Rwake - _Voices of Omens_
(Relapse, 2007)
by: Jeremy Ulrey (9 out of 10)
_Voices of Omens_ can be chalked up as either the third or fourth full-length by Arkansas sludge peddlers Rwake, depending on whether you count the unreleased initial effort _Absence Due to Projection_ as their true debut or not. I wouldn't. Full of a well intentioned but sloppily synthesized mélange of extreme metal styles -- at that point as much a death metal as a sludge band -- _ADtP_ is a catalog entry the omission of which makes the heart grow fonder. 2002's _Hell Is a Door to the Sun_ came closer to getting it right, with enhanced production and a greater feel for actual song craft, but _If You Walk Before You Crawl, You Crawl Before You Die_ was the clarion call to the world that these Razorbacks were onto something. That was 2004... what the hell have they been up to since? Shit if I know. I imagine keeping that touring momentum going -- until you establish a name for yourselves, no one really notices if you've gone three years without putting an album out. Yet even with the lowered expectations of being on few people's radar in the interim, _Voices of Omens_ substantiates Rwake's stab at greatness in ways the prior album could not, despite its nooks and crannies of workmanlike brilliance.

Whereas the band may have begun with a decidedly death metal backbone, over the past nine years they've replaced those thrash-worn vertebrae one by one, first with skeletal blocks of sludge guitars and black metal vox, and later with sanguinary dirges of translucent doom. The doom influences have culminated on _Voices of Omens_ and serve to stretch out the band's potential a bit vis a vis song arrangements. The treated, abrasive vocals are ever present, but here tend to swim through a swampy morass of guitars, sometimes rising above the tide, other times foundering.

There is also no shortage of acoustic guitar to further cement the southern gothic feel which first reared its head on _If You Walk Before You Crawl..._. This goes a long way toward offsetting any potential monotony from the heavier guitar parts, which at times are so thick they almost seem to achieve a certain aural viscosity, particularly on closing track "The Lure of Light". Here we have the most adventurous song on the album, a cavernous wall of clanging sheet metal din buoying the juggernaut rhythm through nine minutes of malefic, avantgarde formlessness. It's a nice bookend to the equally long but more stoner based rock of "The Finality". Also of note, "Of Grievous Abominations" finds the band mixing things up with some noodly, melodic soloing and the by now trademark forays into sharply foreboding acoustic interludes. Altogether a welcome addition to the elite metal ranks.


(article published 10/6/2007)

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