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Awake By Design – Awake By Design

Awake By Design
Awake By Design
by Rachel Montgomery at 30 July 2020, 4:18 PM

AWAKE BY DESIGN is a symphonic metal band formed in England in 2008. Since their formation, they’ve played gigs with some of Europe’s biggest acts, including LEAVES EYES, MY DYING BRIDE, APOCALYPTICA, and QUEENSRYCHE. Opening for so many of these prominent bands earned them the title of top local band in the Midlands in 2011 and a highlight spot at Bloodstock Festival in 2013. Releasing their third studio album, they hope their album is a unique take on the genre. The musicality is very solid, especially the smooth, operatic vocals of Adrian Powell, but I thought the band could have pushed further experimentally and with theming. However, if you’re not looking for high-concept symphonic bands and are searching for more mainstream, traditional fare, this is the band for you.

The introduction of “The Coming Tide” is typical for contemporary symphonic metal. The symphonics are very electric, so it sounds like a videogame. It’s when the vocals beautifully hum in that the opening song takes off. Some call and response effects before the chorus also stick out, but it’s the smooth, high-tenor vocals that really caught my attention. “Devoid Of Illusion” begins with the same tempo and tone as the opener. Again, the highlight is the beautiful vocal stylings. Their strength, clearly, are the longer, lower notes that are drawn out and gliding through the chorus. The upper register is OK, and it’s clear the vocalist had a lot of training to work on that chest/head voice transition. The intense ending of this song is really uplifting and deliciously intense.

Avalanche” is a unique song and worthy of a listen on its own. It starts with a juxtaposition between the harried notes at the beginning of the riff and the gliding, drawn out ones at the end. The vocals come in near the end of a measure right before the song transforms into a marching anthem. The harmonies and starts and stops through the song make it a powerful number. I’m not entirely sold on the inflection at the end of lyric lines in the verse, but they’re done OK.
The other songs are solid, but they begin to sound the same after a while. “Tears For The Fall” has a thematic choral opening with long, drawn out guitar notes that again, capture my attention. the drum rolls go into an intense, harmonized riff. At this point, I can say syncopated vocal openings are a running gag on the album and I’m curious as to why the band composed their songs this way. Was it to show they could? The song gives us more melodic changes halfway through, speeding up in the chorus.

Calling You Home” is a six-minute ballad that sounds like any other slow rock song. The edge it has is an interesting piano outro at the end. The other slow, long ballad on the track is “The Unspoken Truth” which begins with a nice piano intro. The intro seemingly picks up where the last slow song left off, which was a nice touch in my opinion. Other than the piano work, it’s not much to write home about.

The closing track is a ten-minute composition. “Empire” is where the symphony comes out to play. The horns build up over the first part of the introduction and set the scene for a barren wasteland, a conquered battleground. The music becomes another well-composed piano piece with swelling violins, giving the song some moments of calm. It makes me where these beautiful symphonic elements were for the rest of the album. I would have loved this so much more if they went more towards a full, experiential orchestra. After hearing the closing song, I think they played it too safe in their instrumental choices. While it showcased the vocalist beautifully and let his wonderful tenor come through, that shouldn’t be the only standout on the album.

This album isn’t exactly supposed to be thematic, full-orchestral symphonic or experimental progressive tracks. The opening two songs sound typical instrumentally. There are a couple songs worth checking out, but other than that, it’s your run-of-the-mill symphonic metal album. It may be worth checking out if you’re a fan of SONATA ARCTICA, RHAPSODY OF FIRE, or other male-fronted symphonic bands that play loud and play hard.

Songwriting: 8
Production: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 6

4 Star Rating

1. The Coming Tide
2. Devoid of Illusion
3. The Avalanche
4. Tears For The Fall
5. Nothing Hurts
6. Calling You Home
7. Fall To Victory
8. Echoes For Eternity
9. The Unspoken Truth
10. As Strangers Divide
11. Saviours
12. Hand of A Thousand Fates
13. Empire
Adrian Powell – Vocals, Piano, Keyboard
Toby Stewart – Guitar
Luke Smith – Guitar
David Favill – Bass
Chris Threlfall – Drums
Record Label: Independent


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