Tag Archives: Wretch

The Best Metal on Bandcamp: July 2017

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Whenever a member of a beloved band dies, it seems to touch the entire metal scene, so when Jason McCash and J. Clyde Paradis of the cult Indianapolis doom trio The Gates of Slumber passed away within two years of one another, the community was devastated. Guitarist and vocalist Karl Simon soldiered on and formed Wretch, whose self-titled debut from last year is essential. Now Wretch is back with a name-your-price EP benefiting the Amy Winehouse Foundation and the Indiana Addictions Issues Coalition. That release is profiled below as a part of a busy month in metal on Bandcamp that also includes iconoclastic one-man black metal, a split release from two modern masters of death-encrusted funeral doom, and Motörhead-worshipping D-beat from a metalpunk hero.

[View the Best Metal on Bandcamp Archives]

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Wretch Turn Tragedy Into Triumph

Wretch

Karl Simon is a survivor—both literally and figuratively. As the former mastermind of The Gates Of Slumber, the revered Indianapolis doom trio he founded in the late ’90s, Simon slogged heroically through heavy metal’s dark period of the early-to-mid 2000s, when the genre floundered, and more traditional bands like his were often considered dinosaurs from a bygone era. But doom enjoyed a revival in the late aughts, when Gates cranked out a string of critically acclaimed albums—Suffer No Guilt (2006), Conqueror (2008), and Hymns Of Blood and Thunder (2009).

In 2011, Simon and his then bandmates—bassist Jason McCash and drummer Jerry Clyde Paradis, who have both since passed away—released what would be their fifth and final album, The Wretch. Musically, Gates were at the height of their considerable powers, channeling the spirits of Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus while bringing classic metal into the new American century. But behind the scenes was a different story: both McCash and Paradis were struggling with drug addiction. Paradis’s eventual replacement, Bob Fouts, had the same problem.

After years of frustration, missed practices, and a catastrophic appearance at Milwaukee’s Days Of The Doomed festival, Simon pulled the plug on The Gates Of Slumber in September 2013. “It was just a horrible, horrible performance on our part,” Simon says of the band’s final show. “We were headlining the fest, and we crashed and burned. I went to Bob and Jason at that point and said, ‘We can’t keep doing this. You guys need to get your shit straight. I’m done.’”

Today, Simon is the only member from The Wretch lineup still making music. McCash succumbed to a heroin overdose in 2014. He was 37 years old. Paradis died two years later, an apparent victim of heat stroke at age 46. (Fouts is alive, but Simon says he hasn’t spoken with the drummer in a while: “I don’t know what’s going on with Bob, but I hope he’s doing well.”) Saddened but undeterred, Simon bounced back in a big way with Wretch, the new power trio he named after the last album he recorded with his fallen comrades.

Rounded out by drummer Chris Gordon—who had previously played on an early Gates demo—and bassist Bryce Clarke, Wretch’s self-titled debut was released last year on England’s Bad Omen Records to almost unanimous raves from the underground metal press. “This is a completely different band,” Simon enthuses. “The Gates Of Slumber was a very by-the-numbers metal band, whereas Wretch comes from metal, but has a lot more rock ‘n’ roll aspects to it than I was expecting.”

Wretch

As it turns out, Simon started Wretch before McCash and Paradis passed away. As such, the band name has taken on an unintended hue—part tribute, part tragedy—that Simon was ill-prepared for. “When I originally started doing Wretch stuff with Chris, there was no bass player, because I thought that Jason would eventually get his shit together and we could start fresh,” he explains. “But he didn’t make it through to the other side. So I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t this addiction and death element hanging over my head with Wretch because of the way things fell down with Gates Of Slumber.”

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Ten Bands Who Are Shaping the New Wave of American True Metal

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Original picture from David Quigley.

The winner’s history of American heavy metal encompasses Sunset Strip glam, Bay Area thrash, and Florida death metal, but there’s surprisingly little of what could be considered traditional heavy metal. (The same goes for its offshoots, trad doom and power metal.) That style of metal—guitar-solo-powered, with flamboyant lead vocals, often with lyrics about fantasy and science fiction—has long been a major force in Europe, but, cult fandom aside, the U.S. has never fully embraced it.

Of course, Americans have been playing the genre sometimes called “true metal” since its inception. Their patron saint is the late Ronnie James Dio, the New Hampshire-born singer who found fame with the British bands Rainbow and Black Sabbath before launching his multiplatinum solo career. Dio represents a best-case scenario for Americans playing this music; the far likelier outcome is that of Manowar or Manilla Road or Solitude Aeturnus—adored by a dedicated base, ignored by the majority of U.S. metalheads, and much, much bigger in Europe.

In the past couple of years, that tide seems to be turning. A class of bands influenced not just by Dio and the ubiquitous Iron Maiden, but by the never-quite-famous American true metal middle class, is emerging. Many of these bands have members with a background in extreme metal, punk, and hardcore. It might be that the young and angry have a tendency to age into Conan-reading heshers—or it might be that, in the time of Trump, it just feels good to sing about wizards and dragons. Whatever the reason for their existence, these bands are distinctly and meaningfully American—and they are forging a path for the next generation of traditional metal acts to follow. These 10 represent this recent movement at its best.

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