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WAKE Reach Grindcore Zen on “Misery Rites”

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Calgary bruisers WAKE use grindcore as a springboard to connect to far distant points. The band’s tight angles of crunch are superimposed over an ocean of space; layers are curtailed quickly, then lengthened and sent to their logical ending. The band’s upcoming fourth full-length Misery Rites is like extreme metal quicksand: the more you run, the more deafening and complex the maze becomes. For a group closely tied to the grind scene since its inception, Misery Rites is an album with defiant punch: ever brutal while continuously expanding, offering highlights of sharpened psychedelia.

“We’re all about evolution and creating,” notes guitarist Rob LeChance. “We use grind as a backdrop to everything we do, but really like to expand and elaborate. We never look at writing a song with any preconceived ideas of how it has to sound. We write stuff that a lot of people say doesn’t fall into the realm of what their idea of grindcore is, and we’re fine with that. We’re more interested in keeping this interesting and challenging for ourselves.”

To that point, Misery Rites attests to the band’s conviction for exploration. For as punishing as the record gets, it never completely envelops you. Rather, it hangs on the outer rim and paints its brutality as thought more than action. The aggression, therefore, is one of ultimate continuality. It’s not something abruptly and mistakenly applied — it’s a natural part of the group’s essential nature, organic and ingrained and taking swipes in a mindful way. The dimension the band can perform in is one of Zen.

“For me, heavy music is an outlet,” says drummer Josh Bueckert. “I don’t think any of us are particularly aggressive people by nature. I guess to play music this angry, you’d have to be a certain type of person and have some sort of place to draw this much aggression from, but after you get desensitized to the brutality of heavy music, it becomes second nature, and when we play and write music, it’s coming more from the creative side as opposed to the aggressive side.”

Don’t let WAKE’s snowy and dark Canadian background fool you; this is music made by a collective which transcends its environment. Though the group call Calgary home, their artistic focus is one of universal ascension. This is a sound from a galaxy without mountains and roads: a place where the lights extend to one’s inner reflection.

“I think it’s easy to say that living in a place that is cold and dark for over half the year would influence us to be playing cold dark music,” Bueckert opines. “But there are lots of great metal bands from tropical places, so who knows. Maybe we are reflective of the Canadian environment somewhat, but I don’t think it affects our music too much; this collection of people would probably be playing this music whether we lived in Calgary or Australia, and with the Internet being what it is, it has somewhat gotten rid of the idea of super area-specific vibes anyways.”

Which leads up to an interesting dilemma. Where does the music of today exist in this particular universe? A band like WAKE is postmodern in the most current of ways: they express the road without markers, without specific destinations. Their form is one of pliability and questioning. There’s a seriousness here that is lightly taken, a tough task for any artist or band. Irony is a strongpoint of the group, and so is humor. The growth is exponential.

“The relationship between speed and space (and time) is only a reality in the ‘physical’ world,” LaChance explains. “Misery Rites is from beyond that reality. It’s a reality where we will make you hit the bong and escape, and become your own ‘engineer.’”

“We are all nihilistic and pessimistic, and we hate everything when relating specifically to the music we make,” adds Bueckert.

Misery Rites is a darkened conceptual effort of a spiraling soul. It’s a triumphant system that interweaves a deep and spacious literary sense within a genre typically known for its overt bluntness. The politics of the record are of the human condition: the struggle, the pain, the quick and blinding changes that can occur. Its speed is akin to its journey; and like the physical and mental world we inhibit, there is a natural order to the descent. The instrumentation works as both an aid and a lighting rod, clear and metaphorical, gaining steam around an individual’s plight.

“Kyle [Ball] came up with the idea of making the record a theme based on depression, addiction, and isolation early on,” LaChance says. “We had all been through similar situations, and with the way the initial music was starting to develop, we thought that the lyrical approach/concept matched the darkness of the riffs/tunes. We worked on the songs, lyrics, and concept for the better part of year and a half. We rewrote and tweaked a lot of it to make it as close as possible to what we had in our heads and also to what we had conceptualized.”

“When Kyle mentioned he was intending on using themes of cyclical life struggles, we were probably a little more conscious in keeping some things consistent throughout the album than we would have otherwise been,” Bueckert adds. “Also, we demoed most of the album up in Edmonton before going on tour; and playing early versions of these tracks every night changed the shape of some songs quite a bit before we went into the studio.”

The hard work paid off. Misery Rites is a record with the finest shining to it. It’s extreme and sustaining, with musical and conceptual levels that interweave and reflect like mirrors in space. For a band so tightly connected to a specific musical form, WAKE have delivered their referendum: they’ve moved beyond grind, while reaming truly and unflinchingly enthused.

“Grindcore is the natural base of what we do from playing that for so long,” Bueckert notes. “But on this album I think we took a pretty decisive step away from it.”

Misery Rites releases Friday, February 23rd, via Translation Loss Records.

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