The Art Of Manipulation – the debut album from Preston-based psychos Ward XVI – literally exploded onto the scene in 2017 with an over-the-top myriad of styles. It seems to have been an interminable wait for the follow-up, but fear not as Metamorphosis has now been unleashed!
Eleven songs see the doors of the Whittingham asylum open as inmate Psychoberrie wreaks havoc once again – as she did on the debut – and is once more the theme for the album.
The madness begins with the skin-crawling spoken word Retrogression setting the scene for the insanity that follows. A child’s music box is an eerie start to The Cradle Song as it creepily shifts tempos until it kicks in for six minutes of symphonic doom metal. Lead vocals from Psychoberrie soar throughout and a bluesy guitar solo sneaks in midway.
Mister Babadook is a full-on riff-athon of epic proportions as she pulls out another spotlight-stealing histrionic vocal. A piano lead intro eases us into pummeling grooves. Daisy Chains is a bright and breezy jig with almost reggae-like tempos that are given an edginess by the bittersweet lyrics. Broken Toys is an accordion-fueled toe-tapper that turns into a hairy headbanger midway and kickdrum-driven outro.
Imago, the first single lifted from the album, has a bleak vibe that suffocates throughout this pounder. Dark riffs envelope like a shroud, drums hit hard like the beat of a heart to give it a Rammstein-like pulse as it ends on a symphonic swathe. Morose violin work on A Goodnight Shot and evil lyrics that include “The vial of valium should do the trick, I slip it into your whiskey. I’ll serve you one last drink and all your sorrows will be history.” The vocals are backed by the operatic howls of Annabelle Iratni from Devilment that send chills down your spine. It heavies up colossally, backed by a mantra of “I know where you keep your gun mother“.
Burn The Witch is a towering opus – Eastern-tinged influences in the first half are blasted away by scything riffs as it heads off into overdrive for a wah-wah drenched lead break and headphone rattling kick drums. If Catch Me If You Can is going to be the new circus pit opener then the fans had best join a gym NOW! It’s a frenetic four minutes of death metal devilness with the lyrics spat out at auctioneer speed.
The Verdict is basically what it says on the tin as Psychoberrie has her sentence delivered – spoiler alert: voluntary manslaughter due to her upbringing. This over-the-top album ends with the mindblowing Shadows. It has the pomp and majesty of A Night At The Proms performance. It’s an all-consuming black hole to finish off a faultless piece of work. It ebbs and flows like a heavier ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ beginning with gentle vocals, strings, and laid-back snare work as it builds to a crescendo of almost operatic majesty with guest vocals by Russ Custard from Footprints In The Custard. The final minute is a cathartic wall of noise that eases to a shimmering calm.
Ward XVI – Metamorphosis anniversary special is out on September 25th via Metal Rocka Recordings
Review by Dennis Jarman