In the modern-day, a lot of sludgy post-metal acts find themselves softening their sound in search of something more experimental, be it through spacey electronics or eerie atmospherics, but there’s certainly a case to be made for those who go the opposite way, and smother everything in an almost wholly miserable layer of stark anguish whilst also trying to innovate. Wren’s debut full-length Auburn Rule is certainly the sound of a band trying their hand at the latter.
An album about as joyous as the opening sixteen minutes of John Wick, ‘Auburn Rule’ stays wedged in a sea of sorrow and torment. The crux of Wren’s style is a gloomy aggression, but that doesn’t mean they’re a one-trick pony. The album may be heavily reliant on relentlessly crushing sludgy riffs, but it’s also experimental in its approach.
The release’s atmosphere, however grief-laden, provides a spacious soundscape that allows for the noisy but minimalistic rhythms on top of the more complex subtleties of their relentlessly austere sound. Such atmospheric tendencies have led to comparisons to Neurosis (as well as the rather odd “prog-sludge” moniker), but in truth, Wren are more akin to the desperately sorrowful post-metal of Amenra. Unlike the complex recurring themes of the Belgian five piece’s music, though, any underlying themes or lyrical content in Auburn Rule are vague, adding to the release’s desolate fervour.
What is clear throughout Auburn Rule is Wren’s apparent desire to remain reliably heavy throughout, despite the otherworldly post-metalisms of their sound. They, admittedly, accomplish this without a hitch, but, coupled with the churning repetitiveness of the rhythms, it can occasionally seem like the band don’t always quite find the right groove to drive the tracks forward.
Nevertheless, Auburn Rule accomplishes what Wren seemingly set out to do, namely creating an almost incomprehensibly cheerless album with striking metallic weight and a progressive edge.
Like the swampy puddle on its cover, the album’s sound is dripping in a thick, inescapable mud of brooding heaviness. You may be used to “post-metal” referring to bands reaching for the stars with dreamy shoegaze textures, but it’s always been a broad term and here that much is proved, as Wren display that it can be as disheartening as it can mystical.
Auburn Rule is out now on Holy Roar. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr