Album Review: WAKE - Devouring Ruin
Album: Devouring Ruin
Genre: Blackened Death Metal/Deathgrind
Review by Mothlord
Opening immediately with introspective clean guitar ponderings and lurching snare driven groove, Wake's new album, Devouring Ruin starts its journey in a somewhat misleading manner. "Dissolve and Release" builds expectation and mood through syncopating tom percussion and swaying through off kilter, swing based post metal. If you were not familiar with the music that Wake have been making up until now, you might think you were about to sit through a lengthy and dynamic prog metal album. This would only be 1/3rd correct, as much of the grindcore approach of previous albums has been toned back to allow more space for lush and dense atmospheric motifs.
As if suddenly snapped back to some plane of lucidity through a brash tom fill, "Kana Tevoro (Kania! Kania!)" swirls and glistens with intertwining guitar flourishes that are lush and ebb and flow like a shimmering tide. There is tasteful use of melodic hooks and harmony to create a sense of anticipation in where the music will take us. Again, I mention the contrast to previous efforts as Devouring Ruin is deceptively soothing, amidst throat scathing vocals and punishing blast beat battery. It is refreshing and engaging, using detours into soulful and potent melancholic atmosphere driven by mournful and yearning melodies. Often establishing a motif through melody or device, returning to each to build on them again in a climax to satisfying effect that left me with a sense of intrigue.
"This Abyssal Plain", the first single released for Devouring Ruin is one of the more aggressive tracks on the album that immediately unfurls as a blackened death metal barrage that is. Time signatures through the main riff are chopped somewhat to shorten bars throwing off your ability to lock your internal metronome into grooves. These kids of effects might perturb some, but it creates a poetic contrast in having strong melodic hooks that are rhythmically unsettling.
Passing through a whirring and shimmering industrial noise interlude leads into what I can only describe as beautiful Deftones-esque shoegazing segment. It is a wholly intoxicating melodic ascension and releases a poignant aroma of nostalgia that soars and envelops upon straining delay coated lead guitars. I do appreciate that Wake have restrained themselves from being overly complex. Instead, passages are incredibly tasteful and there is potent use of structuring segments to set up pay offs for certain hooks and for the listener to catch onto without sinking too far into the blinding fury of blast beats driven chaos.
We then pass through "Elegy" and incredibly minimal textural and floating ambient interlude. I imagine this to be like the sound of a womb, earthy, primal yet stirring and soothing in nature. It did feel too short and I would have loved to hear a passage like this further explored with broader instrumentation. To really create deeper emotive responses, however as a brief respite it works wonderfully too.
Now to the third released single, "Mouth of Abolition". This track offers endearing and powerful chord progression. There is use of commanding yet despondent vocal bellows on this track that really play heavily into the emotive power of this piece. Introspective guitars ride flourishing drum patterns of lumbering double kicks and flowing tom work, that builds into rising tide of atmospheric guitar work. There is something about the way I reflect on the melody that evokes a sense of ancient recollection for the primal and ancient. This is before launching into furious palm muted guitar and chaotic blast beats to then release tension into another introspective segment. There is an almost alchemical tone of mystery in how the guitars shimmer and reverberate alongside pondering bass guitar. Once more through fury to a sudden cessation and drop into a simplified and contemplative reflection, driven by a surprise guitar solo, that is not overly flashy and lends itself only just bending and climbing slightly out of consonant harmony.
Once again we pass through another short, and restrained interlude, "Paean". It is cinematic like the sound of an urban soundscape. I imagine the echoing of distant vehicles or sirens, thousands of voices resonating far beyond reach, or the whir of countless technological devices. Again, I would have thoroughly appreciated further descent into these passages, to create more tension and depth which could more effectively lead into tracks and serve a more cinematic device in the musical narrative.
Dark and triumphant, "Torchbearer" has an incredibly apt name. There is a sense of contrast of despondent and downtrodden, and imperial and defiant tonality of the leading guitar motif. There is powerful use growling bass guitar peering out from a veil of void like guitar atmosphere. Crushing in unison with monolithic and towering doom riff, that is accompanied by slowly bent resonating guitar work that is eerie and malevolent in timbre. This is the longest track at 10 minutes 39, and only a couple of minutes in it is quite clear that this is a visual experience, one to take you on a journey with many peaks and valleys. Without warning a sudden tempo change throws us into lumbering double kick driven twisting guitar passage that is very reminiscent of Ulcerate, with bent and angular octave based guitar shapes. Then a sudden shift into sombre yet horrifying transcendent black metal driven by less than straight forward drums. Wake once again demonstrate their ability to build on established chord progressions and twist them satisfyingly, which is often done in tangent with slight extensions of segments through time signature changes to allow a tail of a riff to grow just a little larger before the shift. And this allows their melodic hooks to really grab a hold of you and drag you into an alluring miasma. This is before a somewhat disappointing, but understandable cut to a stark and powerful power chord based doom riff just as this satisfying melodic segment is reaching a poignant climax. The hammer is abruptly brought down to break the hypnosis. Torn from a satisfying haze, perhaps it serves a thematic role for such a long song. This is as if to dramatically tear you back from comfort to cold attention to make a severe point, to reclaim you under its power before being cast again into the abrasive whirlwind of emotionally excoriating black metal.
