Wren - Groundswells review

Bandcamp music player

12 users:
Band: Wren
Album: Groundswells
Release date: June 2020

01. Chromed
02. Seek The Unkindred
03. Murmur
04. Crossed Out Species
05. Subterranean Messiah
06. The Throes

A lot of new bands are stepping up their game in 2020 with some fierce sophomore records, and London's Wren are another member of that group.

I've recently reviewed Lesser Glow's impressive second album, Nullity, and discussed their unique, sludge-heavy brand of post-metal. Wren also utilize plenty of sludge in their post-metal; however, whilst Lesser Glow delivered grim, dissonant, vulgar riffs, Wren offer up more of a dense, oppressive but expansive sound, more of an atmospheric sludge approach in line with Isis's debut record Celestial, rather than the likes of Oceanic or Panopticon, which have been more frequently visited wells of inspiration by nascent post-metal acts. Wren bring power and punch on Groundswells, but also some contrast and hints of levity.

These hints of levity aren't anywhere to be seen in the first couple of tracks, particularly the pummelling opening salvo "Chromed". Thick, brooding low-end riffs are combined with harsh roars, which fluctuate between a higher-register bark and a lower roar, to produce an imposing, menacing sound. Wren rarely, if ever, feel any need to turn up the tempo; instead, they are happy to extract the benefits that slower tempos provide in terms of adding heft to the bludgeoning riffs. There are some atmospheric guitar leads lurking in the mix at certain points to lift the air of oppression, but they are used relatively sparingly throughout much of "Chromed", at least until the closing minutes, when things finally begin to space out a bit as the band pauses for breath prior to an emphatic tom-heavy drum-led conclusion.

"Seek The Unkindred" is much the same as "Chromed" sonically and tonally, slow, powerful and bruising. It isn't until "Murmur" that some light cracks through the black clouds overhead; not only is the guitar tone a tad cleaner on this track, but the chords they are playing are less bleak. The song is still dense, but it's a change of pace from the untamed brutes that preceded it. A far greater change of pace comes later on by way of "Subterranean Messiah", the longest and quietest track on the record. It takes several minutes to bring anything much on the distortion front, during which guest vocals from Fvnerals drift above the cleaner instrumental work, which harks back to Salvation-era Cult Of Luna (the Swedish post-metal giants feel like an increasingly prominent musical influence as the album progresses, and it may not surprise anyone to discover that Magnus Lindberg mastered Groundswells). Even when the distortion arrives, Wren hold back at first, with the guest vocals still leading the way. There's also some cello from Jo Quail later on in the track, and ultimately this song features a majority of the musical 'downtime' on Groundswells, acting almost like an extended pause after the bruising listeners are subjected to in the first few tracks.

This shift in dynamics serves the record well, as do the guest contributions, but the band are thoroughly single-minded on closing track "The Throes", a slow, brooding march that effectively maintains the same pace and main riffs throughout, only upping the ante on the volume front as the clean guitars turn distorted and the vocals begin to roar. This steadiness is a microcosm of the relative single-mindedness across much of Groundswells as a whole; Wren could perhaps benefit from a bit more variation on the speed front, or a more widespread distribution of the softer moments across a record. However, they do deliver both powerful sludge and cleaner atmosphere to a high standard, so it should only take refinement, not sweeping changes, to be able to deliver something truly special.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8


Written on 19.07.2020 by Hey chief let's talk why not

Hits total: 1094 | This month: 12