Rwake have never been the type of band to look at a wheel and decide it needs reinventing. This is not a knock… music is pushed forward as much by the synthesists as the pioneers, and synthesists are exactly what Rwake are. You'd never believe them if they claimed to have never heard a High on Fire record, but neither would you call them a copycat band.
For one thing, there's an experimental, frequently epic quality to Rwake's extended suites which is less immediate than other doom contemporaries like High on Fire or Electric Wizard; the pace is typically languid but the guitars are allowed to breathe and the rhythms are more nuanced – more dynamic – than the piledriver distortion used by sludge luminaries such as Eyehategod and Kylesa; and yet, the riffs are not esoteric and intentionally difficult to absorb in the manner of Earth and Khanate. Rest is certainly digestible material, though it may take a few spins for its labyrinthine architecture to become navigable.
"The Culling" takes sixteen and a half minutes to complete not because the band is trying to pad the length of the album, nor because they're using repetition to induce a drone-like trance, but rather because there are about four full songs worth of ideas floating around in there, from the six minute acoustic piece that opens the track to the 80's-style twin guitar leads that bridge segments of more recognizable modern sludge.
The track sequencing actually seems arbitrarily split up on initial listens, but on further reflection there does seem to be a method to it all, breaking things up over here to give the listener a chance to breathe, while in other places intentionally withholding a logical break in the action in order to keep one submerged in a viscous mire of filthy guitar riffs and hardcore, Neurosis-like barking.
"Was Only a Dream" is a potent means with which to wrap up Rest, fourteen minutes of accessible sludge that will garner the most High on Fire/Mastodon comparisons – though it really just touches base with where Rwake themselves were at four years ago, when Voices of Omens last saw the band releasing new material – but singer CT and guest contributer B (Sesame Street sludge, anybody?) demonstrate a more advanced vocal interplay than the band were last seen plying, CT's clean shouting interlaced with B's blackened shrieks.
The song fades out about halfway through, only to restart with another acoustic interlude (probably the one instance on the album where cramming two song segments into one track seems forced and ill-advised), and the rebound from that interlude may be the weakest link on the album, particularly when it gives way to a clichéd spoken word drop in at the finale.
Up until that ultimate (admittedly brief) fizzle, however, it's one hell of a ride… certainly Rwake's most scenic and ingeniously routed. Though they may not reinvent the wheel, you'll want to kick the tires on Rest anyway.
9 out of 10
Rest is out now on Relapse.