Wake Reaches Giant Proportions on “Thought Form Descent” (Review)
Calgary's Wake have been on a metamorphic journey. After a larval stage feeding off of the subterranean energies of crust and grindcore, the Canadian band spent some time maturing in a musical chrysalis nourished by infusions of black and death metal. Like a rare moth, Wake has now burst from their cocoon larger, stronger, and surprisingly colorful—it's hard to believe the band responsible for the gargantuan Thought Form Descent, out now on Bandcamp on digital and vinyl, is the same band that released Leeches ten years ago.
Thought Form Descent is bold and catchy. It sees Wake almost completely shed their past grindcore inclinations in favor of big production and sweeping melodies. If anything, this nominally grindcore act has released one of the best post-metal albums of the past few years. Songs like "Venerate (The Undoing of All)" contain some of the band's most engaging riffs without sacrificing the ambition and violence that made previous efforts such as Misery Rites so striking.
This new bent is clear from the opening seconds of "Infinite Inward," where the sweep of synths and wash of impressionistic guitar set the tone for what follows. While Wake have never been shy about incorporating elements of hardcore and post-rock, these felt more like important exterior fittings, even on 2020's daring Devouring Ruin. Thought Form Descent, by contrast, is built on a foundation of strong melodies.
Early single "Swallow the Light" was a preview of this when it came out in May. Powered by muscular riffs and adorned with soaring clean vocals, the song is far more approachable than almost anything on a previous Wake album. To the longtime fan, tracks like "Swallow the Light" will feel familiar for their punishing harsh vocals and eruptions of frenzied drums, but those looking for a poppier song structure and post-metal's grand gestures will find plenty of points of access, too.
Accessibility is something of a throughline here. Wake might still have the street cred of a basement-show act, but Thought Form Descent feels purpose-built for bigger stages, light shows and video backgrounds. The one element that still feels firmly rooted in the metal underground are the esoteric lyrics—heavy on descriptions that tend toward the Biblical, Kyle Ball's masterful harsh vocals splice together apocalyptic images with lots of "-tion" words much as one would find on any imagistic death metal record.
However, the stories Wake are telling here feel sonically far beyond any niche sci-fi project or Lovecraftian journey through the depths. Perhaps it's the sheer altitude that sets this music apart—far from being a circle-pit catalyst, Thought Form Descent feels lofty, looking beyond tropey aggression for an almost spiritual resonance. "Bleeding Eyes of the Watcher," a name that could be appended to just about any sonic treatment of the paranormal, is instead the title of the album's nine-minute epic closer, which swoops into the stratosphere before making an excursion through a thundercloud and back out.
Thought Form Descent is the sound of a band soaring to their highest heights yet. Of course, you have to leave some stuff on the ground when taking flight—Wake are no longer the harsh, grinding Albertans who started this journey thirteen years ago, but instead are older, wiser merchants of chaos. To be clear, the chaos is there, but as much as this, their sixth full-length, is the sound of worlds ending, it's also the sound of artists conscious of their own ability to create and destroy. What they've created here—a bombastic, cohesive, and ecstatic demonstration of elemental power—is among the most captivating releases of 2022 so far. Wake have made a further case for a spot among contemporary metal's most innovative acts.
Thought Form Descent released July 22nd via Metal Blade.