October 16, 2008

CD Review: All Shall Perish - Awaken the Dreamers

When looking up a little background information on All Shall Perish I kept coming across writers referencing their ever evolving sound and applying that to their current release. In some instances the latest evolution evidenced on Awaken the Dreamers is a welcome change, where others decried the apparent softening of their sound as their sound continues to develop. Fortunately (unfortunately?) I entered this experience without any of that baggage. You see, I have never heard their earlier two releases; therefore, I do not have that frame of reference with which to judge them. Sure, this may be a disadvantage when it comes to looking at their growth, but believe me when I say that this experience has encouraged me to take a trip back in time to check out The Price of Existence and Hate, Malice, Revenge. The problem there is that I now have the weight of this experience to color that experience, which has found me very well.

All Shall Perish is a band with a name that demands brutality. If you look up the definition of Perish you will find that it means "to die or be destroyed through violence." If that doesn't conjure up some preconceptions of what they will sound like, I do not know what will. To be certain, these guys are not the most brutal or violent act I have ever heard, but they definitely know how to throw down and can hold their own with the best of them.

The sound is filled with elements that I have heard before, but this quintet has managed to arrange them in such a way that they seem fresh. It also helps that I have realized that not every band is going to be groundbreaking, and what will ultimately determine the fate of a given band is whether or not they live up to their chosen style and can adapt. From just this single album, I believe that All Shall Perish can adapt, they have the tools to not necessarily become a genre leader, but to certainly be a band to listen to because they deliver on their promise so well.

Awaken the Fallen is first and foremost a deathcore album, but there are elements of grindcore, death, progressive, and metalcore giving the album a bit more depth than I would have expected. There is a high level of technical expertise on display, giving the slightest overtones of Meshuggah, blended with the metal/metalcore sound of As I Lay Dying, and even a little bit of the funereal sounds of Opeth. That is definitely some high praise for the band, and while I do not find them to be quite as strong as those acts, they are a very strong act that deserves the attention they receive.

The album opens with a punch to the face in the form of "When Life Meant More..." It is a song that gets things started correctly, you will find yourself banging your head while trying to keep up with the lead guitar laid over the brutal riffs, courtesy of Chris Storey. The surge keeps moving forward with "Black Gold Reign," which features a Rob Halford like scream from vocalist Hernan Hermida. It is an unexpected, and not completely unwelcome, moment that begins to open things up as they step beyond the deathcore mold.

A change of pace comes with the brief instrumental "For the Ones We Left Behind." It is a softer quiet moment that hammers home the fact that they are trying something new. Do not worry, do not fret, it is short and things pick back up with the title track, which is a truly impressive display of technical brutality. "Awaken the Dreamers" shows everyone in top form with strong interplay in the guitar department, varied drums, and some excellent bass floating in from the background.

For all that is on display throughout the first half of the album, the riffs, the screams, the leads, the breaks, the defining moment arrives in most unexpected fashion. The song is less than three minutes long, is anything but heavy, and features cleanly sung vocals. The song is called "Memories of a Glass Sanctuary." This is the moment that will bring Opeth into focus and show you that the band is much more than the heavy. They are the heavy, but they have a vision that includes a strong dose of atmosphere that gives the album, as a whole, a more epic touch while not being so intrusive as to overcome the brutal nature of what they do.

Awaken the Fallen is an album that begs to be listened to at excessive volume. Whether it be soft or heavy, this is an album that will get your head moving and impress you at the most unexpected of moments. No, it is not great and will not likely become a classic, but that does not stop it from trying and succeeding at being a strong example of the genre.

Highly Recommended.

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