Feature / Breaking Down Wallowing’s Earth Reaper

As long-time readers may have guessed, we’re very close to Brighton-based death-sludgers Wallowing. Their second album Earth Reaper is already out via Church Road Records (with art by Luke Oram), but we’ve been handed a deathly tome of self-interpretation for your perusal – a guide to the record from the minds that created it. Let us once more enter the Wobbleverse, but this time track-by-track. 

(For fun purposes, we have included a Bandcamp player for each track. You could create your own simultaneous megamix of Earth Reaper akin to the final track of Chaosphere by Meshuggah. Or perhaps you might jumble the track order in the manner of the “Golden Ratio” version of Lateralus by Tool. Get wobbly with it.) 

A World Weeping: This track is an introductory noise section where we wanted to create some ambience, establish the “world” that the music is set inside and hint at what’s to come. We write our albums to be played as one continuous piece of music, taking inspiration from film scores and specifically sci-fi films, so we really played on that to sonically express/describe the location of where the first official track takes place – loads of swirling wind-like noises, industrial clangs and reverby drones back up the foundations of the track.

The story behind the concept album begins on a cold and desolate wasteland of a world, where the only life seems to be one humanoid living amongst a group of androids, who (just about) survived the apocalypse and reside as the sole inhabitants of the dead planet. Our vocalists screamed the phrase “Prime Directive” into a variety of weird and wonderful vocoders and toy megaphones to make the warped robotic voice on this intro.

Flesh and Steel: This is the first official track on the record (the shortest track if you exclude the noise interludes) and is where we set the tone and properly kick off the album. We wrote this track to be abrasive and horrible to represent the industrial dystopia that the android characters have created for themselves. For this reason the guitar tones are pretty much *all* made with the incorporation of the HM-2 pedal, as we HAD to use the “HEAVY METAL” for an industrial-tinged track about an android dystopia. It’s one of the faster tracks of the album, suggesting a frantic chase/escape scene as the humanoid character (one of two protagonists in the story) longs for something more than the confines of the androids’ walls – but is forced by the androids to stay “safe” within their community – their “prime directive” being to keep humanoids out of harm’s way at all costs. We tried to firmly establish a motif for the android characters here that we call back to at later points throughout the record.

Echoes of The Outer Reaches: This is our second noise track and acts as a bridge between ‘FLESH AND STEEL’ and ‘CRIES OF ESTIMA’. This was very much made to contrast with ‘FLESH AND STEEL’, as the narrative of the album changes from the dystopia of the dead planet – to the cold, dark depths of space. We tried to create what we dubbed “the sound of nothing” – of course there’s no sound in outer space, but this being a sonic story, we created a range of low end drones and electronic glitches with our ever-expanding noise rig to represent the humming of spacecraft engines and the alien tech these vessels contain. A spectral bass riff carries the track and gives the piece a real celestial feel. We employed heavy reverb to create a sense of emptiness/space and purposely adopted a “less is more” approach. This helped us build some dynamics on the record, creating tension for the drop into the second official track.

Cries of Estima: With ‘CRIES OF ESTIMA’ we purposely tried to push ourselves into new territory – which felt suited to story beats of the track wherein we meet our second protagonist waking up from cryosleep on his spacecraft to the news that a galaxy-ending threat has been located on the husk of his home world. The track begins with a sleepy and expansive opening section, intended to reflect the character’s awakening in the vast expanse of nothing. The piece becomes more chaotic and intense as the character must navigate asteroid fields and has a run in with a crew of space scavengers, eventually crash-landing at his destination and attempting to deal with the threat. 
This track has a big tempo jump that we used to represent the character engaging warp-speed on his ship, from there we had a blast diving into our first real synth section on the album; a part we appropriately call ‘The Time-Warp” as we wanted to capture the feeling of a spacecraft being thrusted to high speeds and warping through time and space to reach its location quicker. We created a jarring, looping guitar riff that builds in intensity and constantly changes key alongside the synth, this properly captured a retro “space invader” feel.

Obliteration: ‘OBLITERATION’ was created to represent the aforementioned crash at the end of ‘CRIES OF ESTIMA’. This is the final noise interlude on the record and continues to keep up the variety throughout the three – this time going all out harsh noise to mirror the sounds/feelings of being caught inside the debris of a wrecked spacecraft. There’s a whole load of intricate stuff bubbling away within all the carnage – we tried to create a much more “fizzy”/electronic sound to capture the essence of the failing tech within the craft. We layered up loads of both electronic and organic, thick and ominous sounds (created in-house through a wide arrange of noise equipment) to effectively capture the destructive vibes. Around the halfway mark you will hear an explosion which fades into a high pitched ringing that continues for the remaining seconds of the piece – a representation of the sonic assault the protagonist endures as they crawl through the debris of their fallen craft, barely escaping with their life.

