Rudy Ratzinger has been on the industrial scene for almost 10 years now. After being a club DJ, he set out to create his own releases and has since been cranking out industrial/electronic releases. Although his musical style has somewhat changed over the years, thematically his albums pretty much reiterate the same thing over and over again. Ratzinger is pissed off and whether he's singing about war, famine, oppression, death, or other happy (yes, this is sarcasm) things, he does it with a growl in his voice.
The last release by Wumpscut (Bloodchild) was a 2CD compilation of tracks from the very beginning of his career, but it also contained a couple newer tracks that showed which direction the group was heading in. Wreath Of Barbs continues that musical progression, also adding in some slightly new wrinkles that manages to keep the things sounding fairly musically fresh.
I'll admit right off the bat that my major problem with this release is that lyrically and vocally it for the most part follows the same path as industrial releases that I was hearing almost 10 years ago. I said it before that Ratzinger is obviously upset about things, and that's fine by me. Many musical groups have made a career of making music that is bleak (from KMFDM to Godspeed You Black Emperor), but when song after song deals with death and atrocities (without even the slightest bit of tongue-in-cheek or humor), it just wears me down. Perhaps I'm just getting old, though.
At any rate, musically the album takes some cues from contemporary groups (and labelmates) like VNV Nation and adds some lighter melodies to offset the thumping beats, giving things an almost hard-trance (albeit with the BPMs slowed down) feel. After opening the album with the harsh, growled vocals and thick synths of "Opening The Gates Of Hell," the album launches into my favorite one-two punch on the entire disc (and probably the best songs that I've ever heard by the group). "Deliverance (album version)" speeds up the tempo a bit and although the vocals still have that scowling edge, the vocodored chorus adds a nice touch to things and flow almost perfectly into the album-titled track "Wreath Of Barbs" in which all the vocals get the robotic treatment and a touch of harpsichord is added for a nice juxtaposition.
Unfortunately, that all gets thrown out the door on the very next track. While it's obviously a try at something different, "Dr. Thodt" mixes some more hard-edged beats with hauty spoken-word female vocals. Instead of sounding menacing, it instead comes out sounding like a cheesy Lords Of Acid track. The remainder of the album ranges from crunching instrumentals ("Troops Under Fire") to even more tracks with overwrought female vocals ("Line Of Corpses"), and it sort of runs out of steam after the more solid opening tracks. With track titles like the ones already mentioned, as well as "Mankind's Disease," "Bleed In Silence," and "Hate Is Mine," it's pretty obviously an unrelentingly bleak album, but if that's your thing, this has plenty to keep you angst filled.