One of the most fascinating and fun facets of fandom is watching a band develop over time. I don’t have any children – much to everyone’s relief – but I do have nephews and a niece, and the growth process is similar in both situations: Periodically, I check back in with the ones I care about, and now they’re taller; they’re more articulate; their interests have changed; their voices have changed; they’re just different. Sometimes the change is slight, barely noticeable, and sometimes it’s drastic. Sometimes – although not in the instance of my niece and nephews – the change is a backwards step, or a sideways one.
And sometimes you just sit back and marvel at what they’ve grown into.
Misery Rites’ power is insidious – I will admit that, on my first listen, I was still beholden to Sowing The Seeds, that one itself insidiously having taken over from False as my favorite Wake. But once Misery Rites sinks in – and it doesn’t take long, just a few serious spins – it will not let go. Like the addiction cycle subject matter that makes up its over-arching concept, Misery Rites attaches itself, takes control, and though you may step away for a moment, the odds are good that you’ll go back as soon as the opportunity presents.
As mentioned, Misery Rites is primarily a conceptual piece dealing with addiction, recovery, relapse, and all the concomitant struggles, the end result a downer as the cycle continues again, and its component parts are equally as traumatic and world-shattering as its inspirations. The opening trudge of “Exhumation” sets the stage slowly, before dropping headlong into the full-on blasting of the title track, the two of them a perfect tandem representation of the band’s dual tempos, crusty sludge and pummeling speed. There’s no wasted space; every riff counts, each is memorable in its own right, either for some compositional component or simply for sheer aggression. The shifting riff at the end of “Rot,” the doomy mid-section of “Paradigm Lost” with its subterranean bass rumble, the blistering frenzy of “Rumination” or the swaggering ugliness of “Bitter Winter,” the almost blackened atmosphere of “Burial Ground”… Top to bottom, Misery Rites is unstoppable, unrelenting, filled to bursting with rage, and yet its smart about its attack, taking a blunt instrument and developing a sharpened tool, its damage potential now increased exponentially over its simpler, less refined origin.
Maybe it’s the material, the concept, the growth of the band – and whichever it is, who really cares, when the product is this good – but the whole of Wake feels energized, ratcheted up several notches from their already heavy beginnings. Vocalist Kyle Ball screams and bellows with an even greater fury, and the band behind him is as relentless as the songs themselves, serving up a dizzying array of dissonant squalls, blastbeats, and tar-coated chords amidst the perfect chaos.
Grindcore can certainly exist on anger alone – as a style, it’s ferocious by nature, angry by trade. Anger isn’t necessarily the product of maturity and growth, but it’s the foundation of everything grindcore represents. But grindcore is restrictive, as well, and as much as I love the pure grind paradigm, there’s much room for expansion beyond its borders. Like the most smartly angry adults among us, the best grindcore bands temper their brute-force rage with knowledge, skill, experience; they add depth and scope to their white-heat fury to create a power born not just of emotion, but of intellect, as well. Wake was born precocious – they started strong, and they’ve gotten better with every step. Now, they’re all grown up, and yet they’re still just as pissed off, and it’s an absolute marvel to behold.