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A Frail Grip on Reality
Under the Wake

by DMJ
A Frail Grip on Reality

Under the Wake

A Frail Grip on Reality

Much like a certain not-to-be-named fast-food joint, many practitioners of what’s commonly referred to as hardcore metal these days use the same few ingredients in different combinations to make every meal/song on the menu. The results are usually assembled from a prep tray of otherworldly growls/shrieks, severely detuned guitars, hyper-pummeling drums and creepy foreboding intros. In other words: viscerally effective and not much else. So why waste so much wind on the shortcomings of modern metal before mentioning Under the Wake and their new release, A Frail Grip on Reality? Simply so I can point out that these guys ain’t doling out drive-thru fare – this album is definitely sit-down material, a point made apparent from the very start.

The disc opens with a stirring but delicate instrumental devoid of any hellbound crunch whatsoever. Classical acoustic guitars weave melody and harmony lines around a martial snare drum during “Prelude to Declination,” setting a melancholy scene before the real fireworks begin with “Weak World.” This furious bell-ringer revels in lightning riffs that still manage to convey melody, while Tyler Bender’s vocals alternate between a hardcore bellow and almost Ozzy-like singing style. Thus introduced, Under the Wake throw a couple of well placed curves into the mix, like “My Unwavering Position,” which glides along slow and clean for over two-and-a-half minutes before the punishing metal machine kicks into gear. The song finally evolves into a crunching arena rocker, giving us the best of both worlds while we benefit from someone else’s pain … and hey, anguish and anger are the currency here, kids. Shiny happy songs might be all over the radio, but they rarely have a place in metal.

Highlights are plenty throughout: dizzying dual guitar leads dominate “Sever the Ties,” while rat-a-tat drums and a spooky buildup fuel  “The Unholy Ghost” before it bursts open to let the monsters out to play. “Into Oblivion” gallops right out of the gate atop classic old-school metal elements, while Bender’s grinding psycho bellows seem to emanate from him almost involuntarily, erupting amidst well sung vocal harmonies like a sugared-up kid at a birthday party. Nate Perry and Ian Bender provide powerful and precise fretwork that frames the well recorded songs perfectly, while Justin Zych (bass) and drummer Karl Jones keep the tunes well grounded while providing technically impressive runs of their own. 

Under the Wake serve up a varied and heavy platter here, not content to simply dish out the metal. A Frail Grip on Reality is a solid listen from top to bottom. Go to underthewake.net or myspace.com/underthewake for more information. (D.M.Jones)

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