"Beyond the Gate" was the album that took North Carolina's WRETCHED from the — relatively speaking — deathcore blandness of "The Exodus of Autonomy" into melodic death metal respectability. "Son of Perdition" is the sound of the band flexing its technical muscle and moving into a realm quite epic, albeit without abandoning the modern/melodic death metal fundamentals.
"Son of Perdition" is an album that is involved, requiring some time to absorb, yet not bloated or needlessly busy. Song centricity is the name of the game, no matter the technical flair and compositional depth involved. That the album length is kept to less than 40 minutes speaks to the care taken by WRETCHED to ensure that technicality never overshadows the fundamentals of pointed songwriting. Melody is just as significant a component as aggression and each song stands well apart from each of the others; it is a feat that has proven to be most elusive to the average death metal act. A sense of flow and a skillful balancing act that contrasts light and dark is heard from the choral, mood setting sounds of opener "Oblivion" through the album closing "Decimation" with its tasteful picking, cello waves, and sound effects. In between those bookends is a series of songs that also happen to serve as a showcase for the considerable talents of guitarists Steven Funderburk and John Vail. The pair intelligently weaves a tapestry of lighting solos, classy melodiousness, and a range of subtle intricacies. It is difficult to pick out a single track that best defines that talent, but the three-part "The Stellar Sunset of Evolution" (parts 1, 2, and 3) is certainly demonstrative of the duo's mix of intricacy and power. With the atmosphere enhanced through light orchestration, the piece features moments anchored in classical, flamenco, and jazz guitar runs, bolstered by the considerable talents of bassist Andrew Grevey whose counterpoint performance during "Pt. 2 (The Rise)" is perfect.
Don't be confused however, as "Son of Perdition" is nothing along the lines of death-gone-symphonic. "At the First Sign of Rust", "Dilated Disappointment", and the fluid navigation of melodic, cadence-varied terrain that is "Dreams of Chaos" offering plenty in the way of conventional modern/melodic death metal. It's just that within the fusing of WHITECHAPEL battering and THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER surgical-striking mania is WRETCHED's own touches of gracefulness and nuance. As many changes that are present within "Imminent Growth" for example, the aggressive center is never obscured. Incidentally, drummer Marshall Wieczorek is no slouch either; every track requires him to move in and out of conventional patterning and his tribal-esque beats on the textured, somewhat MESHUGGAH-esque "Karma Accomplished" is but one example. Through it all vocalist Adam Cody navigates the arrangements with solid growl-and-shriek patterns that may not be jaw-dropping, yet manage to stay clear of redundancy.
A very good album indeed, but don't misinterpret glowing commentary about impressive performances and compositional skill as indicative of a year-end list contender. Along those same lines, brief consideration was given to leaving the score for "Son of Perdition" at the same level as "Beyond the Gate", only because there still seems to be a pinch more that might be done to make the experience a truly unforgettable one. Most of that assessment involves nitpicking anyway. The simple fact of the matter is that "Beyond the Gate" is a good album and "Son of Perdition" is a better one. At this point in their career it would seem that the only limitation facing WRETCHED is the sky itself. Well done.