Writing about grindcore almost demands violent language: churn, blast, crush, ad nauseam. Descriptions follow a tried-and-tired vocabulary. You could fit Sowing the Seeds of a Worthless Tomorrow, the third full-length from Calgary grinders Wake, into that familiar mold. It would easily fit in some ways, but it wouldn’t exactly be accurate.
I’m hedging against those usual metaphors for brutality because the while the album’s eight songs present many of those elements akin to an auditory Molotov cocktail, there’s also a fluid vibrancy beyond their vitriol. True, these twenty minutes are ingrained with H-bomb sized detonations of anger into each crusted, blackened moment. Within that time, though, Wake digs deep and dives through the bottom of the familiar grind formula to find some emotional grandness as well.
First song “Burn Well” starts fairly traditionally with a haunting atmospheric lead-in followed by full-on instrument explosion and a chasm of howling; however, second song “Wretched Tongues” seems to turn in on itself by its conclusion by reiterating lush layers of sound. It’s a reflection of the first track that inverts the violent aspects of the music and makes them intimate. It’s not a pushing away, but a drawing near. An underpinning of heavy riffs that briefly grasp hold and the familiar frantic charge of grind gives way to shambling, hypnotic rhythms. This sideways slide, made of equal parts grime and sway, continues throughout the album. It captivates before you realize what’s really happening – by which point the album is almost over, so you have to head back to the beginning.
The magic of Sowing lies in these refracted arrangements and a focused production. Even though the guitars are deliciously crunchy and the feedback is potent, they’re positioned way back in the mix. The riffs work at you insidiously, a sandpapered embrace instead of the expected bludgeon. The drums cozy up to the bass and are pushed forward to provide a cyclical caress. This sometimes results in a swathing, swaying groove, as in “Low”, while at other times, like in “Better Living through Apathy”, the drums are lifted up against some repeating staccato riffing to produce a crawling, heartfelt dirge. This doesn’t induce complacency though: the vocals are lung-scrapingly raw throughout, and when the guitars do lunge forward they break the trance with the sudden clarity and confusion of getting yanked out of bed.
Sowing still retains enough of that abrasion to be enjoyable when you need a solid shot of grind, but it’s the parts of the album that are reconstructed into hostile soundscapes that make the songs actually noticeable. By shifting their attention to highlight their rhythms, Wake is manipulating grindcore’s usual definitions into something much more ambitious.
(Sentient Ruin / Everyday Hate / 7 Degrees / Nerve)