Branching away from the horror movie inspiration that built his first few records, Wednesday 13 has stepped into darker territory, stripping back the humour and taking inspiration from real crime and horror for his eighth full-length, Condolences.
Gone are Wednesday 13’s trademark screams that gave us Transylvania 90210 and Murderdolls fame, and while the last two releases The Dixie Dead (2013) and Monsters of The Universe (2015) gave us hard hitting drums and a heavy-metal sound, Condolences inches even further away from the horror-punk/goth/metal genre the band was first boxed into. Condolences is heavy in a way we haven’t heard before – the humour has been stripped back – and it’s exactly what Wednesday was going for; prefacing the change with a redesign of the band’s logo, signing to a label, and releasing the first music video since 2006’s Fang Bang.
Condolences is not a concept record, but it is from the point of view of a serial killer – and their victim. We’re sucked into the record by sounds of shovels piercing dirt, demonic growls and overlapping psychotic voices in intro track ‘Last Rites’ before it all twists off into the high opening chords of ‘What The Night Brings’. This is a darker, sinister, more monstrous Wednesday with low, throaty, guttural vocals that carry throughout the record. And although Wednesday isn’t a stranger to manipulating his voice to multiple ranges within one song, we don’t hear the more familiar voice until almost the chorus.
It’s Friday night at the cemetery for the track ‘Cadaverous’, and it’s a rival for the heaviest track of the record. It’s catchy with high guitar to the tune of the chorus, and features a deserved spotlight for long-time Wednesday 13 and Murderdolls guitarist Roman Surman. High chords prove to be a theme of the record with current single ‘Blood Sick’, and it’s not long until the chorus rolls ‘round sounding like the perfect soundtrack for the credits of a slasher film.
From the impending guitar and opening lyrics of ‘Good Riddance’, we’re presented with something not veiled by metaphors or any desires of “bad things”. Instead, as it peaks into the quick chorus and out again it’s the odd track of the bunch about a break up. The sentiments are quickly wiped away for the voyeuristic ‘You Breathe, I Kill’, a dark and fast track to welcome the killer who sits right outside the victim’s home. ‘Omen Amen’ comes charging in next, the music immediately reminiscent of ‘Scream Baby Scream’ of Skeletons fame. It’s a pro-devil, anti-god call for “no more hallelujah’s” after being recruited for the devil’s work, embracing group vocals to pack more of a punch. ‘Cruel To You’ is another soundtrack-esque piece to the tune of a comical and messy murder. It features Deen Castronovo of Journey on drums (after Wednesday 13 welcomed Kyle Castronovo to the crew), but most of his talent is lost on the simple beat.
We’re given a breather with the cosmic vibes of interlude ‘Eulogy XIII’ – not that we needed it. It’s hard to spit out innovative lyrics with a career that spans as long and diverse as Wednesday’s discography, but Condolences manages to hold its own. The themes are familiar; the music a natural progression for a band going on eight records. Where bands lose their fare from experimentation, and on the contrary from staying the same, Wednesday hovers above middle ground. We both know and don’t know what to expect from a Wednesday 13 record, and it’s what keeps the band relevant.
A sick-in-the-head killer is the focus in ‘Prey For Me’. There’s a comment in there on absolving sins no matter the deed, but the bell still tolls for the next track, ‘Lonesome Road To Hell’. The music leads us with urgency as we follow the journey, until the title track finally breathes in as the longest of the record. The opening piano tells us it’s what we’ve been waiting for – it’s rarely an element in anything with Wednesday’s name on it. It is the epic of the record, with heavy bass, pounding drums, Wednesday’s sinister whisper, and echoes lifting us to the terrifying motion of life’s final journey. “Sorry for your loss / Condolences” Wednesday growls as though the killer weaves in and out of the track to farewell their victim and their family. The outro piano slips us into a fretful sleep, before fading out and into the 13th track of the afterlife, ‘Death Infinity’: “And as I take / these final steps / I know life / begins at death” Wednesday sings before the full distorted crescendo of the band holds us until the closing note.
4 / 5 stars