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Greetings! My name is Matthew, and I love to listen to all types of metal. I'm a high school English teacher and aspiring writer. I also write reviews for the Metal Utopia webzine!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

O Wretched Man - "The Decomposing Shrine" Review

O Wretched Man - The Decomposing Shrine
Unsigned - Recorded by Shaun Schwanke
Genre:  Death/thrash/black metal


Band Facebook
FREE download of the EP on last.fm


Jonathan Baron -Vocals
Colton Kain - Guitars
Caleb Clark - Guitars
Brandon Tranter - Drums
Mikee Harper - Bass guitar

            By the name and band logo alone, one might think that O Wretched Man is a full-on black metal band.  However, you couldn’t be more mistaken.  The band, while new on the scene, does an excellent job of blending various metal styles, including thrash, death, and black metal.  There are even a few progressive moments thrown in on their EP, The Decomposing Shrine, for good measure.  O Wretched Man reflects a pioneering attitude that metal bands shouldn’t be afraid to adopt.  Indeed, many bands can learn from this fledgling one—instead of rehashing what has been done a thousand times before, they can innovate and try something different.
            The Decomposing Shrine, while short, still gives the listener an idea of what the band is all about.  O Wretched Man imbues driving melodic riffs reminiscent of the band Dagon with blood-curdling bellows that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Crimson Thorn record.  Jonathan Baron, lead vocalist, growls through the record with passion and panache.  Interspersed along the way are black metal shrieks for variety.  The Decomposing Shrine gets the blood pumping with its generally catchy melodies and driving beat.  Like an enraged rhinoceros, it lowers its stabbing horn and charges the enemy, seeking to impale it, impervious to the darts bouncing off of its thick hide.  Who, then, is this enemy?  The Great Adversary, the Devil.  The band adheres to a strong belief in Jesus Christ.  Indeed, the lyrics of the song “Awaken the Warrior” paint it as a battle hymn.

            But back to the music—for while the band doesn’t renege on lyrical boldness, they are also confident musically.  The production quality is actually quite good, especially for an unsigned band.  Everything from a breakdown to a black metal rap (for lack of a better word—the shrieking is fast and furious in time with the music) can be found here.  “The Decomposing Shrine” begins with what sounds like a petition or prayer.  Actually, it reminded me of Jewish Rabbis praying at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem (an experience that one does not easily forget).  Then the song launches into some thrashy riffs and drags the listener in like a black hole.  The opening riff to “Awaken the Warrior” has a very Tourniquet-ish vibe, and the drumming compliments this nicely.  There is a frantic yet ordered feeling to this song—it is as if a warrior stands on the eve of battle, his heart racing, but confident of victory.  The clincher is “Blood Washed Bride,” an invigorating track.  It beings with a melodic riff that would fit right in on a Maiden album and ends with an infectious Middle Eastern melody.  In fact, this melody is one of the highlights of The Decomposing Shrine, and it continues the theme presented in the first moments of the album.  I’m a sucker for both continuity and thematic albums, so this final note sold me.
            Even with all this praise, there are a few things that the band could improve on.  First, the bass never rises to the forefront.  I have found that some of the most infectious riffs start with the bass and rise to a crescendo as guitars are added.  The drumming is proficient, but a more varied rhythmic section would be welcome.  The Decomposing Shrine would also greatly benefit from additional instrumental melody.  The songs could have been augmented by acoustic, keys, strings, woodwinds, etc.  It would have taken The Decomposing Shrine to another level if O Wretched Man had used some of these instruments to augment the Middle Eastern vibe that runs throughout the EP.
            So there you have it—a short but intriguing album from a metal newcomer.  O Wretched Man has definitely sparked my interest with The Decomposing Shrine, and I’ll be paying attention to future releases.  If you like metal in general there will probably be something for you on this album.  Best of all, you can download the album for free from their last.fm page.  It’s a win-win situation.  What do you have to lose?

Overall rating:  7.5 out of 10.0 (Excellent)
Musicianship:  7.5 out of 10.0 
Song structure:  7.0 out of 10.0
Album structure:  8.0 out of 10.0


How did I come up with my rating?  I rate the following categories:  musicianship, song structure, and album structure.  I then take an average of these three scores and come up with an overall rating.

1.0-2.9 (Poor:  musicianship is poor, song structures are haphazard, no directional flow)
3.0-4.9 (Good:  musicianship is sloppy, song structures are undeveloped, flow is hampered)
5.0-6.9 (Average:  musicianship is adequate, song structures are good, flow works most of the time)
7.0-8.9 (Excellent:  musicianship is very good, song structures are thought out, songs connect well)
9.0-9.9 (Superior:  musicianship is superb, song structures are varied, flow is almost flawless)

Note:  Ratings may be given in increments of 0.1 for a final score (rounded up) and 0.5 for individual category scores.  I will never give a rating of 10.0 because I do not believe that any one album can be "perfect," and the ratings at either end of the spectrum will be very few.

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