Wake’s Terrifying Atmosphere Consumes on “Thought Form Descent” (Interview)
Calgary, Alberta’s Wake creates dramatic, dissonant black/post-death metal containing loads of melody and terrifyingly dark atmospheres. The quintet has rapidly progressed musically since its 2009 formation by evolving and branching out from its early-era grindcore/crust days by incorporating more blast beats and more melody with heavy choruses and tight songwriting.
The band’s 2018 Misery Rites album is where they noticeably began to switch musical styles, which leads us to their sixth full-length album Thought Form Descent. Wake’s musical blueprint on Thought Form Descent is essentially a continuation from their last album Devouring Ruin, where expansive songs and thick, dense rhythms are explored [read our review here]. During a recent Zoom chat, drummer Josh Bueckert explains the band’s technical proficiency, the concept for their new album and their upcoming plans.
Wake began its musical journey typically as a grindcore/crust punk band. Even though you didn't join the band until 2018, talk about the early days of the band; what were they going for at the beginning and how did you discover them?
They started probably almost seven years before I even joined. I think the origin was kind of like Nasum and straight-up blackened crusty grindcore. I heard about them, actually… one of my old bands in Edmonton when I was probably 20, we played a show with Wake when they were with their very first lineup. I don't think I met any of the guys that night, but I remember them being easily the best band on the bill. There's been a pretty big progression since the members have swapped in and out and gone away. We're definitely going for a whole new thing now.
The band steadily segued into more of a blackened death metal band throughout the years. Would you say that your first Wake recording, 2018’s Misery Rites, is where you began to change musical styles? If so, was it a conscious effort?
It's tough to say. I actually joined for the touring cycle for the Sowing the Seeds… record before that I didn't play on. So to play those songs live and then to kind of be in the writing process for Misery… was like… I didn't know those guys for too long before we started writing for Misery…. So it was pretty natural. We were all into more metal, death/black metal kind of stuff, along with the grindcore stuff. But I think there was a pretty big desire to step away from grindcore as we were writing Misery…. Then after that album, it was just a complete hard push away from the straight-up grindcore. We never really talked about it. But all of our influences have been super varied since day one, since I joined and before. We all listen to a ton of stuff. So it was just a very natural progression.
Which leads us to this new album, Thought Form Descent. The thing that really catches my attention is the dark atmosphere, dissonant melodies and textures. What were you trying to achieve sonically with this album?
The atmosphere has been a pretty big focus for the last few records, especially I think the Confluence EP that we did. We really stretched out a couple of really long songs, basically. And there's a lot of atmosphere on that. Then we added a lot of synths, and we were just trying to have a really melancholic atmosphere while we're playing death metal and black metal. There’s catchier hooks on this album, but the atmosphere has always been a pretty big focus. The last few full-lengths, the song structures have even kind of leaned towards having the lush kind of electronic/noisy, the softer noise breaks in between some of the songs to have a second to breathe before the next song comes in. And then even within the songs, having a lot of space in between riffs. (Just) focusing on the songs as a whole and the album as a whole, having a solid listening experience from the front to back. Atmosphere has always been a pretty big key to having a good black metal band, in my opinion. All the classic bands have had that kind of overarching melancholic atmosphere. And I guess we're no different in that regard that it's an important part to our songwriting.
Would you say that this album is a continuation from Devouring Ruin? Since the band has evolved and branched out from your first few albums, was there anything that you wanted to try differently or experiment with on this album?
I would say that it's definitely a progression from Devouring…. That was the album where we honed in on the things that worked for us and having the atmospheric stuff, in some sense. On the latest one, we even added… it's not clean vocals, but there's some melody to serve some of the backup vocals that Ryan (Kennedy) does. And I think we're just pushing ourselves a little bit with every album. Misery… was the one that I joined for, and it was still kind of a more straight-up grindcore album. But the last few have definitely just been a progression from I would say that Devouring Ruin was the starting point for sure.
Devouring Ruin was released at basically the start of the pandemic (March 27, 2020), did Covid-19 have any effect on delaying the writing process and how did the writing process go for this new album?
It’s kind of crazy that that happened, because it seems like it was 16 years ago! But obviously, that came out and we couldn't tour. So we kind of just took a little bit of a break. In terms of the vibe of Confluence and the vibe of this album, I don't know if it's any different. Like a lot of bands during the isolation, we were all just forced to write gloomy records. I don't think that's the case, but we definitely just had nothing to do but write music. So we really took our time, we didn't really know when things were going to open back up. We just weren't afraid at all to rewrite parts over and over. We weren't really getting frustrated with not being able to play, it was just… this shit is going to end at some point, so we might as well just make the best album we can. So Confluence was basically a thing that probably wouldn't have happened if the pandemic hadn't hit. And then this latest record, it was just kind of a byproduct of having nothing else to do; writing as much as we can and being very nit-picky and very specific with the things that we did and the parts that we had. We just really took our time. So I guess (the pandemic) gave us a little bit of added breathing room of not having anything else to do. We were just very hyper focused on making the best album we could.
This is your first release for Metal Blade Records. What's the expectations of your working relationship and how has it been so far?
