Rwake ‘Rest’ CD/LP/DD 2011

Rwake 'Rest' CD/LP 2011Little Rock, Arkansas’s Rwake rock more than a little; their songs are propelled by a primal force that may well be derived from the great monoliths of the world, their sheer power making them seem like huge, imposing figures but possessing an inherent earthiness that draws you in.

After such a preposterous, ponderous intro I’d better explain my point. You see, music writers – particularly metal writers – tend to lean towards the overly-dramatic when it comes to describing music like the kind Rwake create. One of the great literary crimes of the modern era has been the overuse of the word ‘epic’ which has become something of a go-to term to describe anything vaguely out of the ordinary, impressive or, in the case of music, exceedingly long. Like so  many words before it (“cool”, “fuck”, “cunt” – I’m looking at you) it has become a redundant term (epic fail), so to call Rest epic would be doing the album a disservice. Let’s just say that it is one of those rare albums that deserves the praise it’s been raking-in of late.

The thing that sets Rwake apart, particularly on this album, is that they manage to lull the listener into a trance – not by being psychedelic, repetitive, or sparse but by a seamless delivery of their ideas and a cohesive, album-long mood. These songs have a lot going on; “It Was  Beautiful but Now It’s Sour” is a veritable barrage of riffs and ideas but where other bands might clumsily structure these ideas Rwake make the transitions fluid and powerful. The change to half-time in “An Invisible Thread” is a beautiful thing, and the unnervingly pretty arpeggios at the start of “The Culling” hypnotise you into a fall sense of security before adopting a post-rock rhythm and then knocking you down with a good ol’ blast o’ metal.

All of this means that Rwake are hard to label. True, the whole affair could be loosely described as “sludge” but these songs are kind of a melting pot of metal sub-genres; a hint of Pantera here, a whiff of Yob there, an Eyehategod breakdown and plenty of power metal leads, all delivered with a punk attitude that is most encapsulated in singer C.T.’s snarling delivery. Fans of all of the above will find a lot to love about this album.

The “earthiness” I mentioned in the intro is in reverence to a) the raw, magnetic effect that the  music possesses but more importantly b) the rootsy side that Rwake display on Rest. The opening track is a bluesy, folky acoustic number, elements of which return for dramatic effect in the middle of closing track “Was Only a Dream”. Elsewhere, album-centrepiece “The Culling” begins with a lengthy, meditative clean-guitar section, sounding more like dark folk than sludge or doom. These  peaceful, quiet sections help to bring the spiralling, lofty album right back down to earth and provide a few brief moments of respite when the album feels like it might suffocate you.

Rest has already placed highly on many end of year lists, it’s virtues championed by everyone from those trendies at Pitchfork to the countless metal blogs and magazines out there. As someone who came to this album a bit later than he meant to, let me assure you that there’s not much here that you haven’t probably already read about it elsewhere – it’s good, so go grab yourself a copy of Rest to hear what you’ve been missing. Fucking epic.

Label: Relapse Records

Scribed by: Tom McKibbin