Album Review: Wake – Thought Form Descent

Album Review: Wake - Thought Form Descent
Reviewed by Sam Jones

Wake are one of those bands that have been gathering increasing amounts of steam as the years continue to pass us by. First starting out in 2009 out of Alberta, Canada, the band initially sported a predominantly Grindcore sound that may been seen in their earlier output, with records like Leeches, their first studio release, certainly demonstrating that style with characteristically short tracks and a rapid fire album pacing. 2013’s False also saw the band’s Grindcore style return with passion too, however as the albums and Eps kept coming, we’ve watched as Wake, following 2018’s Misery Rites, have slowly incorporate additional black metal elements into their songwriting and overarching sound. 2020’s Devouring Ruin, their fifth full length record, was a major success for the band, an album that received major coverage during the times of lockdowns and the Covid-19 crisis. Now, two years on, the band have already returned with another slab of back/death metal that is sure to further the band’s choices on songwriting and aesthetics. As the band’s sixth album, Thought Form Descent, their most psychedelic and colourful album art for sure, looks set to be released I was very excited for what Wake were made of. These guys have been a band I’ve heard much of yet had never had much of an opportunity to check out for myself. Thought Form Descent was that moment.

Often, when you have an extreme metal band release an album like this, the soundscape is devastatingly total and as crushing as the band wish it to be. It’s why, therefore, I appreciate the approach Wake took to their production here. The riffs and songwriting are enveloping you completely, there’s no escape to be found. However, the band make it clear from the very beginning of their first song that, the album possesses a more open-ended interior; Wake’s sound isn’t this tightly enclosed and walled in experience, it’s like the band have pushed out the walls of their record considerably in order for their riffs to reach out further. It creates a style of riff that feels lighter, distant and isn’t as visceral as other bands may have released this year. As a result, when the band’s ferocity really gets going, their aggression isn’t so in your face; the band give you the space to absorb what they on offer so there are fewer chances for you to miss what would be coming next. Guitar work, drumming and vocals ultimately fuse together to craft an organically sounding black/death metal sound that doesn’t feel too tweaked throughout the mixing process.

It’s bizarre to acknowledge, in a work of black/death metal, the variety of riffs on show. I can’t put these riffs into any one style more so than the other; it’s a genuine fusion of the two forms. There were no periods where I thought “Oh this is the more death metal part” or vice versa. Riffs can be more streamlined and visceral in places, but then you’ll have riff segments that are bouncier and have a greater sense of rhythm to them. Wake evidently weren’t looking to just subject their audience to riffs that were one-trick ponies; their songwriting is absolutely geared towards a fleshed out and realised soundscape that moves and evolves as you’re listening to any track in this record. The overall vibe of Thought Form Descent is particularly modern, in that they aren’t looking for anything inherently or classically evil in nature, rather it’s a little easier to follow along to their songwriting and doesn’t feel like such a cliff that newcomers, like myself, feel they need to surmount in order for them to enjoy what Wake have to offer.

Album Review: Wake – Thought Form Descent

The band may not aspire for a technical level of prowess outright, yet that doesn’t lessen the impact the drums have. Blast beats, interchanging patterns, intricate Tom-Tom sections etc from the band give us all the juicy drumming we could possibly want within. But what grabbed me most of all, was the speed at which the drums were changing things up throughout a single track. You’ll be hearing a solid blast beat one moment before it organically switches to a steadier pattern, thereby relaxing the song’s pacing until it’s soon picking up speed once more, where a more planned and technically proficient section takes over. No one part of the drumming lasts too long either, the band never allow you to become too acquainted by what the drumming holds in store for you to become confident or comfortable with what you believe is coming next.

Thought Form Descent included eight tracks in total, however by peering at the track listing we can see there are two very brief pieces that conveniently dot the record midway and at the end of the record. Considering that Wake’s approach to songwriting results in songs that are longer than your average piece, at 6 - 8 minutes long in places, the breaks in their album here work well to give the audience the necessary breather. Wake have very few quiet moments during their main songs, from the opening seconds to the closing climax the band are forever seeking to immerse and destroy you with their own brand of black/death metal. Therefore, these small breathers are important to alleviate the record for us, so we’re not completely bogged down amidst the intensity the band are renowned at bringing, as well as preparing us for the next block of tracks to come.

In conclusion, Wake have always been one of those modern stalwarts of black/death metal that have often evaded me. I know people and friends who have often praised Wake for their style of extreme metal and what they’ve managed to bring to the table amidst a subgenre that is becoming increasingly populated with the passing years, however this was my first exposure to Wake’s music. I’m glad it was this record; Thought Form Descent is a powerful and immersive work that never lets you go until it’s final track has petered out and left you behind. Wake are in control from the first instance, forever leaving you wondering what they’ll do next owing to the immense unpredictability of their songwriting and riffs and drumming. Alongside bands such as Wode and Gaerea, Wake are becoming a fearsome force under the moniker of modern black metal. Thoroughly enjoyable and with enough room to breathe enabling you to take in everything Wake deliver on.

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