Rwake Up And Smell the Sludge

3 stars

Since 1996, Rwake has been playing a unique brand of down-tuned atmospheric sludge. Their sound is crusty and dirty — which you might expect from a band hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas — but complementing the heaviness are great acoustic guitar interludes, lush song arrangements and a surprising amount of technicality and precision.

Other than the two interludes (“Souls of the Sky,” “Ti Progetto”) off of their newest release Rest, the songs are between eight and 16 minutes in length. Each song is a beast, twisting and turning and always finding a way to mesmerize. “It Was Beautiful But Now It’s Sour” serves as the smokey entrance to the record, introducing the haunting and surprisingly expressive vocals. “An Invisible Thread” keeps the energy and tempo high but is probably the track with the least amount of experimentation. “The Culling” is the standout composition on the album. The first few minutes feature some of the strongest guitar work on the record, backed by subtle atmospherics and eventually culminating in the full band’s expert shift into heavier territory without the loss of the beautiful interplay between the two guitars. Unfortunately, the second half of the song is a bit too loose, as the group ends up playing a few too many similar mid-paced riffs. “Ti Progetto” offers a short but sweet intro to the final track, “Was Only a Dream.” The album is wrapped up quite nicely, with imaginative progressions and a spirited vocal performance.

Beyond the highs and lows of Rest, Rwake deserves a ton of credit for crafting their sound. It’s weird, it’s warm, it’s heavy, it’s progressive, but it feels as if the band is in complete control throughout. The vocals are also worthy of mention, as the style is ambitious and the performance is exceptional. The scattered female vocals are also quite tasteful and expand the group’s sound even more. There may be a few too many times when the band seems content to drift off and the parts blend together without a solid point of interest.

As a whole, Rest is an impressive piece of work which deserves more praise than criticism. While there are points of disinterest on the record, it stands out as an impressive and unique work in a genre filled with far too many clones.