If there is nothing new under the sun, then why does the music of Wreck & Reference increasingly sound like nothing else I’ve ever heard before? Ignat Frege and Felix Skinner have been fine-tuning their very visceral brand of experimental metal for over three years now, and with each release they put out, these two further ingrain themselves into territory that many have possibly thought about, but few have actually explored to this degree before. I suppose for cataloging purposes, you could call what they do “metal,” but in reality the music that these two create is not so easily boxed into one genre. And if you’re doubting any of what I’m saying, I’d encourage you to listen to the band’s third full-length album Want. In the past, many have struggled to grasp what Wreck & Reference do, and that notion is only multiplied by what they put forth on Want.
First of all it’s important to note that the only instrumentation that you’re going to hear on a Wreck & Reference album is a live drum kit and a lot of sampling. On their first two albums, Black Cassette and
Youth, this probably came as more of a surprising reveal since the duo utilized a lot of big, lurching, doom riff samples that were surprisingly convincing. Simply put, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there was a full band behind the recordings. But as these two have evolved their sound as is heard on Want they’ve deconstructed their already stripped-down music to the point where it is more like a sinister brand of electronic than anything else. If you could separate the screaming from the instrumentation, this would be much easier to see, and probably much less challenging to listen to. But Wreck & Reference aren’t about making things easy or pretty, and Want is their way of soundtracking that notion for anyone who cares to listen.
Earlier this year The Body turned a few heads by pushing the boundaries back where heavy metal and electronic music are concerned and, more importantly, where they overlap with their album I Shall Die Here. Thanks to some excellent production work from The Haxan Cloak, that album fused metal and electronics in really organic ways and took them to some very dark places. In a lot of ways Want takes a similar path, but it focuses on an entirely different goal. Where The Body seem fixated on destruction, Wreck & Reference seem more focused on general darkness and how the shadows interplay with the light. They aren’t afraid to bait and switch the metal listener on this album, promising darkness and then delivering it with melody and a deft touch. And yet it’s important to note that Wreck & Reference are not trying to fool anyone here. They just are not about to apologize to listeners who make the mistake of carrying certain expectations with them and are then are met with something entirely different.
Splintering the glass right off the bat, the album opens with “Corpse Museum,” one of the album’s most blatantly chaotic tracks while also being the most classically Wreck & Reference. With it, they are not only laying their cards out on the table inviting listeners to either keep playing or abandon ship; but they are also detailing where their sound has been before they spend the rest of the album deconstructing it. From there the album dips quite frequently into more mid-tempo to outright sluggish tracks with gentler instrumentation that feel more like ballads when compared to the war-torn wastelands of their previous work. Again, if you could somehow separate these songs from their vocal tracks, the metal genre would most likely not be even entering the conversation here. It could be called experimentation if these two guys haven’t been building up to this for three years now. But the reality is that they have been ramping up and Want feels bold and confident for it. This isn’t them experimenting, this is who they are.
Wreck & Reference are currently finishing up their tour with Deafheaven and Pallbearer, two metal bands who have managed to transcend the trappings of the genre and achieve widespread, crossover success. Though I wholeheartedly agree that these two guys are more than deserving of the spotlight, I’m not sure I see that sort of path in Wreck & Reference’s future. What’s more is that I’m not even sure that that would be something that they’d want. This brings us to the title of the album and a very serious question. What is it that these guys want? Surely I can’t answer that for them, but I can certainly take a guess. For the past three years this duo has taken their craft very seriously, not only pushing themselves and their writing abilities, but also the walls of genre itself. In doing so they not only challenge themselves but also anyone who dares to listen to them spinning their dark yarns. They are pouring the gritty sand into the wine glass and daring us to drink it.
Want is out now via Flenser Records.