Pop quiz: off the top of your head, name five Canadian bands. If you’re a geezer of some sort, Rush will take top billing, whereas the more brutal among us will have rattled off a litany of Quebecios tech death acts. Few metalheads will think to include a grind act in their list, let alone one from the flyover provinces. And yet, here Wake are, poised to release their fourth LP of brutal grindcore from their hideout in Calgary. Misery Rites sees the band leaning further into death metal territory than ever before and they’re all the more successful for it, pounding through twenty seven minutes of top-notch deathgrind that would be a shame to pass up.
If only exposed to the first four minutes of Misery Rites, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a Primitive Man album. The doom-laden “Exhumation” slowly pounds its way forward into “Misery Rites,” a short burst of death metal-laced grindcore that’s one of the album’s more straightforward cuts, despite the late-arriving slam riff and drum spot. It’s here that it becomes clear that Wake are tighter than a clam’s asshole. The impossibly fast, frantic drumming, courtesy of a one Josh Beuckert, propels a grindcore album that’s sharp and inventive, packed full of songs with a strong sense of individuality. Only two tracks here cross the three minute mark, yet each feels fully explored, bellowing out its story from beginning to end.
Misery Rites‘ burly grindcore feeds a steady queue of terrors from brutal death metal to noisy blackened hardcore a la Lowgazers-era Plebeian Grandstand. “Embers” and “Paradigm Lost” feature droning, noisy riffs that reach across the width of the neck regularly to ring out dissonance in the high register, but still have space for more traditional deathgrind fare. Not much later on, the B-side leans heavier on brutal death metal, with “Rumination” and “Bitter Winter” providing a late-album kick in the pants. The latter’s serpentine riffing and late-arriving breakdown just about spontaneously produce a Travis Ryan guest spot.
That’s not to suggest that the vocals here are lacking; frontman Kyle Ball spews filth like a backed up dorm toilet, squeezing himself in alongside the guitars whenever possible. And he’s not alone – it’s worth repeating that all of the performances on this album are impeccable. Not a song goes by that doesn’t feature choice riffs and ribcage-shattering drumming. Even the final crawl of “Burial Ground” bustles with percussion, perfectly matching the punctuation of the riffs and taking center stage when the guitars pull back. A less claustrophobic mix and a bit more headroom in the master would certainly help highlight these performances. As it stands, Misery Rites sounds aggressive as any metal album out there, but feels a bit lacking in definition when the band go at it full blast.
Not every grind album out there is worth your time, but the nice thing about the genre is that it rarely poses much of a threat to that precious commodity. Misery Rites is worth every thin second it lasts for. With more than adequate vitriol and influences from the edges of modern grindcore and metallic hardcore, this album both packs the punch to knock out your teeth and carries the weight to rattle them in your skull as it approaches. That’s a combination that time and time again proves tough to pass up, as the expanding rosters of labels like Deathwish and Throatruiner continue to prove. Misery Rites might not be the next big hit, but, rest assured – it will hit you.