Generally speaking, evolution in nature is a slow and lengthy process. So much so, in fact, that you’re not likely to notice it happen but must look at the remains of long-dead creatures to discover what they became today. Changing environments, the birth of new species, loss of resources and so much more make evolution a requirement for all plants and animals in order to survive. Evolution for bands works best when it occurs in a similar manner where the artist slowly adds in new elements with each release so that the changes feel natural.
Wake, on the other hand, has been progressively dunking more and more of their body into the tides of change with each release since Misery Rites. That album’s closer was a massive death-inflected crusher that laid out the blueprint for what would be Devouring Ruin. This Calgary quintet took the song structures and ideas from that album and turned all the riffs into modern black metal with the Confluence EP. So what new developments of vision, wings, prehensile tails or poisonous secretions does album number six offer up to the metal sciences?
Well, the clean post-metal notes and marching drums that open “Infinite Inward” will make it abundantly clear that Thought Form Descent is closer to Sunbather than it is Leeches. The middle of the song builds and builds to a massive crescendo before crashing down into a solemn open acoustic passage that lulls the listener before hitting them with a driving relentlessly heavy passage right after. What Wake learned on Devouring Ruin was how to play with dynamics in longer songs and this album broadens the range of those dynamics to include brightness and beauty. Just as this is the most colorful of their album art, the music is shaded with the widest array of hues in their career to date.
Certain guitar tones and riffs shine through the blasting din like beams of light. That beauty is always parried by heaviness though. Those beams of brightness come through early on “Swallow The Light” but are quickly plied with blasting driving patterns that make that sense of light blinding and hostile. From 2:30 to 3:45 that song is ridiculously heavy but takes a downturn into a solemn beauty right after. The clean layered guitars of the instrumental interlude “Pareidolia” are met with a crushingly heavy, slow and ominous build-up to start “Venerate (The Undoing Of All).” Even “Observer To Master,” which is easily the most consistently vicious and heavy song on the album, includes subtle clean vocals and a soft atmospheric passage. It doesn’t hurt that the song also has the only two real guitar leads on the album provided by Kevin Hufnagel (Gorguts, Vaura, Dysrhythmia).
Drummer Josh Bueckert continues to be the band’s greatest asset. The drumming here is more relentless than you would hear in even most grind music but it isn’t a pneumatic ball-peen hammer to the skull like you would expect. His drumming flows and drives every song. The guitars aren’t necessarily riffing either. Every instrument is working together to create one massive crashing wave of music to whisk you away and tumble you through an ocean of notes.
The human brain is one of the most impressive outcomes of evolution in history. The capacity for thought and creation is unrivaled in any other known creature. Part of the brain’s strength is the emotions it can provide. Wake has evolved from an emotional standpoint as well. While their earliest works came from the hostility and anger you expect from the genre, Thought Form Descent feels as though it’s coming from a place of sadness and grief. There’s a more nuanced sense of emotional intelligence exuding from these songs.
In the simplest terms, Wake is officially no longer a grindcore band and that’s perfectly ok. They gave us four feral doses of the good stuff early in their career and now they’ve tried their hand at death, black and post metal all through their own unique vision with a grinder’s mentality. Plenty of straightforward grindcore already exists, so it’s wonderful to see a band lean into progressing their sound and trying new things. So far, Wake has put together nothing but exceptional albums and they should keep trying out whatever other genres they want. Will the next one be a blues album? Or maybe a symphonic record? Or perhaps a thrash record? I don’t know what to expect and, quite frankly, I like it that way.
While the brain is a revolutionary evolution for good, it can also just as often be the source of our downfall. We don’t like dissonance, so we try to force things to fit a neat little box we’ve made in our minds or let emotional attachment and nostalgia block our way to growth. Don’t let your brain trick you into skipping this one just because it doesn’t fit the grind image of the band you built in your head. To do so would risk going the way of the dodo.