Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wreck and Reference - "No Youth" (2012) [Self-Released]

We are entering a new era. As a guitarist, I'm surprised I didn't touch upon this the last time I gushed about California doomnoise duo Wreck and Reference, but, after forty years of existence, one would think a new instrument would have begun to catch up with the guitar in metal. When one looks at the overall history of composed music, performing forces were a rather fluid ordeal, with new instruments evolving out of a desire for a new timbre, sound, or sonic range. To put this into perspective with a highly simplified example, out of necessity, the common ancestor of the Western bowed string instrument class's range was deemed too limited, giving birth to higher and lower ranged instruments, which eventually became the violin, viola, cello, and bass. Granted, most of these changes happened over much longer periods of time than the forty years in which metal's love affair with guitar (and bass guitar) has been around, but, with today's ever forward-thinking societal expectations, one would think some brave individual would have stepped forward and said, "Hey, you guys with the long hair! Check this out!," bringing about a new direction in music, yet, until last year, just about everyone has failed to do.

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 Youth (pronounced "No Youth"), Wreck and Reference' debut full-length album, is a stunning, undeniable bout of doomed, electronics-based metal.

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 Youth.

It's not very often an album can tilt my head but keep pulling me in like Youth has, which is a defining statement to the album's character. Wreck and Reference's new, legitimately progressive take on a tried and true style of music is absolutely one of a kind and wholly deserving of all the praise I've seen it get throughout the blogosphere. Hopefully some benevolent, awesome label will pick them up, because I definitely wouldn't mind hearing this one on wax, but, for now, Skinner and Frege have made this album available to you, the listener, for FREE.

Who needs a guitar, anyway?



  1. Actually their are guitars in the debut. The band never said that they EXCLUSIVELY DON'T USE GUITARS. They are there, just not too prominent.

    There are lots more guitars in the new one too.

  2. lol @ taking one misquoted fact and basing the entire review around it

  3. Do you guys know what a guitar sounds like? This is definitely samples. A big giveaway is the lack of attack - if a guitar is used then it is unavoidable that you will hear some sort of snap/slapback sound from a pick. There is none of that, which only means that the sound was brought about by a digital source. I find it funny people only comment on my reviews when they find I'm wrong.


  4. That's usually how it works out, people need to feel like they are superior to others so they comment in order to try and prove that.


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