Earth Reaper by WallowingRelease date: April 28, 2023
Label: Church Road Records
Hopefully, somewhere out there in the dark web of shit-tip adolescent bedrooms, Wallowing are about to descend and set a few young minds alight. A dystopian sci-fi metal crew their nameless, faceless members wear ‘spacesuits’ as part of multi media performances and their linked concept albums come with accompanying comic books. They have produced their own action figures and trading cards, as well as an alternate reality game and they release tapes in limited edition bespoke packaging like something found on the doomed Nostromo’s last flight. All this and their music is an absolutely huge and grinding racket guaranteed to horrify your parents and neighbours. They are, in short, the dream band of a certain type of teen nerd.
To be honest, teenage me would have been suspicious of all the silly prog metal fantasy business but then teenage me was usually taking himself too seriously. It’s a fine line with this kind of approach though. Consider Henge, who also bring a sci-fi concept ‘n’ costumes shtick to their psych-rock party but strike me as an irritating comedy tie of a band. To a casual observer the inherent absurdity of extreme metal is perhaps just another joke element but Wallowing aren’t playing for laughs. Aware of their own ridiculousness and musically agile they deliver not pastiche or parody but a finely tuned mix of doom and black metal. The weight and viciousness of the music balancing the more playful aspects of their presentation.
Being a crushing and caustic musical journey into a harsh universe, to a dying planet under tyrannical rule Earth Reaper is, perhaps perversely, a thing of joy. A continuing story of hope in the darkness, picking up from its predecessor Planetary Loss and drawing from real world issues of discrimination and the spiralling dysfunction of the current political landscape. Your general despair and disgust with things blown up to interplanetary scale. Which is nice. You can hardly follow the lyrics of course but it’s a bit deeper than the “Ooh Satan, I’m a bit of a bad boy myself, actually” stuff you often get. The vocals are largely blasted or screamed, extreme metal is not a text friendly genre, it’s very much about surrender to sound.
Fortunately Wallowing are a considerable force on that front, Earth Reaper is musically ambitious but still brutal, nodding to savage sludge/doom titans like Primitive Man or Slabdragger. Although the album is carefully plotted out in two halves, the first six tracks building towards the epic 22 min title track, it never feels forced or inorganic. In truth three of those early tunes are brief atmospheric interludes but the other three each grow in length and intensity as the album rolls on.
‘Earth Reaper’ itself is remarkable, effortlessly moving from one section to another, by turn suffocating then exhilarating. At the midway mark it plays off distorted prog-like arpeggios against desperate hardcore screaming then brings in the giant monolithic doom chords. Descending into a chaotic storm of electrical noise and horror when the band kicks back in about five minutes from the end it sounds completely massive, an entirely earned pay off. Complex but still crushing it fully delivers on their promise.