If you aren't familiar, Spain's Wrong is a black metal project involving two decidedly non-black metal musicians: a thrash metal guitarist named David Pérez, who handles all the stringed instrument and keys for this band, and J.L. Rey, who's better known as Wormed vocalist Phlegeton. (He plays drums as well as manning the mic for this band.) Wrong formed just two years ago, but they've already managed to stir up two LPs, of which Pessimistic Outcomes is the second.

On its face, this album has more than enough red flags to turn me away. Its aesthetic — "pessimistic outcomes"? the angry zombie/vampire boob lady on the album cover? — doesn't resonate with me. Nor is the particular style of black metal this band plays really in my wheelhouse. In fact, this sort of plodding, depression-by-way-of-synth-piano approach to the genre lies so far outside of my bailiwick that I scarcely feel qualified to judge it.

But Pessimistic Outcomes still intrigues me for a number of reasons. First among them is its bizarre production. The guitars and bass are just as fuzzy and soggy as you'd expect from the style, but there Wrong's attachment to convention ends. Phlegeton is a more competent drummer than most one-man-band hackers, but you'd barely know that a human played his parts from sound alone — they've been so thoroughly polished that they sound like a machine. (Or maybe they really are programmed?) In concert with the granular guitars and Pérez's chiming synths, the drums produce an oddly mincing 16-bit effect, like an unusually grim Castlevania soundtrack cut.

The other engaging feature is Phlegeton's vocal performance, which is frankly the primary reason I gave Wrong a shot in the first place. (Wormed's 2013 album Exodromos was one of my favorite albums of last year.) Phlegeton's delivery in Wormed boils down to an array of squeals, burps, and chirps — it works great over technical death metal, but is almost singularly ill-suited to mopey black metal. He's a talented vocalist and I expected him to modify his delivery, but perhaps not this much. The guttural component of his voice is almost completely absent here, replaced by a thoroughly effects-bathed range of washy sighs and shrieks that's heavily reminiscent of Wrest's delivery on the last couple of Leviathan records. His work here is a novel match for this otherwise conservative strain of black metal, and the album benefits considerably from it.

Pessimistic Outcomes comes out on April 22 via Xtreem Music.

— Doug Moore


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