Many so-called progressive metal acts traffic in the dynamic tension between hard and soft on their compositions, but few mid-'00s bands attack this trend with quite the same abandon, or perhaps recklessness, as Arkansas' mysteriously named Rwake. Sure, it may have taken the geographically challenged group half a decade of experimenting, rehearsing, and sporadic performing, but by the time they recorded their official debut album, Hell Is a Door to the Sun, their sound had resolved into a daring and generally coherent form of rugged art metal. Typically long-winded creations like "Smog Monster," "The Rover/Traskwood," and the title cut are characterized by predominantly deliberate tempos, unorthodox structures, obscure spoken word narratives, and elliptical lyrics dealing in everything from apocalyptic predictions to esoteric horror and science fiction. As if it weren't already evident by the complexities of their makeup, these regularly show irrefutable proof of the musicians' technical refinement -- melodic sublimity remarkably wed to near atonal displays of sonic savagery -- even though it's often presented under a wall of fudge. Frequent detours into speedy hardcore ("Sight Beyond Sight") and death metal ("Unleashing Cosmic Destruction") also abound, and it's only in regards to these sometimes all-too-harsh and not quite fluid transitions that Rwake reveal the arranging improvements that still awaited them. Likewise their vocalist's occasionally jumbled phrasing, which sometimes seemed to be decried with little attention to pacing or their role within the overall arrangements. In this respect, and as made particularly evident by track one, "The Cat and the Snake," Hell Is a Door to the Sun ultimately resembles a promising but still rather rough sketch of the superior design eventually rendered for the band's subsequent effort, If You Walk Before You Crawl, You Crawl Before You Die. Hence, it's not recommended as a first-time taste of Rwake, but it's still likely to appease devotees who were converted by their later efforts.