Once again we launch through another inexplicable shift into a jarring but infectious palm muted section that tails each passage in a bar of 7/8 to distorted a riff that should be incredibly catchy, but instead it feels unresolved. This does potentially lend itself to the bands sound and experience they want the listener to undergo. However It doesn't always give the sense it was meticulously planned out but that each segment, exceptional on its own, was placed next to another and shaped to fit. This only detracts somewhat though, as each idea is brilliant and I only wish they were given more time to develop further. Or instead dip back further into their grindcore roots and shorten ideas more drastically to create much more of a flurry of intensity.
"In The Lair Of The Rat Kings" the second release single, is one of the most engaging on the record. Opening with furious 16th note kick and tom drum fill, that plays off of shrill guitars screeching, climbing with ecstasy and anticipation, in an upwards trajectory. This builds, and builds a powerful but addicting sense of uncertainty. This plays well into a shift into mid pace lumbering chords, that plod along with powerful and sincere conviction. Wake on Devouring Ruin know how to utilize expressive and dynamic chord shapes. Without understanding on how to develop and express themselves with dynamic chord progressions this album would suffer greatly, but it is one of its greatest strengths that successfully creates a captivating experience.
Hearkening to the blackened fury of a band like Marduk, "Monuments To Impiety" unleashes venomous black metal that is woven with some tender melodic inclinations. This however makes it no less powerful and grand in its energy. There is intriguing, yet brief usage of technical death metal riffage that hinges on slight use of dissonance between notes and the panning of the guitars and staggered timing creating latency that is an interesting way of writing a riff that showcases some very creative thought Wake have put into their song writing. Elements that help stand out, amongst a continual wash of sound. The outro for this track is one of the most refreshing parts of the album. With shrill and piercing guitars resonating against bass guitar chords being utilized in contrast. This is empowered by progressive styled tom and cymbal work. Though I did not sign up for a progressive metal album, touches of these elements certainly stand to really showcase a depth of storytelling devices that confidently establishes Devouring Ruin as no throwaway grindcore or blackened death metal record.
In a blinding explosion of caustic guitars and powerful blast beats "The Procession (Death March To Eternity)" sets to close the album, opting to go out in a fury that reminds me of Evangelion era Behemoth with its darkened and undulating chord work, that glistens and shines like bronze illuminated by wicked flames. There satisfying is use of horrifying tritone based guitars that is emphasized by commanding and lumbering drums. This is paired with the contrast of glistening, yearning and soulful guitars, establishing one of my favourite passages on the entire albums. Building off of this, there is a passage utilize palm muted riffage to interject with the tritones that gives longevity to these ideas. However I begun to feel lost, as if this song could have been broken down into two parts or shortened. However it is also entirely possible that this was the intent. For the listeners eyes to gloss over in dissociative haze as they sink into the black. And it is just as I felt most lost, that the final passage of Devouring Ruin reveals itself through triplet blast beats and evolving layer upon layer of melody that reaches high and with confidence that slowly begins to fade. Upon finishing this record it is clear, many of the more unbridled, chaotic hostility and scathing venom of prior records, such as previous 2018 release Misery Rites has been dialled back. Those elements may have helped ground some passages a little more. But it was this smoothing out of elements that enabled the band to spend more time establishing deeply emotive timbres and tonality. And if you are in the mood for a dreamlike experience, much of this album will appeal to you. For a band who have taken a fairly noticeable shift in their sound, or a realignment of focus, I really hand it to them for diving headfirst into this refined approach.
There was tasteful repetition of ideas that evolved through different lenses as songs developed. And many exciting changes or expansions into a variety of segments. There were also some parts though that didn't flow as I had hoped. Some times it sounded purposeful, other times it felt a bit lost in this intensely driven void of sonics, or simply a very sudden change in direction which felt a little unfocused or half finished at times. However this album, is a proper deluge of focused chaos. That gleams with fury and power even at the most tender moments. It is even appropriate to use this analogy when speaking of the incredible mix that has been done for the album that has incredible clarity and weight, that leaves space to soak up the songs without feeling thin or agoraphobic. In closing, Devouring Ruin is less a snarling, ravenous and feral beast lurking in some grime coated concrete den. And more a towering and ruinous titan that strides the land, leaving cascading swathes of flame and smoke in its wake. Showing restraint and confidence in its power that evokes a sense of intense grandiosity, rather than one of unbridled, mouth frothing vengeance. Rating: 7.8 out of 10
Devouring Ruin is out on Translation Loss Records on the 27th of March, 2020.