Wake - Confluence review

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Band: Wake
Album: Confluence
Release date: October 2020

01. Disparity And Chaos
02. Beyond Empyrean
03. Entropic Cascade Failure

Imagine making not one, but two of the best death metal records of 2020. That's the situation Wake find themselves in.

I only realized this when writing this review, but I had actually encountered Wake before 2020; I had given their 2016 album Sowing The Seeds Of A Worthless Tomorrow a blast back when it came out. However, given that the band were a grindcore act at the time, and grindcore isn't my favourite metal sub-genre by any stretch of the imagination, it was a 'once and done' event, with the only evidence of me listening to it a throwaway rating and list entry on this website. In contrast, their full-length release from earlier this year, Devouring Ruin, was far from a one-time listen; as Nik so tastefully put it, grind was not the dominant force on this fantastic record, with a strong blackened death element in their sound alongside other elegantly implemented touches. Confluence is only 25 minutes in length, but this EP sees Wake push the limits of their sounds further still.

The first half of Confluence is taken up by "Disparity And Chaos", which is the definite highlight of this 3-track release. Running for nearly 12 minutes (amazingly for a band that failed to crack the 3-minute mark with any of the songs on their 2016 album, this isn't their first song this year to go beyond 10 minutes), it doesn't feel an urgency to set out all guns blazing to compensate for the shorter runtime; ambient synths and melancholic clean guitar set a moving tone that is a far cry from the extremity that makes up the core sound of Confluence. The gradual build at the beginning of "Disparity And Chaos" (honestly, by the time the first distorted chords arrive, most of Wake's pre-2020 songs would have finished) reflects an impressive maturity in the group's sound, setting the mood nicely without dragging. When band does join as a whole, it's not an instant onslaught of intensity, at least not initially; some nicely contorted riffs help sustain the build in intensity before the band eventually let the blast beats and tremolo assault loose.

How does the extreme metal side of this extreme metal EP sound? Compared with their grindcore days, the sound is a lot more spacious and expansive than the claustrophobic assault on earlier records, with some really nice and intriguing interplay between the guitars and bass in the 'softer'/non-blasting parts that add a real depth to the group's sound, particularly helped by how cleanly the licks on the guitar/bass come through. There are stretches when the band just go full-pelt with blasts, howls and low-end tremolo, but they're in the minority here; Wake are more willing to take a breather, slow down the tempo and let some soulful guitar arpeggios take centre stage. "Disparity And Chaos" is one of the finest death metal songs of this year without question, even incorporating some really nice, atmospheric post-rock tremolo into its dirge-like closing minutes; to imagine that this band spent the first two-thirds of their career to date playing vicious grindcore, this degree of maturation of their sound, and how excellently they've pulled it off, is extremely impressive and tremendously satisfying.

There are two more songs on Confluence after "Disparity And Chaos" finishes, and whilst neither quite matches that track, both are well worth the price of entry. "Beyond Empyrean" sees that blackened death side of Wake out in full force in its opening moments, and probably pushes the extremity more consistently than the song prior did, with relentless blasting and hooky tremolo riffs for a long stretch to begin the track. Nevertheless, there's still time for surprises, as less than 2 minutes in it heads in a more blackgaze direction for a quick detour, airy tremolo and spacious percussion combining nicely. If that's surprising, the fadeout in intensity and clean, post-rock-leaning approach in the second half of the song is even more unexpected, but yet again works perfectly, and doesn't sound out of place when the band suddenly brings back the blackened death riff that opened the track. I said that neither song here quite matches "Disparity And Chaos", but "Beyond Empyrean" gives it a decent run for its money. "Entropic Cascade Failure" shies away from some of these eccentricities, sticking resolutely in grim, doomy, aggressive territory, but it makes for a good conclusion to the EP, even if I'm far more drawn towards the other two songs here.

Short (unlike this review) but inventive and captivating, Confluence is confirmation of what Devouring Ruin indicated, namely that Wake are fast becoming one of the most exciting names in death metal. Death metal in 2020 ultimately belongs to Ulcerate, but with two stellar offerings, Wake are serious contenders for best of the rest.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 9
Originality: 8
Production: 9


Written on 23.11.2020 by Hey chief let's talk why not

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