Review: Wallowing ‘Earth Reaper’

Is there some sort of evening adult-leaning class or maybe an online interactive course that I can do which will help me read band logos? Seriously, maybe it’s an age thing (I was born in the ‘70s… don’t tell anyone), but when did having an undecipherable band logo become a selling point? Anyway, after consulting my 14-year-old nephew, I confirmed that I was reviewing Earth Reaper by Wallowing.

Wallowing 'Earth Reaper' Artwork
Wallowing ‘Earth Reaper’ Artwork

This is Wallowing’s second album – the follow-up to 2019s well received Planet Loss. They hail from Brighton, right here in merry ole’ England, and should you choose/be lucky enough to catch them live then you’ll be aurally and visually assaulted by a gang of fellas in boiler suits and hoods with Iron Man-style glowing chest pieces. Sound like a bit of a challenge to the norm? …yup, and I’m pretty sure that’s the whole point. Earth Reaper was released on Church Road Records back at the end of April this year but don’t shout at me for the delay; I’ve been busy trying to get the end of the new Metallica album which came out two weeks before that, but sadly I’ve still not managed it.

In contrast to Lars and Co., at 40-something minutes, Earth Reaper is a fairly short album by 2020s standards, but it packs in a huge amount and feels absolutely right. It’s probably a worthwhile aside to mention that of my mental list of top 20 albums ever, almost all of them are in the 35-50 minute area – a record has to be pretty special to maintain my attention for 78 minutes, or whatever the technical limit of a CD is these days! It’s also worth mentioning we only really have four songs, with the remaining tracks being instrumental and atmospheric affairs, serving to maintain the flow and feel of the journey. This isn’t a case of filling-in time though – the interludes are very brief and really do a good job of linking the four main tracks together.

After the brief opener, A World Weeping, we get to first song-proper, Flesh And Steel. Straight away we are met with a barrage of distortion and a thundering bass-driven riff that sounds like Korn made a pact with hell. There is a black metal level of spite running through the track, but you’d never really label it as that – Wallowing are doing something different here. As with the last album I reviewed, Oceanlord’s Kingdom Cold, Wallowing have given us an animated music video that is well worth watching, and it is for this first track.

Second track, Cries Of Estima, is a real stylistic shift – if you took the riffs and the vocal phrasing out of the surrounding mix then this could easily be a song written by Patrick Walker in his Warning years. This is the doomiest that Wallowing get and they do it very well indeed. For me, it is a flip of a coin between this and the title track for my personal favourite.

an underlying sense of threat and volatility beneath the rumbling wall of noise…

Cyborg Asphyxiation ups the level of ambition, if only by the measure of its run time. There are some echoes of EyeHateGod in here, and more of the black metal feel that came with Flesh And Steel. If I absolutely had to dispense with one track from Earth Reaper then this would be it, merely on account of my not finding it as memorable as what came before and not as monumental as what is about to come…

The final, and also the title track, is progressive in the very best sense of the word. I don’t have the vinyl, but I think it’s a safe assumption that this takes up the whole of Side 2. In little over 21 minutes, it takes everything Wallowing have done on Side 1 (and on Planet Loss as well), mixes it with some spoken word passages, and turns it into the strongest single track of their recording career to date. If you were only to listen to one track from Wallowing, then Earth Reaper is categorically the one to go for. If this is the sound of UK metal in 2023 then we are in a very exciting place indeed.

Wallowing do a fantastic job of bringing together a huge number of sounds from different metal genres over the last 30 years, yet somehow managing to make it into a unified thing of their own. The Earth Reaper album gives a nod to doom, sludge, black metal, death metal, and even (whisper it) nu-metal, but none of it seems forced at all, and all of it maintains the central aesthetic of the band.

If I was to try and sum them up in one simple sound-a-like description, then I’d have to go with my very first reaction; it’s like a sci-fi version of Ramesses. Similiar to (the hugely under-appreciated) Ramesses, Wallowing have an underlying sense of threat and volatility beneath the rumbling wall of noise. It’s an intoxicating combination.

Label: Church Road Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: David J McLaren