Rwake’s psyche doom reaches into cosmos for meaning

It’s no secret at Meat Mead Metal that there’s a great appreciation for psychedelic-laced metal that lets you go on a journey without the aid of mind-altering substances. There’s something to be said for creating something that puts the listener on a path to exploration and discovery simply by making music that lifts and soars.

And not that we have anything against, you know, sitting down with some adult beverages and enjoying a piece of music. That’s pretty great, too, and that often happens in this house when the weekend is here. But it’s cool when you can sit on the couch, say, on a Wednesday afternoon, put in the earbuds and fly away with a record. The brand new one from Rwake (pronounced “wake,” if you’re unaware) is one of those albums, and as long as I’ve had the record, I’ve never listened to it with anything but a clear mind. Each time it’s enthralling and emotionally draining. “Rest,” the title given this fifth full-length, won’t let you get any of that, funny enough, because you’ll stay up trying to figure what it all means.

We haven’t heard from the Arkansas-based band since their 2007 album “Voices of Omens,” though Relapse did give us a reissue of their 2002 record “Hell Is a Door to the Sun” earlier this year. But this is the first time we got a full, new platter of monster sludge, and the wait was hellaciously worth all that impatience. “Rest” is an amazing, enthralling record and, in my opinion, is the best one of their career. It is unforgiving, and even when it quiets or lets in nice, delicate acoustic passages, you know it’s only because they’re getting ready to move onto something even more tumultuous.

“Rest” makes you think a lot. There’s a lot of philosophical ramblings and apocalyptic warnings intertwined in their music and delivered in full-throttle growl and shriek by C.T. and Moog/sample artist B. One thing I always thought was cool about Rwake is, if you were unaware as to their lineup, you’d never know you were listening to one of the most vicious guy/girl vocal assaults of all time. That carries over here, and I often can’t tell who does what. And who cares, really? It all works so well together, and all parts operate in unison. After a quick intro “Souls of the Sky,” that sets the stage for the rest of the record, the band launches into “It Was Beautiful But Now It’s Sour,” a woozy, swirling masher that is delivered mid-tempo but always with fists hammering down full force. “An Invisible Thread,” the record’s shortest song that’s not an interlude (and it’s still 8:45 long) has a bit of that Southern rock sludge that Mastodon made so famous and eventually settles into a guitar pocket that sounds like Black Sabbath playing Slayer. It’s the doomiest thing on a record that had end times at its heart. “The Culling” is moody and spacey, one of the most atmospheric songs on “Rest,” and the split vocals are utterly terrifying, sounding like a pack of wild animals shredding meat.

As awesome as the record is before the final two cuts hit, the album’s dual finale really pushes this over the top. Interlude “Ti Progetto” pulls the words from Arthur C. Clarke from the opening to “2001: A Space Odyssey” and gets you ready for what’s to come on the album’s blowout “Was Only a Dream,” a song awash in creation’s origin, how we’re interconnected, how we survive, and how we’ll one day fade away. Or at least that’s what I got out of it, and while I allow that my interpretation may not be what Rwake intended, it made me think a lot about these things and how we’ve come to accept some of the theories or beliefs by which we live. The song is astonishingly sorrowful at times, and the raw, primal vocals sound both cathartic and foreboding, with the band setting up a psyche-washed soundscape that’s unsettling violent. At about the midway point, the first part of the song fades away, and a new, trippier passage sets in that repeats the first half’s mantras. The song eventually fades out to a reading of Rudyard Kipling’s “If…,” another piece that a reader could derive many meanings. It’s also one of Kilping’s most moving pieces, which makes sense that it would be connected to Rwake’s most emotionally stimulating record. Really good choice.

Rwake’s music may be nasty, bloody and crust-caked, but it’s delivered with an open mind and with intelligence. You probably will have to sit down with the lyric sheet in order to properly absorb all the meaning (something I’ll have to do once I have a physical copy), but chances are you won’t mind. It’s nice to have something that provokes thought and inhibits your bestial side at the same time. Rwake always have done that, but never as much as they do on “Rest.”

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