If your record encompasses as many different forms of extreme music as Wetnurse’s second disc, Invisible City, chances are it’s bound to sound jerry-rigged with piano wire and scotch tape. So how did Wetnurse avoid sounding like a third-rate Mr. Bungle? By attacking each facet of its genre-blind aesthetic with the same groove-heavy, ten-ton beatdown. These NYC boys find the common ground between Today Is the Day’s skronk-metal, Unsane’s drill press riffs, the arty hardcore of Converge and thirty years of psychedelic rock, erect a barbed wire fence around it, and thrash all over the place ’til it all becomes one pulpy meta-genre. There’s blood, dirt and spiritual transcendence aplenty to be found in the Invisible City.
It takes gumption to imagine At the Drive-In as a death-metal band, like Wetnurse does in “Not Your Choice,” and a whole lot of ingenuity to make the song flow so well from harmony to discord, alt-rock to filthy hardcore. Flow and urgency are at the heart of Invisible City. Even as songs stretch out long past single length, every riff propels the record forward. Wetnurse’s experiments aren’t always successful — Stephanie Gravelle’s guest vocals on “Missing Lion Returns” are a bit placid for the metallic raga swirling around her — but they’re always purposeful, and usually underpinned with a killer swing.
Let’s not forget that Wetnurse is a damn fine metal band, capable of battering ears with the best of them; take the savagely direct “Your Last Flower,” a compact shitkicker that finds vocalist Gene Fowler deploying every one of his multiple personalities, from Chihuahua yelp to guttural death growl.
Aggression isn’t the only tool in Wetnurse’s shed, though, and Invisible City is stronger for it. After the band breathes fire through the first half of “Slow Your Spell, Miss Hell,” a grungy, major key vamp turns eyes heavenward, a ragged guitar solo rains down cosmic dust, Curran Reynolds’s rumbling toms pat out the flames, and you can almost see the stars poking through. It’s pretty beautiful. And after such a frenetic 50 minutes, the calming acoustic guitar that closes Invisible City seems like a kindly peace offering to send us on our way.