Album Title: Thought Form Descent
Label: Metal Blade Records
Date of Release: 22 July 2022
Canadian band Wake have been around since 2009 but until now, they haven’t been high on my list of bands to check out, principally because they started life as a grindcore band. I like a bit of grind occasionally, but it isn’t a genre to which I naturally gravitate. Over the course of their career however, Wake have never stood still, morphing over the past thirteen years into a very different beast. They have altered so much in fact, that it is now impossible for me to avoid diving into their latest opus, ‘Thought Form Descent’. There is literally no grindcore to hear anymore, the quintet instead delivering a slab of metal that can best be described as progressive blackened death metal. Suddenly, Wake find themselves firmly in my wheelhouse.
On this sixth album, the band are quoted as saying the title of the album, ‘Thought Form Descent’ came from wanting to create “a sort of labyrinth within the mind and manifesting it into physical reality, and descending into it”. It’s a well-chosen title in that case because the music on this record is huge; it is an album with so much going on, so many things to hear, sometimes all at once. But, at just over the 46-minute mark, it’s an ideal length, and not too overbearing or daunting.
This approach creates a heaviness all of its own as well as an intensity that is dense and occasionally a little intimidating. Music like this needs a good production to allow all of the intricacies and multi-layered ideas to burst through the speakers but if I have one significant issue with ‘Thought Form Descent’, it is that the mix feels muddy to me. It isn’t a bad sound overall, but when I’m listening on headphones or in the car, I find that the songs are compromised a little by a production that lacks a certain crispness.
This small gripe aside, the rest of the story is pretty positive, especially when Wake really hit their straps around the halfway mark, beginning with ‘Venerate (The Undoing Of All)’, continuing with ‘Observer To Master’, and ending with penultimate composition, ‘Bleeding Eyes Of The Watcher’. This isn’t to say that the first handful of tracks aren’t up to much, because that’s not at all accurate; it’s just that the second half of the album really speaks to me, more so than the first.
‘Venerate (The Undoing Of All)’ succeeds a short instrumental interlude, ‘Pareidolia’, and begins just as gently as its atmospheric predecessor. In some ways, the track has something of a post metal vibe to it in the way that it builds across its eight-minute length, all the while maintaining a genuine intensity. For my money, the melodies are more pronounced than at any time before, save perhaps for sections within ‘Infinite Inward’, the energetic first song on the album. However, the sense of misery and darkness is suffocatingly strong within what is still an oppressively heavy progressive death metal composition, where the menacing, deep rasps of vocalist Kyle Ball weave in and out of the soundscape very effectively, even if they aren’t as up front in the mix as I might like. At the death, the wall of sound, dominated by the excellent drumming of Josh Bueckert and guitarists Arjun Gill and Rob LaChance are thoroughly imposing, crashing over me like a tidal wave.
A faster, more direct track, ‘Observer To Master’ is nevertheless just as nuanced, punctuated by some gorgeous piercing lead guitar lines to increase the melodic nature of the piece. The use of light and shade is well-placed here too, as we get brief respite from the harnessed tumult acting as a momentary pause, but also as a means of accentuating the ferocity elsewhere.
And then there’s my personal favourite, the killer ‘Bleeding Eyes Of The Watcher’. The opening riff is slow and melodic, very doom metal in feel and execution, full of atmosphere and latent misery that I can just lap up all day, every day. Again, Wake excel at creating drama and dynamic textures thanks to the injection of quieter passages and shifts in tempo and direction to juxtapose the ferocity of their progressive blackened death metal output. However, the root of this composition is the central melody – it is truly beautiful, and surprisingly moving as it happens, creating a lasting impression and begging repeated plays.
I’m not normally the biggest fan of instrumental intros and outros, but I feel I need to make reference to the closing piece on this record, namely ‘The Translation Of Deaths’. And that’s because it is a thoroughly intriguing piece of music, dominated by layers of dark and unsettling synths that sound like an evil pervading wind, accented by sparse bass notes. I have grown to love it in all its deliberately melancholic splendour.
All things considered I have become a bit of a convert to the Wake cause thanks to ‘Thought Form Descent’. It could definitely benefit from a tweak or two production-wise, but that aside, the Canadian quintet have created a rather impressive body of work here. It is both sufficiently cerebral to keep you thinking and discovering new things with each listen, whilst maintaining a viciousness and heaviness to sate those extreme metal cravings. Laced with a fair amount of melody too, it means that the music lives long in the memory and makes it difficult to deny repeated listens. Check this record out and I’d be surprised if you’re not equally impressed.
The Score of Much Metal: 86%