It may seem a dubious proposition, preparing to listen to (and critique) a CD which only landed in one's hands because a band won a contest co-sponsored by a car company. Such is the story of "The Wretched Sun," the second effort from Minnesota's Iron Thrones, who vanquished a slew of other unsigned bands in the "No Label Needed" contest, brought to you by the kindly folks at Metal Injection and Scion. By kicking the other entrants in the proverbial nuts, Iron Thrones won studio time in The Machine Shop to record "The Wretched Sun" and a push from PR pros Big Machine Media. Other, far less useful but more hilarious "prizes" included coaching or something from Shadows Fall and fashion advice/shopping trips with In This Moment's Maria Brink and former Zombie/current Ozzy bassist Blasko. Yeaaahh.
Thankfully, the more chuckle-worthy aspects of Iron Thrones' booty had no negative impact on "The Wretched Sun," which finds the band taking a somewhat stark approach to proggy, death-ish metal. Think early Between the Buried and Me filtered through the compositional sensibilities of Opeth. This is best exemplified on opening track "Like a Moth to Flame," where crisp, crunchy riffs collapse into spiraling guitar lines before a mellow interlude presages the swollen finale. "Ever Flowing" is a leaner, more aggressive tune, packing plenty of double bass-driven bulldozing into its comparatively short four-and-a-half minutes. Epic "I Once Had the Crown" mixes things up to great effect, intermingling grand chorded gestures with clean, mellow instrumental bubbling.
Throughout the course of "The Wretched Sun"'s six tracks (technically an EP, but it stretches past 40 minutes), Iron Thrones deploy both creativity and good judgment, writing sprawling songs without resorting to wankery or needless mood/tempo shifts. A big salute goes out to whoever it was that voted these guys the winner of that contest; at least one quality band's voice won't get drowned out by the untold number of acts screaming to be heard.