Wetwork – Synod (Krankenhaus)
This album is world class in every way. From the arresting artwork (cybernetic anti-religious imagery by Mattias Norén of progart.com) to the flawless production (by Dan Hulse and the band) to tautly drafted songs superior to anything Morbid Angel’s released lately, Toronto’s Wetwork have delivered in savage style. Each member contributes something crucial. Vocalist Doc combines a Jeff Walker-style rasp with guttural imprecations, adding some disquieting clean singing at various junctures. Guitarist Bryan has a knack for merciless, palm-muted riffs and discordant fingerings that evoke the late great Piggy of Voivod. Bassist Chay alternates between grinding away alongside the guitars and claiming his own territory when the opportunity arises. It’s a bonus that he’s clearly audible in the mix, which is almost a novelty in this type of music, to my eternal regret. And to take things over the top, drummer Mezz elevates the whole affair to sustained levels of controlled fury with his crisp snare/kick attack and surprising cymbal flourishes. While my immediate preference is for bands who shamelessly mash up genres and employ extreme dynamic shifts, Wetwork’s relatively pure strain of death metal clicked with me from the opening track, “Prae Laetum.” I don’t want to label Wetwork’s style as melodic death metal, because in the hands of the accepted proponents of the style (and their blinkered b-league copyists) it’s a subgenre that bores me to death, but that’s what Wetwork undeniably play—with the emphasis on Death Metal. Imagine a collision between At the Gates and the Canadian Voivod/Gorguts tech-death tradition, and this is what you get. Synod packs a lot of highlights into its 38 minutes, including the syncopated chaos that erupts around the 2-minute mark of second track “Heaven’s Advocate” (the point at which this album’s lethal nature became apparent) and the grinding atmospherics of the brilliantly original “Nature of Repention,” which evolves into what could be almost be a jam, where the bass really comes forward and the guitar plays clean until heaviosity erupts anew. This song introduces the more experimental last third of the album, with both “Venison” and “Pontius Pilate” linking together to form a disturbing duo before the final track flails the last remaining patch of skin raw with a full-on burst of death metal. Listening to Synod puts me in the mind of Poe’s nameless narrator in the pit, assessing the razor-keen craftsmanship of the pendulum as it swings closer and closer. Synod has a similarly deadly trajectory.