Death metal just can't get any respect; first, at its inception, it is looked down upon by traditional metal, and thought of as a lesser beast because of its sometimes-primitive fury. Then, once it catches on commercially, it is suddenly reviled by its own fans, an increasingly purist legion of folks who disdain anything with any sort of musical accessibility. Indeed, the death metal renaissance that emanated from Florida a few years ago brought forth more than its fair share of stinkers; but the genre still has a great deal of potential, and Crematory remains living proof.
Crematory is in that thinly populated crowd of death metal bands that could give the genre a good name commercially and artistically; like In Flames, Amorphis, Cynic and Oppressor, they bring an abundance of talent and smarts to this aggressive and blunt artform. And with Awake, they have completely outdone themselves, and in doing so have produced what will surely be one of the permanent classics of the genre.
Crematory succeeds by blending a wide variety of styles into the traditional death mix; Felix's growls are met with harmonic counterattack on the brilliant "Away", as on the strangely haunting "For Love." And the band's keyboard sound comes more into the forefront with this album, and the results are powerful: the choral attack of "Yourself" is doubly effective because of the graceful keyboard line that introduces it, and "Temple of Love" is dominated by a catchy (although slightly dated) keyboard riff.
Neither is the band afraid to turn the distortion off once in a while: "My Last Words" is so effective precisely because of the clean guitar part which ushers in the later emotions.
With most death metal releases, I find myself saying "well, it's good, for this kind of music." That qualifier is not needed here - this is simply good, and even those who are not predisposed to this level of heaviness will surely see the talent bursting from this album. Highly recommended.