Wake – Thought Form Descent

Once upon a time, Calgary, Alberta’s Wake were a visceral and unapologetic grindcore act. We can reach as far back to 2011 and hear decimating two-minute barnburners recorded with

2 years ago

Once upon a time, Calgary, Alberta’s Wake were a visceral and unapologetic grindcore act. We can reach as far back to 2011 and hear decimating two-minute barnburners recorded with Colin Marston that appear on split EPs with Dephosphorous, Rehashed, and Theories. The building blocks for the version of Wake we’d all come to know and love start to appear in shadows on their 2013 full-length False. On tracks like “Bleak” for instance, there’s a strange sense of melodicism and atmosphere even through the grotesque brutality, perhaps informed by the likes of Nasum and Gridlink. Let’s hold that thought though, as the band would grow to be more consistently heavy and intense on through to their celebrated third LP Misery Rites in 2018, save of course for that final seven-minute sludge finale “Burial Ground”, which stood out against the nine two-to-three-minute assaults which it followed.

But 2020’s string of new music changed things entirely. Right in the early throes of the pandemic, Devouring Ruin hit like an Ulcerate or Deathspell Omega record than anything else, and the quick follow-up with their Confluence EP was often on the brink of post-metal. Those short blasts of gravel to the face were largely replaced with ambient interludes and long bouts of introspective and contemplative atmospheric sludge. Wake retained the heaviness and intensity (Devouring Ruin‘s “In The Lair of the Rat Kings” immediately comes to mind), but balanced them within this greater progressive space that was quite refreshing in whatever atmospheric / dissonant death metal surge that we’ve seen building in recent years. Wake were never really all that dissonant through Devouring Ruin though, though; the destructive nature of the record belied an uncanny sense of emotional vulnerability and a deep melodic vocabulary that set them apart from their likeliest peers.

Read More: The Anatomy Of: Wake

The hype from Wake’s strong showing in 2020 caught the attention of Metal Blade Records, who are releasing the band’s sixth full-length Thought Form Descent, which continues the band’s astral trajectory even further. Opening track “Infinite Inward” is exhilarating, swapping between dizzying blasts against  tremolo-picked riffs and atmospheric leads over grooving prog riffs, sounding like The Ocean gone blackened. Acoustic guitars open up the song’s center in Opeth-ian grandeur before burrowing deeper into the muck than before. One can’t help but to look back at the mystical slow build that Devouring Ruin offered back in 2020; Wake aren’t content with just knocking this time, but blowing the door off its hinges.

This strange marriage of genres continues, with lead single “Swallow The Light” pitting deathgrind riffs against ambient leads and swarming black metal riffs against an intricate rhythm section. “Mourning Dirge (Repose of the Dead)” conjures early Opeth in their own way, all while pulling through with a surprisingly anthemic chorus. “Pareidolia” offers a brief respite of twinkling ethereal guitars, featuring Gorguts‘ Kevin Hufnagel, before “Venerate (The Undoing of All)” offers a glimpse of what it would feel like to have Ulcerate orchestrating their take on a waltz. “Observer to Master” sees the full band at their most melodic after a deceptively chaotic introduction, once again featuring guitar from Hufnagel while the band dip their toes in the water of clean vocals buried within the song’s apex. Hey guys, the experiment works!

Penultimate track “Bleeding Eyes of the Watcher” is hypnotic throughout as the band builds and wanes in intensity around a recurring arpeggiated chord which keeps the song grounded even through its highs. The track fades out and bleeds into droning orchestral ambiance on the outro “The Translation of Deaths,” capping off an forceful and thrilling record in a numbing, dissociative wake. A fitting end as any, sitting in contrast to the severity of its introduction.

Read More: Wake – Devouring Ruin [Review by Eden Kupermintz]

If Devouring Ruin was a breakout moment for Wake, then the creation of Thought Form Descent must have weighed heavy on their minds. The pressure for Wake to outdo themselves without treading a ground too familiar — and parlaying their niche success into a wider audience on a bigger label without sacrificing any of the progressive brutality and forward-thinking spirit — surely felt almost insurmountable on paper, but Thought Form Descent is every bit as dense and heady as Devouring Ruin and further establishes Wake as a necessary band for the moment, contributing to the furtherance of a new branch of death metal without succumbing to the temptation of using existing formulas to get there.

Wake’s Thought Form Descent is available July 22nd via Metal Blade Records. Pre-orders are available at this location or through the Bandcamp player above.

Jimmy Rowe

Published 2 years ago