Review Summary: Funerals are for the living
I’ve always found it striking that Wake
has so much triple metre in it. To me that strong-weak-weak pattern, so frequently found in formal dances, is a harbinger of stateliness. An almost lofty solemnity. That might contradict with common perceptions of post-hardcore as a genre of unbridled emotional release, but Wake
is simultaneously composed and volatile, a woman who stoically lets her mascara drip down her face.
isn’t pitiful. Nor does it lavish its subjects with pity. Addiction, meaninglessness, murder, so be it - Wake
will stare them down, win the war of attrition. One must be nimble, sharp, carrying the right amount of restraint lest energy be squandered. Such is the maxim that the guitars follow, piercing through with glinting sharpness. The playing is clean, measured. The bass, meanwhile, establishes the solid foundation that accommodates for a less predictable percussion style. Donovan Melero’s high tenor cuts out a significant airspace, flying alongside his fluid drumming. One moment a frenetic force of nature, the next a deliberate trot. “Relax / Divide” is the eye of the storm, a pared-down and outwardly relaxed track that turns away before biting its nails in anxiety. “Anti-Eulogy (I Hope You Stay Dead)” is a macabre marriage of waltzing and jazzy transitions, giving birth to something that screams bloody murder. “Stay dead!” shrieks Donovan, before more quietly conceding that “while you may be gone now, you are always in my head”. Even through outbursts and explosions, the skeleton is left uncharred. And so Wake
, in one of its forms, is a surprisingly dignified work of self-control.
more obviously concerns death. But death haunts as an impersonal spectre, not so much as an intimate tormentor. The victims are remote, far removed from the heart; they are nameless (“Jane Doe”), enigmatic, (“Disappearing Syndrome”, “Black Serotonin”) and matters of thought instead of tears. “Human Target Practice”, meanwhile, steps away from the victim to the aggressor in an exploration of institutionalized, dehumanizing violence; death will also haunt those who are not on the dying end. “Jane Doe”, sombre and acoustic, reverberates coolly in its third-party recounting of an anonymous woman’s murder. Even “Hanging Revelation”, a blunt condemnation of witch-hunting, isn’t expressed as an individual opinion so much as an identification of obvious moral wrongdoing. These are universalized tendencies delineated in simple affirmations: “Fear will sell / Then murder is justified / Bodies swaying aren’t worth saving”. When Wake
delivers its observations and judgments with cold fury, it’s quite remarkable to see just how much emotional investment it puts into the distant and departed.
I would not, however, accuse it of proselytizing; it views itself as a witness, not a champion of any particular cause. It’s a very appreciable quality, that Wake
isn’t self-evident dogma despite its stances. “Falling On Deaf Ears” questions religion, but doesn’t fall to the hypocrisy of preaching; it captures just the right amount of abstraction and self-doubt to advance its message. As Donovan cries out “God, you’re not listening!” to the song’s exquisite climax, it comes from a place of agony rather than antagonism; “what if I’m wrong? There’s no way to take it back”, he later muses, and I take his fear seriously when he says that he’ll “burn in an apocalyptic realm”. While “Human Target Practice” is a more straight-forward denunciation of police brutality, its rapid-fire riffs and stark imagery manage to elicit both sympathy and an adrenaline rush. The primal drum motif of “Cosmic Narcissism” befits its commentary on human chauvinism; we are “brainwashed to be more than particles”, a succinct reminder of our idiocy, unimportance, and fragility.
is elegant suffering. That is the crux of it, really; it’s a work that lends a potent air of gravitas to its displays of pathos. It takes a higher perch, watches from above before reaching a verdict. It prefers not to draw blood itself - that is left to those who are lowlier than it. But do not mistake it for lacking empathy. After all, it quite keenly feels the pain of its subjects.