Genre: Black/Death Metal | Label: Metal Blade
Location: Calgary, Alberta | Listen: Bandcamp
Calgary’s WAKE have been working tirelessly over the years, as can be seen by their endless touring, and the release of their sixth album. “Thought Form Descent,” which is also their debut on Metal Blade Records, sees these Canucks taking the lessons learned from their last album, “Devouring Ruin,” and expanding on them even farther. That 2020 album saw the band shed a lot of their grindcore influences in favor of more black/death metal, and saw the band embellish their songs with more mature songwriting. “Thought Form Descent” keeps running with this style, but adds in a healthy dose of melody without sacrificing any of the extremity they’ve been known for throughout their existence.
No one really wants to write the same album twice, and sometimes bands will avoid that just by having line up changes between every record. “Thought Form Descent,” however, marks the first time that WAKE retained the same line up as the previous record. As such, it’s apparent this line up gels with each other well, as they’re able to craft some long and dizzying tunes, with song lengths generally sitting between 6 and 9 minutes. Gone are the days of the 2 minute songs where riffs whiz by at maximum speed, barely giving the listener time to digest them. Here, things are felt out, layered, and nuanced as they progress, showing a lot of thought with each song. The album opener, “Infinite Inward,” shows this well, as melodies from the more relaxed intro are reintroduced at the end to create something that feels complete.
As with “Devouring Ruin,” clean guitars pop up here and there to create a little breathing room, such as in “Swallow the Light.” Lead guitarist Arjun Gill (who has been with the band on the last 4 albums) has certainly found his voice with his playing. His sense of melody is stellar, and he’s able to add in a lot of musicality and dynamics with the lead lines that he adds in over the chord work that is prominent throughout the record. WAKE uses a lot of black metal inspired chord word, sometimes keeping it more traditional by just blasting through them with tremolo picking, but also opening them up with some arpeggios and adding in tension with some dissonance. “Mourning Dirge” sees Gill’s playing add in some extra atmosphere the way it’s layered in on this song, and when some of those chord progressions open up, bassist Ryan Kennedy fills the space up in interesting ways. As I stated with my review of “Devouring Ruin,” a lot of this feels similar to Deathspell Omega, but it still sounds like the guys in WAKE playing it. “Observer to Master” probably has some of the prettiest stuff on a WAKE album yet, as the melodic bit in the middle is rather elegant, and stands in contrast to the disgustingly dissonant part right after.
“Thought Form Descent” is the third album the band has recorded in Denver with Dave Otero, a relationship that seems to be very fruitful for the band. This is also drummer Josh Bueckert’s third record with the band, and if you’ve seen him live, you know he has some incredible chops. His playing sounds phenomenal on this record, as you’ll feel every blast beat, and his more creative playing comes through real nice with nuanced ghost notes (check out that drum pattern in “Venerate” before the blasting kicks in). There’s a huge amount of atmosphere to be found among the heaviness, with extra little layers of reverb behind the madness to create a really huge sound.
WAKE has really taken their music to the next level, not only from their initial metalcore infused grind of the earlier material, but from album to album, coming into their own unique style of dynamic black/death metal. “Thought Form Descent” is a wonderfully balanced album with all sorts of shades colours, but it still manages to sound extreme and powerful. The colourful artwork itself essentially foreshadows the dynamics played here, as it is a thing of beauty, and it is hauntingly powerful at the same time.