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Awake: Illumination

Dream Theater meets Evergrey on this brand new release from the UK's Awake. Illumination is their debut album under the Awake name, as they were previously known as Humanity. Produced by Evergrey's Tom Englund and recorded & mixed at Division One studios in Gothenburg, Sweden, Illumination is a very mature and professional sounding progressive metal platter, filled with stunning instrumental parts and soaring melodies, two key ingredients to a successful release. Lead vocalist Simon Shedwell has a voice that is amazingly similar to Englund's (who by the way also adds some backing vocals on the album, and fellow Evergrey mate Hendrik Danhage contributes a guest guitar solo on "Forgiven Now Forever"), so fans of classic Evergrey will love this right off the bat.

Kick off track "Disbelief" is a memorable, moody, prog-metal gem, featuring syncopated riffs and polyrhythms often associated with Dream Theater, but with that gothic, dark feel that Evergrey often employs. The chorus is highly addictive, and you'll find yourself singing along even with the first listen. "Choice in Time" is an atmospheric piece with emotional vocals and layers of keyboards from Craig Burkitt, and "Begin Again" is a gorgeous ballad that again sees Shedwell vocals and Burkitt's piano & synths taking center stage, really showing the band's tender side quite nicely. Fear not though, as there are plenty of symphonic, complex prog-metal numbers here, including "The Price You Have to Pay", "Dream Within", "Retribution", "Shadows", and the amazing title track. The rhythms as tight, and the arrangements are complex, but don't expect endless wankery here, as these guys are more about melodies, atmosphere, and precision. However, there are lots of stunning instrumental parts-listen to the band really digging into a groove together on "Shadows" before guitarist Richard Hall rips into a mind-blowing solo, or the unison guitar/keyboard parts on "My Last Goodbye" while drummer Alex Townsend flails away. Very solid and enjoyable stuff indeed.

As has been the case in recent times, Lion Music seems to be finding some terrific progressive metal bands, and Awake are certainly one to add to the list. Illumination proves that there should be a bright future ahead for these upstarts from the United Kingdom, so pick up a copy and see what all the fuss is about.

Track Listing
1. Disbelief
2. Retribution
3. Crime of Passion
4. Choices in Time
5. Begin Again
6. The price you have to pay
7. Dream within
8. Illumination
9. Forgiven now forever
10. My last goodbye
11. Shadows

Added: September 15th 2007
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Lion Music
Hits: 4433
Language: english

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Awake: Illumination
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-09-15 16:22:10
My Score:

Up until two years ago, the band Awake used to function under a different moniker: Humanity. They even released their first album When Silence Calls, which has quite a different approach to songwriting than Illumination, their Lion Music debut. While the previous album was more of straightforward progressive metal release with some really interesting guitar riffery and vocal arrangements, this CD finds the band moving into Evergrey territory, largely due to the fact that it was produced by Tom Englund.

The album begins with "Disbelief", one of their best cuts. The chugging guitar riffery, syncopated rhythmic angle and the dramatic singing immediately bring to mind Evergrey circa In Search of Truth. Guitarist Richard Hall employs fierce rhythms through the course of the whole album, while also providing some backing vocals and acoustic guitars. His lead guitar playing on the CD isn't as prevalant as his work on Humanity (though this could be due to the departure of the band's second guitarist), but his articulation and tone have improved significantly. Also, he does lay down some cool solos, the best of which are on "The Price You Have To Pay" and the title track. Interestingly, both of these songs carry a distinct commercial vibe to them, utilising plenty of processed vocal bits a la Evergrey's Monday Morning Apocalypse and varied sound effects. That said, the creepy keyboard part on the latter is perfectly woven around the gruelling bass drive by Chris Le Mottee.

Vocalist Simon Shedwell's delivery is heavily similar to that of Tom Englund's, who also contributes a good dose of backing vocals on this album. However, Shedwell's singing is more monotonous if I may say so, as he hardly strays from the dramatic midrange tone his voice seems to work best in. His lyrics explore themes of religion, politics and relationships, much like Evergrey's, and both the moving piano ballad "Begin Again" and "Forgiven Now Forever" are good examples of that. Speaking of which, Evergrey guitarist Henrik Danhage appears on "Forgiven Now Forever" with a emotionally charged guitar solo to climax the otherwise dark acoustic-based number.

The most progressive tune on the CD is "My Last Goodbye", also the longest piece on the album. It begins as a slow song, but the instrumental part where the bass and drums take the lead is simply gorgeous with an added guitar-keyboard texture. Almost half of the songs on the CD are mid-paced or ballady, whilst the other six begin with heavy guitars and dark synth passages that rarely develop into anything different from each other. There is no question that there is room for growth in songwriting. Moreover, it is quite likely that this album may be seen as too much of an Evergrey clone, which is not too wrong actually.

Awake may want to go back to their Humanity period and revive some of those ideas in the future without abandoning their current sound. That would definitely earn them bigger respect, if not following as well.

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