Wear Your Wounds is evolving. The project began as a way for erstwhile Converge frontman Jacob Bannon to unwind and unpack, and finally unveil the sort of music that he had been making for almost 20 years without anyone outside of his close friends and family ever really hearing it. While a veritable who’- who of the Massachusetts metal scene- members of Hatebreed, Cave In, The Red Chord, Trap Them and more, have previously passed through to help him out, Wear Your Wounds has always been Bannon laid bare. Until now.
For Rust on the Gates of Heaven, the solo project has become a full band with a solid line-up in place and, for the first time, songs written and recorded as a group. You can hear it straight away, too. Although the opening cut recaptures some of the striking sombre tones of 2017’s experimental Dunedevil record, most of the tracks here are reminiscent of the powerful slow-motion rumble of the Wear Your Wounds’ debut, only fuller, bigger, brighter even.
The title track starts with only mournful piano and Bannon’s whispered, weary vocals but keeps adding layers: a booming rhythm section, synths that sound like a gospel choir, guest yowls from Gared O’Donnell of Planes Mistaken For Stars. Until it ends in a storm of post-rock noise, “Rainbow Fades” finds the middle ground between Mogwai and Mastodon, and “Tomorrow’s Sorrow” puts the shift into sharpest focus when the production neatly pivots from the sort of dreamy, distant fuzz Wear Your Wounds have done before to close, crisp, attention-grabbing clarity.
What it gains in sonic range, though, Rust loses in intensity and focus. “Paper Panther” wraps post-metal heft around a looping guitar and really works for a minute but never really goes anywhere before stalling, and “Lurking Shadow” is flecked with some unfortunate country vibes. It’s a curveball reference perhaps, but just as with Bon Iver’s debut EP, another great work borne of strenuous, independent effort, you could hear isolation, concentration, and raw honesty in previous Wear Your Wounds material. Less so here.
Bannon is held in such high regard and possesses such a killer discography that it feels almost sacrilegious not to fawn over Rust on the Gates of Heaven, but while the best bits are very very good, a touch too much of this record feels… ordinary.