Review Summary: Welcome to Arkansas.
Rwake, hailing from Little Rock, have made quite a name for themselves in the sludge metal scene. In a genre in which many bands employ the same one-dimensional sound and style, they have distinguished themselves from their peers with a strong focus on dynamics: one minute, bludgeoning the listener into submission with crushing, abrasive riffs and vocals, and in the next, lulling them into tranquility with soft, melodic passages, giving a short reprieve, before dragging them back down into a swamp of despair.
Combining elements of the choking dirge of Neurosis with the oppressive sludge of Eyehategod, Rwake create a style here that is their own, while at the same time paying tribute to the artists who influenced them. They merge doom-like riffs with light, ethereal guitars, and space-y keyboards to establish a unique contrast; southern sludge- style shouts mixed with old school black metal screams amidst the wall of distortion make the the lyrics unintelligible for the most part, which actually enhances the swampy atmosphere of the album. And while there are simple, but effective, power chord riffs aplenty, guitarists Chuck and Gravy go beyond that, playing melodic harmonies and even a solo or two, which provides a nice contrast to the onslaught of denseness, while showing that they can actually play their instruments. Rwake's self-deprecating use of samples, mostly taken from film and TV, serve to lighten the mood while poking fun at their redneck roots, as if to say " Don't take all of this too seriously".
While Rwake's approach works for the most part, Hell Is A Door To The Sun
is not without it's shortcomings; the tracks sound disjointed and the transitions forced at times, as if the band simply cobbled together various ideas and pieces without giving much thought as to how they fit together or putting much effort into creating more fluidity within certain tracks. 'The Cat And The Snake' is the best example of this.The biggest issue, however, is the vocal delivery; there really is no pattern or cadence, and the jumbled phrasing leaves much to be desired.
With their proper debut, Rwake put their own spin on sludge metal, giving the genre a much needed shot in the arm. While their songwriting and arranging would greatly improve with each subsequent release, the energy and enthusiasm found on Hell Is A Door To The Sun
make for a great time. This record is certainly not the recommended starting point for those looking to get into Rwake, as it shows a band still far from perfecting their craft; it does, however, show a band finding their identity.