A few years back, already stoked by the huge lineup of metal icons lending their talents to the epic heavy metal game Brütal Legend, I was knocked down by demonic horror metallers Wrath of Killenstein, who contributed the track “Igniisis Dance” to that soundtrack, and I'd been wondering why this outfit hasn't received more attention since then. Not content to simply indulge in a few horror movie references and imagery like many of their genre familiars, this New York-based unit dives in and really gets their claws wet with the red stuff. While material from Killenstein's first album (which itself reworks their original demo CD) has been included in high-profile metal compilations, I've been jonesing to hear something new from this crew. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for... a phrase that came immediately to mind when I received the band's new EP Ugly. Over the course of 14 minutes, this disc serves up more violence than most splatter flicks manage in 90, and offers an ominous glimpse of the upcoming full-length album.
Along with the intimidating frontman/guitarist Killenstein himself, the current lineup for these tracks (and presumably the forthcoming full-length) also includes lead guitarist Jomar C, bassist Randy Cavanaugh (with additional session work from Anthony DiMauro), and drummer John “Servo” DeSalvo, who brings aboard plenty of industrial cred from his work with KMFDM, 16Volt and Chemlab. You can tell right away you're in the grip of a madman when the shrieking guitar harmonics kick off “Demoniaxed” – a schizo freakout that alternates sequences of old-school metal with flamboyant gothic choruses (including keyboards and backing female vocals), as Killenstein's voice switches instantly from haunting guttural chants to a sneering, wild animal delivery. The production is surprisingly clean, given the gritty guitars and unique percussion style, and the busy instrumental layers blend well, though I could have handled a touch more bottom-end to enhance the deep, dark tunings.
There's an incredibly sleazy vibe to “Pigsticker” (apparently referencing a dangerous part of Killenstein's anatomy), which grinds along with titanic mid-tempo chugs (including a false stop that actually made me jump a little), colorful chord progressions and a suitably flashy guitar solo. It's followed by an interesting cover of Black Sabbath's classic “Electric Funeral,” which stays fairly loyal to the original's spooky psychedelic flavor and heightens the whole dark ritual vibe through Killenstein's vocal snarl – which replaces Ozzy's ghostly rich tones with the bile of an angry god. The EP closes on the hyper-violent title track, carried easily by blistering rhythms from DeSalvo and rhythm guitar stacks that sound like dueling chainsaws, peaking with a demented solo from Jomar and ending with demon-child screeches.
A cool departure from the vast majority of horror-metal acts, who tend to favor the instrumentation of industrial or technical death metal (don't get me wrong, I love those genres too), the old-school raunch rock and vintage hardcore force behind Ugly gives Killenstein a solid niche that could give them some real staying power and even lift them above the underground. If they keep up the same level of psychotic energy for the remainder of their full-length, they've got a good chance of kicking it to the next level.