Review Summary: Spreading the wings
It was through change that man has moved forward; taking risks, daring to push boundaries, endlessly exploring and experiencing; evolving. Canadian extreme metallers Wake are among those who have embraced change, avoiding stagnant waters; never repeating themselves. The double leap (LP & EP) from the original grind formula into hybrid territory at the dawn of the new decade has catapulted the band into contemporary stratospheres, drawing the attention not only of the metal community but also of iconic Metal Blade, which signed a worldwide deal with the lads in early 2021. Wake's sixth studio album, Thought Form Descent
, thus marks a new chapter for the collective, creatively and professionally. It will also attest to whether the quintet will continue to progress their sound or choose to consolidate the formula. Either way, the success of both 2020 releases, Devouring Ruin
, lend a sense of responsibility and expectation around the band's next step. And Thought Form Descent
is anything but a letdown.
As soon as we dive into the first two cuts, 'Infinite Inward' and 'Swallow the Light', we realize the fellas have done it again, adding a new set of layers that lend greater atmosphere and diversity to their already hybrid sound. The clean background vocals and subtle synth soundscapes are likely the most noticeable updates and the ones that generate the most contrast with previous releases. Yet we never feel them as disruptive elements but rather as building blocks for a logical step towards a broader musical spectrum. There's a sense of modernity enveloping Thought Form Descent
, a freshness that comes not only from new musical ingredients but also from the band's own creative spirit, which once again refused to repeat itself. Exuberant climaxes and overwhelming blackened blast beats contrast with dynamic slow-mid tempos enriched by Josh Bueckert's impressive drumming. New textures blend into the previous formula smoothly, without disfiguring it. The Fallujah-esque nuances present in 'Mourning Dirge (Repose of the Dead)' and 'Venerate (The Undoing of All)' or the melodic sections that emerge in the latter and in 'Observer to Master' are tones that add some freshness to the sound palette while pushing the music to wider audiences. The brief yet expendable instrumental 'Pareidolia', featuring Gorguts’ Kevin Hufnagel, and the Tangerine Dream-esque closing track also explore different aesthetics, enhancing the album's atmospheric side; diversifying it. As with Devouring Ruin
, these new nuances are a double-edged sword as they have the ability to attract new listeners, thus broadening the fan base, but also to scare off current followers, who may find some moments too accessible, far from the band's usual orbit. It's the inevitable price of risk-taking and not playing it safe, I guess, but it’s also what makes the world go round.
Whichever side of the barricade you choose to be on, Thought Form Descent's
virtues are undeniable, both technically and more importantly - artistically. 'Infinite Inward' and 'Swallow the Light' are easily among the best songs this band has ever produced, and 'Venerate (The Undoing of All)' explores broader, more melodic territory, stretching the collective's scope. Oddly enough, it also opens some doors, notably with its Krautrock-ish ambient finale that may well be a glimpse of what's to come; the added ingredient in Wake's next metamorphosis. Their progressive blackened death metal formula is fertile ground for innovation and creative ventures, and this may well be an interesting seed.
Once more, the Canadian quintet spread its wings and dared to move forward, exploring new, more colorful soundscapes. Three-dimensional grounds that uncover a diverse layered sound architecture which introduces more ambiance and melody to the decor. Much like the central character of its narrative, who travels to places unknown, Thought Form Descent
takes a leap into previously uncharted lands, cementing Wake as one of today's most exciting extreme metal collectives.