Nothing is better than your first time. That first time you take that hit, that first time when you get drunk, that first time when you first get laid; nothing is better than your first time. Then you try to get the same feeling that you had the first time–euphoric recall is what’s it called–and then you realize…nothing is better than your first time. Until it happens. When all the stars align and you’re at the right place at the right time. Where that high is just as good as your first high, that buzz is just as good as your first buzz, and you finally hookup with that 9/10 girl that everybody oogles at.
Wraithwalker’s Hellscape 2X19 is the synthwave for the connoisseur, and the novice. The addict looking for a new vein and the person who just wants to try something new. If you want to know about synthwave this album is probably the best place to start.
The reason I say is pretty simple, kind of like how Bubba in Forest Gump went on a 10 minute dialogue about the varieties of shrimp there were. The same can be said of this album and the variety of synths used: there are bell synths, oriental plucking synths, choir synths, synths that sound like they’re in some weird science experiment, synths that are fat and pulsate, synths that are thin and pierce, synths that arpeggio, synths that bleep, etc. you get the idea. There’s such a variety of different sounds and textures that Wraithwalker uses that brings synthwave to an almost orchestral level.
So due to the variety of synths used each song pulsates, and mutates into a different sound. The best way to describe a single track, and in particular the song structure of each track, is to compare it to The Simpsons. Not the modern garbage Simpsons but the classic 90’s Simpsons. In those classic episodes the humor was so organic, and the plot would be, say based on Homer eating protein bars to get into shape to earn the respect of Bart, and then it would end up with him climbing a Mountain. Never once when watching the episode you notice how the plot changed from one point to another. The same can apply to Wraithwalker’s Hellscape 2X19. Listening to the beginning of one song, and then the ending of the same song, you feel like you’re listening to an entirely song–except that you’re not. Wraithwalker does such a fantastic job introducing new elements into his songs, which in turn slightly alter the sound, and then gradually changes into something completely different; that you can’t help but admire Wraithwalker’s technical ability.
Like how the song structure is this shifting, pulsating, morphing sound; so too can it be applied to the album. The album itself if it were to be compared to anything is like a great open world video game. Let’s take Fallout: New Vegas, my personal favorite open world game. So in a Fallout game there are certain things you know aren’t going to be in it. You’re not going to slay the dragon to save the princess. You’re not going to kill Hitler. You’re not ever going to ride a skateboard. Etc. But within the world of Fallout: New Vegas you can solve a murder mystery, join a Roman Legionary, flight aliens, stop a secret society of cannibals, etc. Likewise each song in Wraithwalker’s Hellscape 2X19 contains it’s own episodic sound. It’s set in the Open world of all of Synthwave music and each song explores the best possibilities of that world, while rejecting the worst aspect of it, such as the stale stock drumming with occasional tom fills, using only 3 synths per song, uninspired song structure etc. You get the idea.
Wraithwalker really has their ear close to the ground, you can almost hear all of synthwave condensed into this album, and with their refined taste you get a “Best of” compilation album, that highlights the very best the genre has to offer. It’s the album that people who have listened to synthwave for awhile can listen to and say, “Oh, I remember this music is great, that’s why I liked this genre of music.” It’s synthwave perfected.
So for anybody who wants to get into synthwave, or someone who is tired of mediocre artists clotting up the scene, then please check out Wraithwalker’s Hellscape 2X19. I give this album my recc.