It's insanely cool. It sort of came up out of nowhere. I don't think it puts added pressure on us, but it's just kind of humbling to be on a roster with some of the bands that have been on that label; Slayer and Celtic Frost and some of the biggest bands that have ever existed in this genre. So, it's super cool, super humbling. And they've been super cool to work with so far. Obviously, the album's coming out soon, so we'll see what the response will be like for that. Just pushing for the two tours we've done so far, being under their roster, they've just been super helpful. So it's been real chill and I'm just really excited to see how this relationship happens once the record comes out.
The album was recorded, mixed and mastered by Dave Otero (Cephalic Carnage, Khemmis, Visigoth), who of course has a great metal-producing resume. What were you what were you trying to achieve or accomplish overall sonically?
We've recorded with Dave a few times now, so we really know what he's going to bring to the table. In terms of the sound, we just told him what we're going for a little bit, we were kind of going for a bit more of an atmospheric, bigger sound. Not a more polished sound, but roomier drums and a little bit more of a warm guitar tone, and lots of layers. He definitely delivered and he's just such a chill, funny guy. We've recorded a couple of records with him now, and he mastered and mixed the Confluence one as well. We know what he's going to do, and he's just a really nice guy to work with. He's super laid back in the studio, but he's definitely not afraid to give you some ideas and get the best performance out of you when you’re tracking. Dave's a good dude, we're really good friends with him now. So I think he knew exactly what we were going for. And it's very easy to work with someone who is just right on the same page as you as a band; grabbing a guitar and trying to write some riffs and help with some stuff like that. It was a fun process.
With the album cover art created by Samantha Miljard, how does the concept or theme, the album title, the music and the package all tie together?
We knew what we wanted. In terms of the person who we wanted to do the art, we had a few people in mind. Then we eventually reached out to her and she basically just had absolute free control to it. She had heard some of the stuff and liked it and she just kind of ran with some of the concepts that Kyle (Ball, vocals) had lyrically. When I saw the cover, we all thought it was completely perfect. It adds to the atmosphere. I know it's verging on cliche to have a foresty kind of a cover, but it's got more of a ’60s horror movie vibe almost to it. I think it really adds to like the dark, gloomy atmosphere. In terms of Kyle's lyrics, he also came up with the title and all of the song titles. We just kind of let him do his thing. He's really good with stuff like that.
Kyle's vocals are just vicious. And speaking of his lyrics, what type of inspirations did you want to explore on this record?
I think he really tends to write lyrics in a conceptual way, not song by song on an album, but kind of album by album. Some of the past albums we've had, it's been a very personal kind of thing for him, his lyrics are about his life. I think on this one, he was kind of trying to be a little bit more of a universally relatable thing. They're still super introspective and about him, but I think he tried to write them in a little bit more of a broad, interpret it as you will type of way. A lot of his themes are pretty deep, he's a huge movie buff and I think he probably just nerded out on horror movies and kind of had inspiration from stuff like that. Again, we just give him complete control over what he wants to write about and we always agree with what he's saying.
Your playing on this album is very fluid; your double kick patterns and your blast beats are very consistent. What were you going for technique wise on this record?
Along with our songwriting and the way that we want to approach writing, I think I've kind of found how I like to write drum parts with Wake. I still like to fuck around and try to experiment a little bit in the studio. When I first joined this band, I go into the studio and it was like “fly by the seat of my pants.” All of the fills on Misery Rites I have probably never played them the same way twice, playing that stuff live. I wanted to keep elements of that, but also have more composed drum parts. I had them feel a little more fluid, but I just wanted to be a little bit more solid in the studio and have a Neil Peart approach where his fills… if you went to see Rush, and he didn't play his fills for “YYZ,” you'd be like, “What is this?” They're iconic, like choruses of drum parts. And he's always been one of my favorite drummers and when he died I dove back deep into the Rush rabbit hole and that's probably all I listened to for probably six months. On Confluence and on this album, he was definitely in mind for me having more structured drum parts. Just trying to focus on playing for the song and making sure that every part makes the song catchier is what was going through my mind.
What’s next including touring plans? I believe you’re playing Loud As Hell Festival in Alberta at the end of July (29-31). Can you please talk about it and then future shows/tours?
Yeah, Loud As Hell will be cool. There’s a lot of cool local bands playing that one, so that'll be a lot of fun. It's cool to have a Fest in Alberta that's gaining some steam and becoming a little more reputable and getting some cool names out. We're going out east; we're doing Toronto, Montreal, Quebec with Bleeding Out and Executioner's Mask, which will be a lot of fun. And then we're doing a couple of more Alberta shows in August with our jam space mates The Weir and band called Atrae Billis. And then in September, we're doing some midwest stuff like Chicago, Winnipeg kind of region. And then after that, I think we're not doing much, we're playing the Decibel Fest in December. We've done the States a lot, but we kind of look at ourselves as I know we’re from Canada, but so many of our tours start out in Denver or Minneapolis. We're definitely not afraid to get some visas and go down there for a few weeks at a time. I think actually pretty much every tour we've done in North America, we've done some American shows, aside from maybe one. But we’re usually down there as much as we can.
Thought Form Descent was released on July 22nd via Metal Blade Records.