I love it when
a band exceeds my expectations. Never Awake's debut album didn't
have much going for it, especially after I saw the "glamorous"
music video they shot that reminded me of some 80's fog-filled
hair metal fest.
The music sounded good, though. After absorbing "Underground",
however, this band has won my ears. This progressive metal album
is rank with experimentation and sheer catchiness.
Never Awake hail from Portland, OR, and they do have a
distinctly American sound. I expected that they would sound like
some Dream Theater knock-off, but they are anything but this,
happily! Instead of coming from either a Dream Theater or
Symphony X background like most other prog metal bands, Never
Awake remind me of an early Mudvayne. Indeed, "Underground"
often sounds like the progressive Mudvayne album I always
wanted. That is not to say that every track sounds like this,
but it is apparent pretty often, especially in the title track.
The band members are extremely talented musicians. I am impressed with
the growling guitars from Matt Galligan and the solid bass from
Jesse Weiss. I'm really impressed with the amazing drummer Alex
McDonald. In fact, this is one of the best drum performances
I've heard this year, as Alex blows the speakers with diverse
and creative blast beats that are equally mixed with cymbal and
tom work that are just as technical and well-placed. I'm
really, really impressed with the vocalist Taylor Dye. As I
said, he seems to go for the glam rock vibe, but his voice makes
up for it, as he ranges from the snarls of Mudvayne to a melodic
drama that hits all the right notes.
Even being young, this band feels like a unit. The music is
tight and incredibly directed. Many times, new bands play a
vague form of whatever they are hoping to produce, and the
result is a lack of connection with the audience. Never Awake,
however, have incredibly catchy melodies and choruses, inspired
instrumentals, and a sense that they know what they are doing. They experiment with all sorts of tones and melodic structures,
and I'm very impressed with their time signature change
abilities, as they are spot on and hard-hitting.
The album starts out a little slower, and I was worried at
first. "Pull the Trigger" is a good song, but it is very
normal. However, when the title track begins, the album never
lets go. From the awesome subtle melody of "Underground" to the
atmospheric "Wander" and "History's Pages" to the great hook of
"Downtown", this debut is really solid. My favorite song (and
probably one of my favorite songs of the year) is "Cross the
Line", an extremely prog-centric track with a great beginning,
an ethereal middle, and a bombastically good ending. Seriously,
it's an amazing song.
Never Awake have impressed me thoroughly. The nostalgia from Mudvayne helps for sure, but this band has their own sound,
their own structural genius, and a penchant for amazing choruses
that will have you singing out loud. I'm really excited to see
where these guys take their sound, and I plan to enjoy
"Underground" for some time yet.