The Wake does its best to modernize Bauhaus/Sisters of Mercy-style goth and, for the most part, succeeds. On Masked, the Columbus, Ohio quintet’s unique sound, simultaneously ambient and sinister, can mainly be attributed to guitarist Rich Witherspoon and keyboardist Robert Brothers. Carefully arranged and executed songs like “Sideshow,” “Silent Siren” and “Masked” best display their densely layered, tightly intertwined melodies, which drape elegantly over the resounding, slightly tribal work of drummer Daniel C. and bassist James Tramel. Troy Payne’s deep, detached vocals make him sound like a weary disciple of Sisters of Mercy singer Andrew Eldritch.
For Christine, the Wake got Rosetta Stone to remix songs from Masked (two versions each of “Watchtower” and “Masked,” plus one instrumental reinterpretation of “Siren”); in addition, the EP contains two renditions of the new title track. The result is an uninspired, monotonous soft-industrial rendering of material best heard in its original form. “Christine (Re-mix 2.3 wHATEver)” is the only track here with any genuine vivacity or structure.
After that gaffe, the Wake reasserted control over its music and reverted to an all-gothic format for Nine Ways. Joining “Christine,” bold, commanding offerings like “Curtain” and “Reverend Mother” are similarly shadowy. New bassist Steven Creighton adds a more forceful quality to the scheme, but the Wake otherwise sounds much as it did on the debut. There is, however, a subtle sense of self-confidence that hadn’t been evident before — perhaps the Christine convulsion confirmed the band’s original instincts that goth, although currently a much less accessible/acceptable genre than industrial, is its true way.