Published Sep 27, 2011Being a multi-faceted sludge metal band is never easy. With one part of their music "accessible" to fans of slow, low and heavy, and the other reaching off into the ether with layers of guitar complexity and samples, Rwake have kept an enigmatic, but solid, presence in the underground over the last 15 years. On Rest, the Arkansas sextet have branched out even further into the stratosphere, mixing Crowbar-like, ten-ton riffs with worthy guitar solos and hulking thematic movements on "It Was Beautiful But Now It's Sour." A greater amount of melodic/harmonic development than any sludge fan would expect is featured on "The Culling" and when combined with the feverish, preacher-like vocals of frontman CT, even the casual listener feels the need to ponder whether they've just heard something greater than just some groove-laden jams, something of grave importance that speaks of the spirit and the end of days. One listen to the cryptic incantation towards the end of album closer "Was Only a Dream" reaffirms the heightened awareness and leaves a desire for clarity, some kind of explanation, which comes only in hints from future listens, leaving Rwake's brand of heaviness as intriguing as ever.
Is Rest a concept album? Do the songs follow a story or progression?
Drummer Jeff Morgan: It's not a concept album, really, although it is a very accurate representation of the last four years of our strange, deep wooded isolation and spiritual ups and downs. It's also somewhat chronologically written over the last four years, which I think adds to the story-like feel.
The album is described as being a "set of missives heralding the end times." What is your vision of the end times?
I'm glad there's no way to deny it anymore; I remember being called crazy for years. I think there is no way mankind can continue on this level for much longer. We are all ready, I think ― I hope. We will soon be trading Rwake shows for clean, drinkable water [laughs].
What is the significance of the cover art?
It is also apocalyptically themed: the coming "rest," you know?
Where do the samples on the album come from and what are their significance?
We used to use a lot more samples than we do now. Since we've scaled them back, we try to find shorter ones that seem more natural in the music. We've been getting them off YouTube lately, actually [laughs].
Does Rwake have a large spiritual element? If so, what influences you in that regard?
I think since the first time I saw Neurosis on the Enemy of the Sun tour, I realized the spiritual potential in high-volume melody and was forever changed. As a band, we also decided around that time that we wanted to devote our musical life to the creation of atmospheres, as opposed to rocking out. Don't get me wrong, rocking out is awesome, but Rwake are a different creature.
How would you describe the progression from Voices of Omens to Rest?
Having had a long period of time to develop the music on Rest has a lot to do with it. We really nurtured these songs and I think it shows dynamically.
This album features far longer songs than on your previous work. How do you keep those longer songs cohesive?
We actually went back and trimmed them down; originally, a couple of the songs were much longer. We used a lot of slight tempo shifts and what we call "off ramps" between long riffs to make changes more natural.
This album spotlights your guitarists on a number of occasions. Does Rwake get more love and respect from the guitar playing community than the average metal/sludge band?
Yeah, it's great! Gravy and Kiffin had a feature on the Guitar World website and everything. Their solos are some of our favourite parts. We're all just metalheads anyway!
Do you have tour plans following the album's release?
We are getting really old really fast; it's not that we don't want to tour, we just can't really afford to do it right. Hopefully a path will unfold where we can get back out of these woods for a while.
Rwake have been a band for 15 years. How would you describe how the band have changed, both in terms of the music and the overall vibe? How have you managed to stay together for so long?
We have a much more family-type vibe among the band members now. We have come to accept being a doomed band in a doomed land and we've actually come to love our place in the music scene. We have never had much of an issue with being way too loud in a room that's way too empty, but now it matters even less. We enjoy playing so much more now. There's a lot to learn from surviving this long; hopefully we will survive long enough to make another record. (Relapse)