Imitation as they say is the sincerest form of flattery, but there’s a fine line between paying homage to those who have influenced you, and blatantly ripping them off. This line is where we find The Wraith, balancing trepidatiously like Philippe Petit over the pitfalls of potential plagiarism.
The Los Angeles four-piece (Consisting of frontman Davey Bales, alongside guitarist Kaz Alvis, drummer Scott Raynor and bassist Paul Rogers) emerged from the murky underbelly of LA with the stunning Shadow Flag EP in 2017. Blending all of the best bits of UK post-punk and SoCal dark-rock, they could quite easily pass for a Killing Joke tribute act truth be told. Now however, in 2019, we find the quartet releasing their debut full-length entitled Gloom Ballet, but we have to ask, are they dancing on the graves of the same old tunes, however graceful they may be?
We open up with ‘Ballad Of Aeon’ and it sets a precedent for the album very early on it has to be said. The up-tempo percussion, deep bass and tinny guitar melodies, coupled with Bales’ almost nasal, coarse vocal; this is straight out of the 80s and as stated, it’s very Killing Joke, but it’s brilliantly done and can’t be put to fault. ‘Prevail’ continues in the same vein while harbouring a more predominantly punk-inspired tone akin to The Damned, but again, it’s a strong offering; the backing vocal harmonies are a great touch too adding further character to the track. The rest of the record mainly sticks to this formula, but it comes across as consistent as opposed to repetitive or redundant. ‘Of The Earth’ and ‘Devil’s Serenade’ in particular are album highlights; delivering all you could hope for in their nostalgic gothic grandeur, even incorporating subtle synth layers to emulate those traditional new-wave atmospherics. Indeed, it’s impressive to know the lengths The Wraith have gone to in order to achieve this sound; the majority of their recording equipment has come straight out of the 80s, including an original Roland Juno-60 synthesizer allowing for that distinct tone, as well as Roland Jazz Chorus guitar combo’s. The band have even gone as far as hiring some of U2’s original touring equipment. Talk about having a passion for post-punk!
If you love the genre and miss the sounds, tones and recording qualities of that era, Gloom Ballet will take you on a midnight stroll down memory lane, or at very least take you back to those nights at dingy back ally alternative clubs where you first discovered the likes of Fields Of The Nephilim and March Violets. Yes they adopt a lot of the styles from some of the aforementioned bands, but it’s been done respectfully and tastefully. The Wraith are keeping the genre alive, ironically.
Gloom Ballet is released on 29th November via Southern Lord and can be purchased here.
Words: Gavin Griffiths