Rwake, Little Rock Arkansas’s sludgeyest sons, have got the good folks over at Relapse to re-release their original demo, Xenoglossalgia: The Last Stage Of Awareness, which was originally available only in their little corner of America when it was released in the 90s. Rwake, which it turns out is just pronounced ‘wake’ (the things you learn while doing album research), are a pretty unique entity in the world of sludge doom goodness. Fusing almost symphonic black metal grandeur into grinding riffs and howling vocals is not something you come across often.
Xenoglossalgia… is, as you’d expect, the rawer, unpolished gem in the band’s stellar catalogue. It’s always interesting to go back to early recordings to see where bands started compared with what they evolved into. After an acoustic intro, using what appears to be mandolin that tinkles almost eerily by, the band begin to build their layers of sludge. Stairwell starts this, a droning tribal drumbeat provides the foundation while atonal guitar lines creep in around raw vocals. There is then an explosion of thudding sludge doom riffing, but without dropping to that caveman sludge style. Rwake have always seemed to think outside of the box, Xenoglossalgia… just proves they’ve been doing it since day one.
Or Die, after unsettling you greatly with its terrifying sample at the start, is the next layer. A titanic slice of funereal sludge dirge and doom, Or Die is aided in generating the atmosphere by what seems to be a tolling bell in places. The song has some excellent riffs, and it’s amazing to hear the maturity that Rwake possessed even at this early stage in their career. The title track is a strange mix of samples and repetitive electronic sounds which only adds to the feeling of instability. For a band that went on to make some seriously soaring sludge doom, their experimental streak is a mile wide in some of these early tracks. Thankfully Nagarachi gets us right back on track with some righteous Southern groove and aggressive vocals.
A crisp, delicate Interlude leads us towards the doom/sludge/black metal/noise leviathan that is Calibos/So Fucking Tired. A true lesson in the subtleties of dynamics, sampling, riffs and mind bending noise freakouts, and featuring some caustic black metal moments that really make you sit up and take notice. Rwake didn’t really just become something special, they started off that way. For a band to make something like this in their ‘demo’ phase is somewhat staggering. Now that it is finally available to us non Arkansans, we should all take advantage.
Scribed by: Sandy Williamson