Originally written by Doug Moore.
If you look up Rwake on Wikipedia, it tells you that they are “a Southern sludge metal band from Little Rock, Arkansas.”
This description may give you the wrong idea.
When you think of ‘Southern sludge metal,’ what comes to mind? Probably blues riffs, being played slowly and loudly and with a lot of feedback—Eyehategod, Down, Crowbar, and so on. When I listen to these bands, I imagine greasy stoners with huge sideburns driving around a bayou in a fan boat, slamming down whiskey and shooting at ‘gators with shotguns.
Rwake is just as inescapably Southern as these bands, but they have little else in common. Rwake channels a different facet of the American South’s personality. There’s no blues here—instead we’re treated to spiraling, baroque melody. Their music evokes the region’s natural beauty and its proud-but-grim history.
This ancestral connection is explicit on Rest. “Behind everyone alive today stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living,” a sample informs us on “Ti Progetto.” The past weighs heavy on these tunes. Rwake’s lyrics are loaded with naturalistic imagery: lakes, rivers, trees, stones. When I listen to them, I envision crumbling plantation homes and sleepy coastal cities. I see rolling hills and woods smothered by kudzu. I see race riots and decrepit graveyards.
This is heady stuff, but Rwake is up to the task. They sprawl like the Allmans at Fillmore East. Rest features just four proper songs, but each is an epic, dreamy affair. The increased scope plays to Rwake’s strengths. Complex harmonies creep and interweave like stone scrollwork. Electronic washes turn sweet guitar lines bitter. Huge rhythmic payoffs barge in from nowhere and squeeze until your ribs crack.
Rwake also benefits from competencies that most of their peers lack. The guitar solos on this record shimmer and spark with a classic-rock flair. More importantly, Rwake has a dominating frontman. CT screeches, bellows, rants, moans, and lectures. His diverse performance lends Rest much of its emotional depth.
This band has been around since 1997. That’s a rich, full life by metal band standards, and Rest has the feel of a capstone. Rwake has become what they are, as Nietzsche might say. Sludge, prog, personal, cosmic; Rwake is all of these things. And they’re Southern. Turns out that last bit means more than just whiskey, shotguns and sideburns.