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I never knew something that sounds so depressing could be so beautiful. It may be just me, but I occasionally get a feeling of weird euphoria when I’m thinking about sad and troubling things. (Not a psychopath, I swear.) Listening to ‘Rust on the Gates of Heaven‘ perfectly embodies that same feeling of joy when experiencing something troubling as it makes you feel alive; it reminds me that I’m human.
Wear Your Wounds have crafted something unique and full of substance with this mew effort. ‘Rust on the Gates of Heaven‘ is truly remarkable given that it sounds nothing like you’d expect it to sound like, considering the past and current bands of the various members involved in this project. As Wear Your Wounds is the collaboration between one of the masterminds behind Converge, vocalist Jacob Bannon, alongside Chris Maggio (Sleigh Bells, Trap Them), Mike McKenzie (The Red Chord, Unraveller), and Sean Martin (Hatebreed, Kid Cudi, Twitching Tongues). Although originating as Bannon’s lo-fi side project, this has now bloomed into something much more meaningful; the roots have taken hold and this sophomore is the first time they’ve recorded together too. There’s also guest features from the likes of Ben Chisholm (Chelsea Wolfe, White Horse) and Gared O’Donnell (Planes Mistaken For Stars, Hawks and Doves) throughout.
‘Rust on the Gates of Heaven is the perfect record for a rainy day to soothe away your troubles. The genre mash-ups and the massive wall-of-sound moments found all over the record transport you to another world; one that is utterly gloomy and depressing yet so luscious and captivating at the same time. It’ll create a world that you won’t want to leave, quite frankly. And the musicality displayed across this record is both bright as day and dark as night, being extremely subtle too. Although one would simply expect musicianship in metal/hardcore to be shown by blistering guitar riffs, that is not the case here. Wear Your Wounds‘ new album is art in holding back; taking pause; a thinking man’s listen. It’s clear that the minds behind this release are all coming into it with nothing but a mature, selfless artistic mindset. They know precisely when to hold back but also when to unleash and the musical synergy is evident of that. It’s cohesive, thoughtful even, as if there was just one single entity – one sole vision – behind everything. The souls behind Wear Your Wounds have created an enriched, dynamic experience with ‘Rust on the Gates of Heaven.’
To start off the record, ‘Mercifully‘ perfectly sets down the bleak tone everything else builds off of. As the floating piano in ‘Mercifully‘ smoothly bounces from key to key to the following track, ‘Rust on the Gates of Heaven, where you’re made aware of the mournful ride that this record is about to embark upon. The title track starts off slowly with the piano guiding you through the song until Bannon’s soothing yet sinister hushed vocals take the reigns. Once the rest of the band comes in, you’re hit with a massive instrumental peak as one would expect to hear on a Devin Townsend record. These dense soundscapes are just incredible, especially when the song transitions from nothing but soft pianos and whispered vocals to these overwhelming dynamics. It’s kinda like walking out of an ice-cold, air-conditioned house into the skin-peeling heat; it is just a slap in the face. But it works! The title track progresses and culminates into this massive explosion of emotion and musicality as the song approaches its end. It may seem one dimensional, as the same thick, slow chords are repeated for the whole song, but the atmosphere that’s created with said chords, the David Gilmour-esque leads, and the booming choir make for an unforgettable listen. It’s the easy standout track.
‘Paper Panther‘ follows a similar linear structure to the title track, and it does get quite predictable but that is not to say it, or other tracks, are not enjoyable as there are a few surprises along the way. The melancholic nature of this album is the real factor that kept me on my heels, despite repeating linear structure. In fact, heard all over this record is a medley of musical styles whilst still staying true to their mix of metal and post-rock. Influences from Mastodon are clear on ‘Rainbow Fades‘; the outro of ‘Paper Panther‘ is ripe with Latin influences, as the mariachi-styled guitar closes things out beautifully; ‘Tomorrow’s Sorrow‘ takes you for a real spin once that black metal segment comes out of left field after that slow, minimalist start. The dark, Americana country leads in ‘Lurking Shadow‘ are sure to leave you feeling uneasy yet comfortable at the same time. There are just so many little things that add to how textured and interesting these songs are!
Other than the unique blend of stylistic influences, there are many other memorable parts. The introduction to ‘Paper Panther‘ allows drummer Chris Maggio to show off his stellar cymbal work. ‘Love in Peril reminds me heavily of the mind-blowing bridge/solo in ‘Flourish‘ by The Contortionist, as the outro of this Wear Your Wounds track focuses heavily on the brief repeated melodic bends of the lead guitar. ‘Shrinking Violet‘ finishes powerfully with a gloomy but joyful guitar solo that does all the speaking while the string accompaniment only amplifies the emotion being expressed via Mike McKenzie’s fingertips. The instrumentation here is top notch, even if these guys are restraining themselves for the sake of the music; with this album, that restraint is so essential.
‘Rust on the Gates of Heaven’ is just one cohesive, powerful piece. While many of the songs tend to follow a linear, predictable structure that may tend to get a little stale, the amalgamation of genres alongside the beautiful, overwhelming wall of sound peaks are what hook you in. These songs start off slow, mysterious, yet they progress towards powerful climax. And I’m a sucker for that! But that formula will not be the most appealing part for others. As these tracks are NOT for those who want bangers, but contemplative, pensive slow burners that are disturbingly blissful. It takes patience to appreciate a record like this, but I wouldn’t change that for the world. Sure, the vocals, while adding to the sinister nature of the album – Bannon’s contribution to this record vocally is what makes the whole experience that much eerier – aren’t the strongest aspects of Wear Your Wounds’ second LP. As the flow of some lines isn’t the smoothest, like the intro to ‘Shrinking Violet,’ for example. Yet these are infrequent missteps in the structure, and I cannot imagine this record having any other style of vocals.
Because ‘Rust on the Gates of Heaven’ is exactly what it sounds like. Everything we love and aspire to will eventually becoming nothing in time; that’s the beauty of life and death. Wear Your Wounds have created a powerful record displaying exactly that. Despite sounding depressive and melancholic, there is a beauty expressed here at each and every moment. It’s one of those records that gets better with each new listen as you start to discover all the nuances hidden throughout. It’s time for you to embrace your own sadness, as that’s one of the seldom true things that makes you human, after all.
Rust on the Gates of Heaven
Truth is a Lonely Word
Love in Peril
‘Rust on the Gates of Heaven’ is out now.