When The Gates of Slumber released The Wretch in 2011, it was the first album I’d ever heard by them. It became not only my favorite Gates album after listening to their full discography but also one of my favorite albums that has come out so far in the 2010s. The album’s doom dirges and lyrical themes of depression and drug abuse become even more haunting now that two of the three musicians, bassist Jason McCash and drummer J. Clyde Paradis, have since passed on. It’s only fitting that guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon, that lineup’s sole survivor, pays tribute to those lost with new recordings performed by his newest project.
Seeing how Wretch regularly included “The Wretch” and “Bastards Born” in their live sets before their 2016 debut was even released, it goes without saying that justice is done. While the production is certainly stripped down compared to the original recordings, the tempos are somehow even slower than they already were. The guitars have an interesting filter on them, the bass is a little more distorted than McCash’s had been but serves the tunes well, the drums adhere to the original tempos well, and the vocals are even more mournful, no doubt inspired by the tribulations that have occurred in the last six years.
But with this look back at the past, there is an opportunity for the present to make itself known. The three song EP closes out with “Bassment Dweller,” a driving tune composed by bassist Bryce Clarke. As expected by the title, it’s a largely bass-driven instrumental in the vein of “Bloodfinger,” as Chris Gordon’s drums let Clarke put in some upbeat grooves and even a little Cliff Burton-style shredding. It’s not as downtrodden as the re-recordings, but it’s a welcome tribute all the same.
EP’s of this nature are often filler releases designed to sustain a band’s momentum and to whet fans’ appetites between full-lengths. Bastards Born is likely released with a similar intent but the heartfelt intentions and solid execution make it more than filler. It is a look back at what inspired Wretch’s conception and how things have changed since The Gates of Slumber’s last legendary outing. And when an EP is released at a name-your-price rate with profits going directly to charity, nitpicking too much will just make me look like an asshole.
R.I.P. Jason McCash (April 19th, 1976 – April 5th, 2014)
R.I.P. J. Clyde Paradis (May 16th, 1970 – August 14th, 2016)