Around a year ago a challenger appeared, wielding not an axe, but a sample pad. That's right, folks, in Wreck and Reference you will hear no guitars, bass, or keyboard, rather an arsenal of carefully crafted samples compiled by sample pad master/vocalist Felix Skinner and drummer Ignat Frege. Naturally, I can see this new approach to metal, let alone doom metal, to be a little off-putting to most in theory. Doom metal has always been about the guitar, ever since Tony Iommi detuned his own to compensate for his significant lack in fingertips, and yet
A much more sophisticated, aggressive affair than their thrice-released Black Cassette demo, we see Skinner's use of samples evolving, distancing themselves from the demo's always-melodic, guitarlike sounds for something much noisier and more sinister, something which wouldn't sound out of place in early Swans's mechanical early material. Large washes of noise and deep pad synths are the norm here, rhythmically pulsing along with Frege's adventurous, solid drumming and Skinner's versatile voice, ranging from a shaky, timid clean murmur to a distressed scream. This truly is unlike anything I've ever heard, and in an extremely positive way. Normally bands like this who imbue themselves with a "new genre" (I'm pretty sure no one else could get away with calling themselves "electronic doom metal") simply get tossed into the "gimmick" pile, but Wreck and Reference are so much more than that. The passion and intensity of doom metal are there, but with the attention to detail only someone with extreme obsessive compulsive disorder and a really nice Padkontrol sample pad can achieve. Of course, this album isn't just "doom metal" like their title says, rather this time the duo ventures outside the Mount Eerie and Have a Nice Life jamming with Neurosis sound niche they carved with their demo, taking on elements of neofolk, power electronics, and there are some especially impressive black metal-inspired sections strewn throughout
It's not very often an album can tilt my head but keep pulling me in like
Who needs a guitar, anyway?