If you like heavy riffs and a sound that bridges hardcore and thrash, then WRONG is a good listen. If not, there won't be much to hang onto here.
Relapse Records’ official bio for WRONG says, “[They] play Helmet / Unsane inspired heavy noise rock”, and it’s a pretty apt description. There are riffs and whole songs throughout the band’s self-titled debut that strongly echo those two stalwarts of ‘90s underground heavy music. But the band isn’t a retro act; its members have spent time in metal bands like Torche and Kylesa, and WRONG’s sound covers a lot of ground.
In fact, “noise rock” is a pretty good catchall term for the music the band plays. There are strong elements of thrash and hardcore here, with minor influences from other branches of the punk, metal, and hard rock family trees. The album begins with the 77-second “More Like”, where the guitars and bass crunch through a grinding unison start-stop riff as vocalist/guitarist Eric Hernandez bellow-shouts his way through the song. This lasts for about 40 seconds until the guitars mostly drop out (except for feedback), leaving just drummer Brian Hernandez to keep a beat, while Eric gets to speak instead of shout for a few seconds. Then the whole band comes back in to bash around for the final 20 seconds, bringing in the noise part of the noise rock label.
Second song “Turn In” is essentially a hardcore track, powered by a fast, simple, heavy riff. In lieu of a chorus, the band opts for a hardcore breakdown, where everything slows down and gets even heavier. The original riff returns to back a guitar solo before the song goes back to the breakdown to finish out. Third track “Read”, on the other hand, highlights the subtle difference between hardcore and thrash, going just as fast but featuring a more complicated guitar riff and drumbeat. Despite these minor differences between songs, the first quarter of WRONG breezes by quickly without significant variety.
Fourth song “Entourage” is a different story, though. This is the song where the Helmet influence can be heard most strongly. Here Eric actually sings, and sings with a Page Hamilton-like monotone. While the rhythm section goes full steam, the main guitar riff is a mid-tempo chiming two-note pattern. When the second guitar overlays it with melodic, repeated 16th notes, it gives the whole song a brighter feel. The brighter feel returns with the album’s closing song, “High Chair”. On this one the band stays heavy, in particular with low register bass and the constant smashing of Brian’s crash cymbal. But Eric once again sings, and his vocals give the song a melodic core. The band also finds a guitar riff that pulls the music out of the sludge in the chorus, and keeps the song sounding upbeat.
Those songs are the exception, though. For the bulk of their album, the variations in sound come within the context of their already-established penchant for heavy riffs and hardcore attitude. Some tracks, like “Hum Drum”, “Mucilage”, and “Wrong”, all run together because they’re just more of the same (this is unfortunate in the case of “Wrong”, since it represents the rare band-album-song title uniformity). A few of the others make a mark by doing something a little different. “Boil” is typically slow and heavy, with a big, crunchy riff. But here, the riff essentially stops every time Eric’s vocals come in, making for an interesting contrast. “Stasis” features a circular-sounding guitar lead that seems to echo the song’s title, but the band gives up on that lead about one-third of the way through the song, stopping short of what could have been a cool idea. “Fake Brain”, on the other hand, starts like a typical WRONG song, but takes a left turn halfway through for an extended harmonized guitar duet. The song eventually settles back into a much sloppier, less interesting situation where both guitars solo on top of each other, but the duet is a nice shift for the band.
WRONG is doing good work in its niche. Their riffs are appropriately heavy and the band brings the noise rock attitude very effectively. Their musical curveballs are pretty interesting extensions of their basic sound, but there probably aren’t enough of them to draw in many listeners who aren’t already into their sound.