Reviews

Wake of Humanity, Fight/Resist (Bitter Melody Records, 2018)

In his masterwork The Monkeywrench Gang, Edward Abbey posited that "Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion." Few bands can encapsulate his hyperliterate treatises and the righteous fury it inspired better than Wake of Humanity. Armed with the sort of firebrand dedication that'd have been at home at an AK Press table in the '90s, they’re flag bearers for a new generation of socially conscious hardcore bands putting in equal work on the frontlines and the practice space. There was a time it'd be nearly impossible to find yourself leaving a hardcore show without being flush with paper, be it Xeroxed show flyers or pamphlets espousing animal rights, straight edge, environmetal protection, and veganism. 

Though there are bands still clearly flying the flag for vegan straight edge, Seattle's Wake of Humanity is perhaps the best. Fight/Resist, their debut LP, was just released  via the hard-working folks at Bitter Melody Records (Ugly and Proud Records in Europe) and it's an absolute stunner. 

Hardcore was, is, and should always be protest music. They favor brevity over screed with the direct and confrontational  "For the animals. For the environment. For human justice” as their bio. 

Like many a hardcore kid, I was first exposed to XVX through the most instantly recognizable and imitated "chug-chug, chug-chug" of all time: Earth Crisis's Firestorm. In as much as their austere and deadly serious mission statement intrigued me, it wasn't until it permeated all corners of punk that I truly took notice. Wake of Humanity have seemingly found an unoccupied lane to drive their point home, one that finds them marrying the Strife-heavy Youth Crew elements of world-beaters from Strife to Ecostrike, the more metallized style peddled by the recently reunited ranks of Racetraitor, Morning Again and the scorched Earth aesthetic, low end theory of crust punk. There are elements of both. Hardcore’s stories past and present.

Certain passages recall Chokehold, Seven Generations, XServitudeX, Path of Resistance, and One King Down. If anything, it only proves there’s no sound to sXe, vegan or otherwise. 

Wake of Humanity, far too comitted to living their message, have found a way to replace the goonery of previous generations, swapping the hard line for fiery conviction and engagement. After only a cursory glance, the band is involved and inextricably linked with a litany of rad organizations that include the conservationists over at Vital Actions, among others. They've consistently donated and raised money via their releases for both various animal rights and protection agencies, as well as a local Sexual Assault Resource Center. 

Lest you think WOH is all message, one listen to Fight/Resist should be overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In much the same way their 2016 EP At Capacity began with the howl of a lone wolf cutting through a rainstorm, their debut record begins with a storm, albeit a different one altogether. "The New Storm" begins with an opening salvo, a  militaristic snare run, that rams straight into a From Ashes Rise or Victims-styled divebomb. Upon first hearing their full arsenal when the production’s full range clicks on, it's as if a pack of feral hounds has been unleashed upon unsuspecting clearcutters. To again reference the mighty Buechner-led brood, their new storm is also forged in fire. 

Photo: Dan Gonyea

Following the first track is an absolute monster. "Bled Dry" showcases their ability to deftly navigate around various subgenres. Roughly midway into the track is an impossibly heavy whirlwind breakdown, the riff a monstrous cascade of brutality. "It's Still Not Enough" expertly mixes their penchant for the epic reaches of crust and anarcho punk with the inescapable backbone of straight-up hardcore. After the thud of floor toms and the blazing D-beat of the front end of the track, there's a slithering quality to the backbreaking sludge of it's second act.

When we're gifted the overly earnest "We just want to make this world a better place", it's uttered with such agonizing truth it manages to avoid platitude or hollow sloganeeering. Wake of Humanity fucking means it. Both lyrically and vocally, there’s a commitment to both clarity and, at times, a nearly unintelligible roar. The indignation shines as brightly as the positivity and moments as brazenly simple as “Straight edge saved my life, it matters not what you say” reads as both a call to arms and a dismissal of the undercurrent of nihilism that’s long plagued punk and hardcore. 

Photo: Ale Gimeno

As is often the case, the title track is ultimately a centerpiece. In the case of Fight/Resist, it's when the band steps creatively outside their genre's rigid expectations. Surprisingly, an achingly gorgeous cello (Jessica Kitzman) plays unadorned. There's a sense of dramatic tension that calls to mind "Tannhauser/Derive" by Refused. Though the track is self-contained as orchestration, the building melancholia is fitting given their railing against a tide that, at times, seems unstoppable... until the anguished stomp of the follow-up. "Alone and Broken" plays it's hand well, resulting in a brooding turn of mid-pace, stretching out their metallic hardcore into a choppier, menacing track. 

On what wouldn't feel out of place on the final recordings of Hope Conspiracy, as "Different Demons" contains an anvil-heavy and downhill rumble like heavy machinery left running and unattended. The double bass is a welcome shock and all the more powerful as it's not overused. Intentionality aside, the exaggerated thump in pace perhaps mimicking the Earth's uncertain and anxious heartbeat. Again, there's a bit of Destroy the Machines in the chugging urgency, almost in itself an air raid signal for impending natural emergency.

Photo courtesy of Bitter Melody Records

I can't say as to whether "To What End" is a callback to one of my all-time favorite crust punk bands or not, but there's a hint of both the heady and pessimistic vibe of the early 'oughts Swedes in the last track. Already thoroughly enraptured in their trademark pummel, the heavy gallop section that hits in the final quarter of the closer is, to me, the album's finest moment. 

There's a triumph and honor in fighting a fight many have long given up. They've picked up the white flag and it's become the rag for their Molotovs. Wake of Humanity are deadly serious, deeply dedicated, and armed with songs strong enough to soundtrack the fight for the world.

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