If You Walk Before You Crawl, You Crawl Before You Die

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With their inventive and unpredictable 2004 album, If You Walk Before You Crawl, You Crawl Before You Die, Arkansas natives Rwake do a fair job of putting their oft-overlooked state on the heavy metal map. Although their roots lie in the sludge metal sound of Crowbar and Eyehategod, Rwake make themselves quite impossible to pigeonhole thanks to a wide assortment of progressive influences ranging from the always challenging Isis to the comparatively accessible Tool -- all them already scratching and clawing for room in mind-melting opener "Dying Spiral Galaxies." At once a fantastic start and an almost impossible act to follow, this colossal song marked by both cryptic spoken word and spiraling, riffing claustrophobia definitely owes much to the Neurosis blueprint (of the early Enemy of the Sun variety). But, along with excellent follow-ups like "Forge" (portions of which sound like the Police's "Message in a Bottle" gone demonic), "Imbedded," and "Sleep and Forget Forever," it largely ignores that seminal band's industrial notions to embrace a more analog and guitar harmony-driven vibe reminiscent of fellow southerners Mastodon. And for all these ready comparisons to other bands, the fact is Rwake's testing ground is vast enough to let their creativity roam nearly without boundaries, discovering untapped wonders all their own in the process. The closing, two-part title track (two minutes of acoustic beauty followed by nine of bludgeoning ferocity) exemplifies this freedom, and along with the remaining material on hand, makes for a very impressive release.

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