Raise your hand if you thought that 2018’s Misery Rites was a monstrous grind album, both a high-water mark of the genre and for the band? Our own Mr. Edmunds saw the light and recognized the maturity amidst the blinding rage and sorrow of an album about the cycle of addiction. Now, keep your hand raised if you thought that Wake would abandon their grindcore roots nearly wholesale, and jump to the peak of another metal subgenre? Don’t lie: Barney Greenway is watching. So, raised-hand geniuses, is Wake diving headlong into the murky depths of death metal? The sunny waters of punk rock that influenced the crust and grind of their early days? Have they added a keytar player and sailed off to power metal’s gleaming shores? Wrong on all accounts, but at least you’re thinking imaginatively with that last one. No, Wake is now a card-carrying member of the post-metal masses. Proud graduates of NeurIsis Community College, with a major in Atmosphere. I’m going to assume that none of you Nostradamuses (Nostradami?) got this one right, but that’s part of what makes Devouring Ruin so enjoyable.
The band returned to Dave Otero’s Denver studio to record Devouring Ruin, resulting in a beautiful mix and warm, clear tone. There’s plenty of abrasive, hostile music here, but the clarity of each instrument breathes life into the songs. Ben Hutcherson (Khemmis, Glacial Tomb) stops by on “Mouth of Abolition” and adds a sublimely smooth solo and some harmonized leads that push the track over the top. That track is bookended by short interludes that serve to elevate the song as a centerpiece of the album. But why stop there? Wake then immediately head for peak number two with 10+ minutes of “Torchbearer” that uses its full runtime to bludgeon and build towards a grinding tribute to the Wake of old and fade into the distance, before a delightful fake-out at 8:07 that charges into a heavy, punishing coda. Still, this is an album that works best when, uh, devoured in a single sitting. The cohesion of the entire band is evident and helps Devouring Ruin feel like a seamless experience.
Josh Bueckert’s drums are a consistent highlight across the album. He can drop monstrous grinding grooves on “In the Lair of the Rat King,” like mama used to make, or play delicate cascading blasts underneath the spacious riffs of “This Abyssal Plain,” like the kids these days are doing. Never under or over playing his hand, but always shifting to support the song, Bueckert puts on a masterclass of extreme metal drumming throughout Devouring Ruin.
Kyle Ball unleashes his customary blast furnace vocals, but with added charisma that puts Wake ahead of similarly minded bands with one-dimensional singers. The lyrics continue as the “ghost of all that [he] left behind” in the self-destructive patterns of Misery Rites. Growth is good, and watching a whole band grow together is a wonderful thing. There is a warmth to Wake’s sound that allows the riffs, whether they shimmer or slam, to envelope you.
Devouring Ruin is one of those special albums that strikes hard with immediate hooks while still providing depth and complexity that reward repeat listens. If you wanted more of the same ol’ grind, Misery Rites is a gift that keeps giving, and Sowing The Seeds Of A Worthless Tomorrow will always volunteer to punch you in the face. But Wake is not interested in the past, and we can only hope that they continue to follow their muse wherever it takes them.