(We present DGR’s detailed review of the new album by Canada’s Wake, which was just released on March 27th by Translation Loss Records.)
If you’ve been following the site recently you might’ve spotted the massive review collections fellow NCS writer Andy Synn has kicked out. Among the many groups covered (here) were Seattle black metal newcomers Izthmi and their disc The Arrows Of Our Ways. The Arrows Of Our Ways is a rare album, one amongst a packed genre that somehow manages to encapsulate the entirety of its current scene within its track list. The music presents a perfect snapshot of where their scene was at that exact moment — slight hints towards the future but mostly a perfect picture of the hive of activity and creativity that currently exists within their own spectrum, as if the band had shot an arrow of their own right through the center of it, as if competing in a musical archery event.
There are certain bands who have become masters at performing this specific act, adding to and molding their musical core to often reflect where the band members’ heads are at that exact moment, as well as providing the musical snapshot discussed above. If Izthmi managed to do so for their specific subset of black metal, so too have Canada’s Wake. They have become experts at providing deep musical looks into their world at the specific moments when each of their five albums has been released, including their newest album Devouring Ruin — a disc that captures much of the current crust, grind, and overall underground metal scene by adapting and molding it to their own noisy purposes, and in the process releasing an album almost twice as long as its noise- and grind-heavy predecessor Misery Rites.
Devouring Ruin starts slow and calm, which might come as a surprise for those who were expecting to have your faces sheared off from the moment play was pressed. Opener “Dissolve and Release” is mostly a mood piece, slowly building up to the experience to come. There are three functionally gigantic songs within Devouring Ruin, compared to “Dissolve And Release”, clocking in between a hair over six minutes all the way to ten-and-a-half. All three are longer than every song on Misery Rites save for its closing track, and those numbers alone should signal that Wake are experimenting a ton with how they sound versus their previous release. If there is one constant on Devouring Ruin that would be the through-line of Wake’s career thus far, it’s that the group’s vocal attack fills valleys with landslides from their rumble.
Even though the aforementioned mood piece starts off Devouring Ruin in far different fashion than the conflagrations that have passed as openings on previous Wake discs, there is a sense of the familiar destruction in follower “Kana Tevoro (Kania! Kania!)”. It is a song that also lays out how Devouring Ruin is operating on a much larger scale than before, as it cranks up the intensity and song-length in equal measure. It is an ugly and grating five minutes, and that sort of simmering-to-explosive snarl is the vein from which much of Devouring Ruin is mined.
The three “gigantic by Wake standards” songs that make up the bulk of the album are some of the group’s most ambitious to date, and in two cases also the highlights of Devouring Ruin. Admittedly, it’s hard not to want to sing the praises of a song like “In The Lair Of The Rat Kings” and how it basically collapses the entirety of the album on top of itself and morphs into that noisy and gnarled monster of a track, or how the one-minute breather of ambient noise that is “Elegy” makes for an excellent lead-in to the six-minute grinder of “Mouth Of Abolition”. The latter is one of the longer songs on the disc but both “Torchbearer” and “The Procession” do fantastic jobs of making it feel like each movement of Devouring Ruin has been building up to those specific songs.
“Torchbearer” probably has the strongest run as its ten-and-a-half minutes get another quiet noise lead-in following “Mouth Of Abolition”, creating an ambient noise/dense song/ambient noise sequence right in the center of Devouring Ruin. But it is also followed by the aforementioned “In The Lair Of The Rat Kings”. “Torchbearer” is an amalgamation of everything Wake have in their systems, rapidly switching from slow-moving sludge to abrasive and blast-filled for minutes before throwing itself into the empty and abyssal, replete with multiple echoing vocal effects, so that “Torchbearer” becomes extra-cavernous in those moments. There are times when the song just devolves into a series of anguished yells falling on top of each other as if thrown over a cliff. It’s an entirely different experience compared to what Wake had been dishing out previously, but one pass through and you could see how Devouring Ruin seems like it was constructed around it.
You would think that “The Procession” fluffs things up a bit by using Wake’s arsenal of feedback and noise-gadgetry to fade Devouring Ruin out, and yes, “The Procession” does spend its forty seconds going out on a wave of lowering volume and fading instruments, but the six minutes prior are an assault. “The Procession” doesn’t have much of a starting point other than “Go”. It’s basically the continuation of the preceding song for its opening two or so minutes when “The Procession” opens with a vicious guitar and drum assault, complete with the infernal howlings that color Devouring Ruin as a whole. That is partially a signal that the previous track never really ended. And in fact, Devouring Ruin is an album constructed of gigantic movements, at times with songs blurring into each other so that its forty-some-odd minutes have few moments of peace and are mostly spent by the band just effortlessly annihilating anything surrounding them.
Devouring Ruin is easily one of the ugliest experiences to hit in the early part of 2020, and it is Wake operating almost effortlessly on another level. If prior to this you had guessed that Wake would dish out a disc that is as long as two of their previous releases combined it would’ve been hard to guess what they might’ve done to get there, since it seemed like their songwriting formula was to construct tracks that spent their limited run-times effectively immolating themselves before the next song kicked in. Yet Devouring Ruin feels like a natural progression from what Wake were doing at the close of Misery Rites — expanding the seven-and=a-half minutes of “Burial Grounds” on that release into a full disc of its own, drenching that atmosphere across a multitude of songs and making their end-of-song-fire-ritual a much more drawn-out and intense affair.
There’s definitely a lot recognizable within Devouring Ruin for those who just want that quick song-to-song earth-shattering, but Wake have managed to unleash a surprisingly ambitious and remarkably intense album, and one that will keep listeners invested until the moment it closes out — whatever hollowed-out shell of themselves may be left.