:wumpscut:'s distinct, dark electro sound has been such a force in the industrial scene that it has become a reference point to describe other acts. Characteristically dark yet never quite standing still, Rudy Ratzinger's inflicted expressions bind together anguished synths and a vocal style that is the voice of an imagined genocide. This is the shadowed corner in which Wreath of Barbs lurks.
Ratzinger finds new ways to torture his hardware by walking a path between :wumpscut:'s earlier, bleak electro sound; the noisier feel of releases such as Embryodead; and a new glimmer in the darkness. "Opening the Gates of Hell" is an expected :wumpscut: crafting of rough electro and punishing beats painted over with something goth and could be opening the gates if it was meaner and had teeth. :wumpscut: depart from formula, with the (deservedly) title track "Wreath of Barbs" presenting more than the usual routine -- the sonorous bass and slow avalanche tempo impel the track into a beautiful disquiet. "Deliverence" is likewise a commanding track, operating in a smoother dancebeat territory than usual for :wumpscut:.
Unfortunately, Wreath of Barbs is not just about :wumpscut: hitting new heights. The addition of Aleta Welling's female goth-esque vocals is an experiment that will only work well for the conditioned :wumpscut: fan, and then only some of the time. "Dr. Thodt" is musically an interesting enough track, but the misplacement of the vocals and uninspired lyrics together relegate it to the filler track category. "Line of Corpses" suffers even more, with even less happining lyrically and musically and both vocalists unable to save the track. The better formula would seem to be to leave the vocals at the minimum and work up the music -- the heavy synths of "Troops Under Fire," reminiscent of a veteran working over early Mentallo & the Fixer, do not lie. All of this makes Wreath of Barbs a bipolar release of peaks and troughs. There is no question that when it's on, it is some of :wumpscut:'s finer vintage. When it is all averaged out, Wreath of Barbs continues the tradition well -- except with more than the a few memorable moments for those who are up to the task.