UK-based noiseniks Wren have been underground darlings for some time and are set to unleash their third album Groundswells upon an unsuspecting world, promising “six melancholy-shrouded ruminations”, taking aim at fans of Neurosis, ISIS and Godflesh.
Opening dirge ‘Chromed’ immediately sets the scene, arriving unheralded with a thunderous drum fill before jagged riffing and cathartic roars make themselves known. The band employ repeated riff patterns broken up with swirls of melody; this breathing space in between the passages of grinding guitars and pained screams only serves to underscore the denser moments and it’s just as crushing without being totally unrelenting.The glacial pace of the album only serves to grind down further, a war of attrition as opposed to immediate annihilation and the hypnotic, swirling maelstrom drags you down into the depths.
While Wren lean heavily into the sludge and post-metal worlds, it’s on fourth track ‘Subterranean Messiah’ that they throw the biggest curveball, enlisting members of Fvnerals for ghostly chants and sparse guitar work, as well as introducing serene, woodland-esque soundscapes. It’s almost peaceful, though given earlier proceedings there’s very much an air of dread and expectation for a descent back into the darkness once more. It’s not until past the three-minute mark that distortion and drums enter once more, albeit with breathy, ethereal vocals and around the halfway mark the pained roars once again make their return and the descent is complete, with mournful strings complementing the yearning riffs. The slow burn beginning of closer ‘The Throes’ takes a similar approach, with sparse drumwork complemented by repetitive guitar patterns stretched almost to breaking point before morphing once again.
Groundswells is a tumultuous and emotional record that’s totally unrelenting in its misery; repetitive patterns and desolate soundscapes (‘Chromed’, ‘Murmur’) paired with moments of ambience (‘Subterranean Messiah’); but the ambience is no respite, instead serving only to further the emotional torment and desolation. This is a harrowing, yet oddly beautiful experience that completely subsumes the listener into its bleak world, grinding down all before it into dust.