Wretched Worst, ‘Worse Than Jail’

Posted by on May 6, 2013


Prison Tatt Records, 02/01/2013

Kentucky’s Wretched Worst has been laying down thick, filth-ridden jams for a few years now. Ex-Hair Police member Matt Minter, Thad Watson, Joey Tucci, and Ben Allen have trafficked in dark sounds since the band raised its pustulent visage over the horizon, with a sound that blends detuned sludge rock and raw noise. Like a friend with solid drug connections, these dudes sell the real fucking deal when the real deal is needed – a sonic purgative that is ugly yet pure, dripping menace, and ill intention all over your stereo.

If you’ve had your ears mangled by this band before (earlier releases have come out on Gods of Tundra, 905 Tapes, and Husk Records), then you know the basic sonic template: booming low-end guitar and bass sounds, augmented by drums, hideously noisy vocals, and carefully arranged tape/contact mic noises. The band has a single-mindedness to their sound that is admirable – it seems that they aim to make you feel whatever it is they feel as they play their music, and they succeed in that sense like few bands you’ll ever encounter.

Like waking up with a brutal hangover, the LP stumbles together in the title track with a phlegmy, sodden bassline. The band roars to life behind it, blasting into the riff while Minter’s distorted shouts lay black, encrusted bits of detritus over the opiated groove. After the initial stomp and crush of “Worse Than Jail”, the slight drones and breathy groans of “Mutilation Pains” are a surprise. “Ditch Stench” begins with a dirgy bass part, then picks up in tempo before dropping down the stairs in a crash of drums and guitar – the track ultimately morphing into a fast-paced bit of noise-rock. Side A closes with “I Smelled Inside Her Skull”, a dose of massively detuned bass and guitars alternating with crushing, full-band assaults.

The second half of the LP shows that Wretched Worst is no one-trick pony – the band pulls back from plodding riffs and moves to a spaciousness that relies as much on tape sounds and contact mic feedback as guitar, bass, and drums. The gruesomely titled “Sores Are Food” signals this change right away, tape noises setting up a creepy drone while drummer Allen bows his cymbals. Here the band’s use of negative space balances their ability to bash away in unison, a dynamic that gives Minter’s vocals their maximum impact. “Breathing Casket” is my favorite moment on this LP; a piercing feedback drone and tape noise, augmented by a sinister bassline, with tons of room for Minter’s distortion-soaked groans. “Pushed Back Down the Plague Pit” offers a speedier tempo, industrial-style drum pattern, and threatening, utterly indecipherable vocals, hurled out in under two minutes. Returning to more miserable territory, “Hole for a Face” beats a slow drum thud over gnarled, noise-leaking guitar and bass. Vocal shrieks and barks move the piece forward ever so slowly, before abruptly ending.

The production quality of the LP is rough but works very well within the context of their sound; any higher fidelity might rob Wretched Worst’s murky textures of their compelling opacity. It’s in these dark textures that the awesomeness of this band resides. Aside from having the best song titles of any record I’ll review this year, Worse Than Jail simply kills. Get it while it’s still around – there were only 100 of these LPs made.