Originally written by Ramar Pittance
After I had written Rwake off two years ago for putting out one of the greatest underground metal albums of all time and having it virtually ignored, this dogged group of drug addled loonies follow up the monumental If You Walk Before You Crawl, You’ll Crawl Before You Die theirRelapse debut Voices of Omens. This album makes both a statement about the band’s current vitality, and even perhaps makes the promise with of a long, exciting future. The catch is, for some fans, Rwake may be steadily heading into unwelcome territory.
Voices of Omens no doubt sounds like the album Rwake have been wanting to make their entire career. Here we have a polished and aesthetically focused album that somehow presents strung out sludge in a way that is clear and accessible. Of course, the positive here is that everything Rwakelays out on the table is well balanced and can be enjoyed almost immediately. With the hazy wall of sound that pervaded previous recordings lifted, Voices of Omens is revealed as by far the band’s heaviest album. Unfortunately, this clearer, heavier production also betrays the fact that in the past two years the band’s songwriting has become a tad simpler.
After a brief, but appropriate acoustic intro, proper album opener “The Finality” presents the familiar and entirely welcome Rwake attack. Complex harmonies and poisonous cyclic riffs set the table for a bleating dual vocal attack which extols the glories of isolation, misanthropy, and noble suicide. This is why I listen to Rwake. “Crooked Rivers” follows, presenting a microcosm for everything that is both frustrating and remarkable about this album. It begins by layering a simple array of riffs and eventually peaks with the players cohering several distinct musical tangents. However, the epilogue here is an initially unsettling doom passage that eventually starts to drag on until it becomes a boring afterthought. Many of the songs that follow “Crooked Rivers” struggle with this duality.
Perhaps the reason I’m not fully embracing this album is because I’ve always considered Rwake to be at their best when they’re stacking impossibly complex melodies to the point where compositions seem like they are about to topple, and then confidently reeling themselves in. Maybe I should applaud the band for reigning in this recklessness and making an album that is entirely digestible while maintaining an extreme metal drive. Because, in fact, there are moments when this direct approach results in vivid, memorable passages. “Leviticus,” and “Of Grievous Abominations,” are both deliberately paced and marked by catchy melodic passages bookended by knuckle dragging sludge. Towards the end of the album, “Inverted Overtures,” exhibits the band experimenting with softer sounds as a foil to some of their most straightforward grooving. While this particular approach isn’t successful throughout the entire album, this song is a fine example of the band taking a step forward by taking a step back.
This is a damn fine album. Rwake continue to be a band worth checking out, and as they’re now members of the Relapse roster there’s no reason more people can’t do so this time around. Those who do will be treated to the sound of a band streamlining their attack while still presenting material that is at times complex and always heavy. However, I have to end this review by saying I hope that Voices of Omens isn’t the start of the band’s move toward simpler material, as I believe they are at their best they push themselves just a little bit harder than they did on this album.