the netherworld's realm 3.5/5

Reviewed: 8-1-12


1. God-defying Typhoeus
2. Dolorous shock
3. In metal we trust
4. Dream trap (Doomopolis pt. I)
5. Reins of doom (God of war pt. I)
6. Flee to Freedom
7. Signs of wrath
8. For you

Brothers, the battle’s raging, so choose your side. Well, there’s no question which side Wrathblade have chosen. This Greek quintet unapologetically walks the path of epic battle metal, following in the time-honored footsteps of bands like Battleroar, Doomsword, Manilla Road, Sacred Blood, Holy Martyr, Ironsword, Airged L’amh, Battle Ram, Slough Feg, Wishdoom, and so on. They play the style well, with triumphant melodies and blood-slaked riffs, and they play from the heart. If you’re a fan of this particular flavor of traditional heavy metal, you will no doubt be well and truly satisfied with ‘Into the netherworld’s realm’. If this style has never appealed to you, then Wrathblade will almost certainly not change your mind.

Perhaps the foregoing paragraph provides all the information any reader really needs about this CD, but let’s dig a little deeper, shall we? Certainly, the hallmarks of the genre are readily apparent on ‘Into the netherworld’s realm’, from the rough-hewn battle-ready guitars to lyrics steeped in mythology, metal and melee. Vocalist Nick Varsamis (who also sings for epic doom act Litany) is an obvious focal point on the CD, not for his unremarkable half-growling voice (recalling Mark Shelton at his most gruff) but for his striking clean voice which bears an uncanny resemblance to Slough Feg’s Mike Scalzi. It’s not a carbon copy, but it’s close enough that the first time I heard it I was scrambling for the booklet to see if Scalzi were a guest vocalist (he is not). Anyway, Varsamis shifts seamlessly between these 2 singing styles, often in the same vocal line, generally to very favorable effect. Unfortunately, he’s a bit buried in the mix and he does not enunciate clearly, so the lyrics are largely unintelligible, but overall the vocals are a positive. More generally, the production does not do Wrathblade any favors, as it’s rough and muddy. But that’s a common feature in this epic metal genre, most practitioners of which steer far from the pristine and clean sound jobs in favor of swampier, earthier tones. Also, the band largely eschews choruses or intensely memorable passages in favor of a barbaric wall-of-sound attack. Unfortunately, though, the result is that everything sort of runs together, and this CD can be something of an exhausting listen despite its 44-minute playing time.

None of this is to say that ‘Into the netherworld’s realm’ is unworthy of your time and attention. To the contrary, it is a spirited, honest and true take on the epic true metal style. When Wrathblade get it right, as they do on the furious, swords-in-the-air romp “Reins of doom (God of war pt. I)” or the hypnotic marching-to-war vibe of “For you”, it is a thing of beauty to behold. But in other spots, the energy levels taper off and the band just kind of rumbles along aimlessly (“Dream Trap (Doomopolis pt. I)” would be an apt example of this facet of Wrathblade’s sound). Despite some breathless, ecstatic reviews I’ve seen on the internet, I’m not sure that Wrathblade are quite ready to go toe-to-toe with the heavyweights of this style. Nonetheless, ‘Into the netherworld’s realm’ does a lot of things well, and is an impressive debut from a band that has a knack for crafting killer guitar melodies, captures the atmosphere and spirit of epic metal, and features a singer who has the potential to capture the imaginations of leather-clad hordes around the world if harnessed properly. I will enjoy this CD for what it is, and hope that Wrathblade are able to tap into the masterpiece they have inside them on their next outing. Wimps and poseurs, leave the hall.




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