Tuesday 10 March 2015

Rwake - “Xenoglossalgia: The Last Stage of Awareness” (Album Review)

Album Type: Demo (Reissue)
Date Released: 10/2/2015
Label: Relapse Records

“Xenoglossalgia: The Last Stage of Awareness” CD//DD//DLP track listing:

1. Intro
2. Stairwell
3. Or Die
4. Xenoglossalgia
5. Nagarachi
6. Interlude
7. Calibos/So Fucking Tired

Rwake are:

Kris Graves | Guitar, Mandolin
Jeff Morgan | Drums, Samples
Chris Terry | Vocals, Samples, Noise
Chris Newman | Guitar
Aaron Mills | Bass
Rob Eaten | Keyboards, Vocals


I'm sure I wasn't the only one who got a rush of excitement upon hearing that Rwake was releasing a new album, only to feel a bit deflated upon finding out it was just a remaster of a seventeen year old demo. After the release in 2011 of "Rest", one of the finest forward-thinking sludge albums since the turn of the century, this Arkansas troupe have been pretty quiet. The re-release of “Xenoglossalgia: The Last Stage of Awareness” could be perceived as being a stop-gap, or just a reminder to us that Rwake are still about. However you choose to interpret it, “Xenoglosslgia” is an interesting enough release that is well worth a spin.

For me, the quality of Rwake's material has had a steady upward trajectory throughout their career – each album manages to build upon and better the last record, not just in terms of songwriting but in production values too. “Xenoglossalgia: The Last Stage of Awareness” hardly bucks this trend, but as a first effort, it is enjoyable. All of the hallmarks of what were to make Rwake a household name in the sludge world are here – the mandolin intro, the psychotic dual vocals, and the caustic Eyehategod-worshipping riffs. The first two tracks on here, “Intro” and “Stairwell” are pretty indicative of this. It is clear that back in 1998 Rwake still had a long way to go in terms of arrangements and composition. It reminds me of early Today is the Day and Neurosis, where there is often too much going on, the band too eager to impress, perhaps. Compare it to the slick (in a good way) and relatively stripped back “Rest” and you'll see what I mean. The most compelling moments on the demo come in the staggeringly long closer – "Calibos/So Fucking Tired". Clocking in at nearly three-quarters of an hour, this one track is longer than most albums. It features some of the most suffocating, warped psychedelic riffs you can imagine, with the guitars sounding like they are crawling backwards through treacle at times.

The re-release serves to whet our appetites for the next Rwake album, but it also shows us how far they've come in their near twenty year existence. Let's hope they have a follow up to “Rest” in the pipeline, as I'm sure it would lay waste to a great deal of their contemporaries’ efforts.

Words by: Jack Taylor

‘“Xenoglossalgia: The Last Stage of Awareness” is available via Relapse Records here

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