If you don’t think that Canada’s Wake are one of the most exciting bands going in metal right now, you haven’t been paying attention. From humble beginnings in the hardcore punk and grindcore scene, to ferocious blackened death metal, to blowing the doors off of formulae entirely on the immense and captivating Devouring Ruin and Confluence EP, every album this band puts out is a masterclass in artistic growth, and their latest and first for major label Metal Blade Records, Thought Form Descent, might just be my favorite thing they’ve put out yet.
The question of “Where do they go from here?” was brought up a lot when we dedicated an in depth podcast episode to 2020’s Devouring Ruin, and for good reason. It was such a monumental step forward from Misery Rites, which focused much more heavily on aggressive death metal delivery and featured none of the progressive twists and turns its successor would use to shake the songs up, that it was exciting to think of what might come next from a band that had clearly tapped into a new well of creativity. While the Confluence EP that followed kept much in the same vein, Thought Form Descent breathes a whole new life into the band’s formula all over again. The aggression on this album feels back at a full ten, featuring one of the most intense drum performances I’ve heard in quite a long time, but this time the frantic rhythms and grinding riffs serve a higher purpose than their own being.
Front and center on this album is a stirring and cinematic sense of melody and scope, something I was honestly not expecting to get from this album but very much appreciate. This isn’t to say that Wake’s music has never had melodic bents to it, Devouring Ruin certainly had its share of moments such as this, but the way the rich, tremolo-picked melodies in this song drive the show, supported by clean backing vocals that wash over the listener reminds one much more of “post-” genre descriptors than anything grindcore adjacent, and in particular on Thought Form Descent, in ways subtle and not as subtle, is the influence of post-hardcore. The frenetic drum patterns are pg.99 with the pedal to the floor, the quiet break in the middle of “Observer to Master” recalls the post-rock meets hardcore of legends like envy, even the way the melody and rhythm intertwine with one another call to mind metalcore acts like Misery Signals. Maybe I’m in too deep and I’m seeing screamo everywhere I look, but I can’t help but think that the signs are there if you know what you’re looking for.
Whatever influences may or may not have brought them to this point, one thing is certain: I expected great things from Wake and somehow they managed to deliver something that exceeded any expectations I could have possibly had. Wake have excelled at putting out albums that hit you with concentrated strength, like a hammer to the skull. Thought Form Descent, as the kids say, hits different. This album comes on you like a tsunami; the sheer scope of everything contained here knocks you immediately off your feet and pulls you under, forever swallowing you in its depths. I am officially swearing off asking what the next step is for this band. I’m fully and completely along for the ride wherever it goes from here on out.