Cyborg Asphyxiation: ‘CYBORG ASPHYXIATION’ is a personal favourite to us for a couple of reasons – the long droney intro is HEAVY AS HELL, it was the last track we wrote and is a bit more “felt out” than the others (which fed into its overall sound) and it’s the track where our two protagonists properly meet – triggering all the events of the title track ‘EARTH REAPER’.

The track starts with a very droney, doomy riff, mainly to create a sense of impending doom for the story/characters, partially because we had to slap a horrendously doomy riff in the album somewhere (it would have been a crime not to). We tried to paint a sonic picture of the environment by introducing rain-like hisses and reverb swirls to represent a storm, whilst continuing the noise sections from ‘OBLITERATION’ in the background to keep the narrative/location firmly tied to the crash site. We purposely made this section quite long as we tried to establish tension building up to the faster part of the track, but feel we kept it interesting by incorporating dueling lead solos between the synth and guitar – these were to represent the two different characters coming together and is cemented with the lyric “Commence the great conjunction”. 

The energy of the track jumps up from here to kick off the battle which breaks out between the two characters (who have never met before, but for reasons explained within our lyrics, immediately feel threatened by one another). We introduce these almost melodic guitar leads that weave through the bass line, as well as this intentionally jarring “to and fro” between said guitar leads and the chunkier metallic riffs/sections – this was to elevate and further establish the “dueling” feel we wanted to create. The track title/lyric ‘CYBORG ASPHYXIATION’ is a direct reference to what’s going on within the story, as our protagonist from ‘CRIES OF ESTIMA’ physically is choked out by our protagonist from ‘FLESH AND STEEL’ during the battle.The track is seen out by an epic sci-fi riff with a major-key twang to it, which represents the two characters coming together for a greater purpose as they realise they are fighting for the same cause and share a common enemy. Hence the closing lyric “Conjunction of two defy them all. Bring death to his reign, Earth Reaper must fall.”

Earth Reaper: Our magnum opus! We wrote this colossal track (just shy of 22 minutes) first as we wanted the overall sound of the track to inform the first side of the record (we see side A as a prequel story to the title track).
‘EARTH REAPER’ sees the two characters that we established on side A banding together to take on the galaxy level threat that has been tracked to the planet they dwell on. We really dug into our prog influence to make this track as much of an epic journey as possible. From calling back to motifs set on side A to further establish characters and scenes – to creating bespoke noises and riffs that further enhance and progress the overall narrative of the piece. The track has four unique movements, with each focusing on a different chapter of the story/concept behind the track. Every riff/noise/lyric has been purposely chosen with the narrative in mind and the hope of sucking listeners into the rich universe we are proud to have created.Dynamics, contrast and texture were crucial to this track as we knew that if we wanted to keep peoples attention we couldn’t simply go “constant wall of sound”, which is admittedly something we have enjoyed doing on past releases – but felt the story behind this record was far too fantastical and epic. It had to be treated similarly to a film score to do it justice. It’s definitely our most ambitious piece of music to date and one hell of a gargantuan space beast.

We would love to dive further into the title track of ‘EARTH REAPER’, but as the story/concept behind the album is so rich, we want listeners to enjoy discovering the overall arc and how it comes to an end for themselves. Not for the faint of heart.

You can experience the feral intensity of WALLOWING at the following dates across the UK:

6th London – Boston Music Room w/ Frozen Soul | Celestial Sanctuary
7th Cardiff – Clwb Ifor Bach w/ Frozen Soul | Celestial Sanctuary
8th Southampton – Joiners w/ Frozen Soul | Celestial Sanctuary
17th ARCTANGENT FESTIVAL 2023 w/ Converge | Swans | Enslaved | Liturgy | Svalbard | Helpless | Dawn Ray`d | Pupil Slicer + many more

15-16th Edinburgh – Sonic Dissonance Festival w/ Mastiff | Endless Swarm | Gendo Ikari | Crepitation | Vacivus + many more

28th Rotherham – The Hive – All Hallows Riffs w/ Tumanduumband | Bodach | Yersin

2nd London – The Underworld Camden w/ Strigoi | The Infernal Sea

Liked it? Take a second to support noizereviews on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!