Originally written by Erik Thomas
Fuzzed out, stoner doom has never really been my thing, but when laced with slivers of grating extremity and a caustic sense of foreboding, it creates an overall ambience I can’t quite shake. Rwake create such an ambience with their wordy second album; rather than hazy, smoky dirges of red eyed lethargy, Rwake’s take on the genre is more dynamic and ominously aggressive. With obvious Black Sabbath influences, Rwake also seem to manage at times to sound like a seething mix of Soilent Green, Goatsblood, Neurosis and Sun of Nothing in that their resin heavy noise is grittier, more malicious sounding, but still retains a haunting ambience and soul withering introspection.
At the dried out heart of Rwake is the scorching voice of CT whose tone is more black metal than traditional stoner doom slurs, and is sands down Rwake’s take on the genre to an abrasive mottled sound rather than sultry dirges. The grainy guitars are devoid of stoner doom’s usual low end, instead carrying a more biting vitriolic tone broken up by equally acidic acoustic interludes. The mix of the two creates a vast soundscape that while capturing the soul of stoner doom, is more textural and coiled in premeditated tension. Although not as epic as Neurosis, Rwake’s acoustics create the same tangible sense of apprehension, but their eventual climaxes are slightly more sludgy and hateful, rather than Neurosis’s apocalyptic zeniths.
The balance between monochromatic interludes and abrasive noise, favors the noisy side heavily, but it only serves to make the interludes far more effective in artfully breaking up the barren washes of throbbing riffs. After an expected build complete with clever sample, “Dying Spiral Galaxies” undulates with menace and lets CT start ripping your face off straight away, despite the track’s hypnotic, subtle melodies. The ebb and flow of “Forge” is certainly more Neurosis/Isis –like in its layered tones and more sloth like pace, even if CT strips down the aforementioned band’s sound with his poisonous screech. “Sleep and Forget Forever” truly enforces the album’s dual personality, as it gives the listener a stark yet dreamy few moments to collect your thoughts from the album grating first half. While the songs are all of a decent length, they never drag or get too wrapped up in drone-fests, as Rwake are succinct and direct, even when swaying with a more altered state of mind (“Imbedded”). Only the vast album closing title track, at 10 minutes is a lethargic monster of scrawling, nails on a chalkboard intensity painfully drawn out in far doomier visage. I would have preferred an earthier production, as the bass is barely audible, but their dentist’s drill sound suits their music perfectly.
If You Walk Before You Crawl You Crawl Before You Die is a mighty fine album loaded with sonic angst but devoid of the usual stoner doom, musical hangover sound. It’s abrasive and violent, but all within the paradigms of an effective take on the parent genre. Whereas most stoner doom tends to lull and throb with a snail like gait, Rwake have taken the typical stoner doom traits and made it the sonic equivalent of chewing glass while higher than an NBA player.
Ugh, my head.