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Awake The Dreamer - 'Damaged Souls' Album Review


1. Damaged Souls 2. Atmosphere (feat. Ryo Kinoshita) 3. Far Away 4. Believe 5. Blood Red Fists 6. Lunar 7. Your Mind 8. Liberation 9. Vigilant (feat. Robert Ljung) 10. Negative Filters

Since their formation in 2015, Melodic Post-Hardcore outfit Awake The Dreamer have already carved out a stellar reputation and a dedicated following. All in the lead up to the release of their highly anticipated debut album which hit September 20th via German label Arising Empire. 'Damaged Souls' fires this Swedish five piece straight into the heavens and promises big things for the future.

The Album begins with a 34 second intro track. Now, call me what you will, but I have always had a serious dislike for the old "intro-mental" cliche. I find it's overdone and often serves little to no purpose in the album as a whole. So you can imagine upon reading "0.34" under the track name, one it shares with the album itself, I had almost already decided I was out.

How wrong I was.

This particular 34 seconds was dark, brooding and reminiscent of a retro horror soundscape. Massively effective and a straight up harbinger of things to come. Words, consider yourself eaten.

The track bleeds beautifully into the real opener. 'Atmosphere' pulls no punches. A solid statement of intent and the beginnings of an understanding of the journey Awake The Dreamer intend to take you on. Already it's clear that these guys know their shit. Technical ability and song craft are on point and, combined with the added depth of guest vocals courtesy of Ryo Kinoshita of Japan's Crystal Lake, make this a truly triumphant lead.

'Far Away' soars in with its instantly infectious ways and although steeped in melancholy is strangely upbeat. Anthemic, I guess, would be appropriate. Full of catchy melodies, this one's imbedding itself into your brain with a vengeance. Remember this when you start humming it all day.

Up next is 'Believe', another solid tune. Great construction, fantastic musicianship and equal in merit to all that's came before it. However, the album is running the risk now of becoming a little gun shy in regards to variety.

Enter 'Blood Red Fists'. In the musical equivalent to the classic "bro, hold my beer," this one is not for the faint hearted. It's savage, unapologetic and violent as all merry fuck. Like a psychotic fever dream, dissonant and disorienting, this ditty would be quite at home as the soundtrack to those fantasies you have about choking out your boss...don't worry, we all have them. 'Blood Red Fists' serves as the fuel to keep this inferno alive and I loved every second of it.

Back to business the band treat us to 'Lunar'. It shares the spirit of the first few tracks but with a much more deliberate and steady delivery. There's a real heart to 'Lunar' and it'll have you beating along with it.

The opening seconds of 'Your Mind' treat the listener to a mental smoke break with a peaceful and atmospheric build up. A total shift in energy, but much like the aforementioned smoke break it's short lived and ends with someone shouting at you. Vocals in particular stand out here with a great mix of high and low growls and some very impressive cleans. Topped of with a chorus of singers accompanying sections, this song gave me some serious chills.

Sneaking in with a twinkle, 'Liberation's opening moments suggest a much happier tone. A beckoning call from the gods which, once answered, takes us even deeper into the vortex of ATD's spirit. The body of the song is driving and passionate with a tremendous use of contrast. That "twinkle" returns briefly before dropping into a powerful battle cry that brings this particular track to a whole new level.

'Vigilant', featuring Adept's Robert Ljung sets off the beginning of the end and coaxes the listener from the introversion created by previous tracks. It's a smack back to reality in an epic call to arms and really does "awake the dreamer." I was particularly taken in by the phenomenal use of guitar legato to counterpoint heavy, skull busting riffs.

'Damaged Souls' could have ended right here and I would have been totally at peace with that. However, with one more stroke of genius we are given 'Negative Filters' which is, quite frankly, an audio cock tease. Thinking I'd figured these guys out I spent the whole song, which is forlorn and beautiful, anticipating a serious tempo shift. With several opportunities to do so, the band take you to the edge then pull you straight back. Even when the moment comes it's not what's expected. The heavier section is short and meaningful making 'Negative Filters' a different beast altogether. Deliberate or not, the placement of this song as a finale leaves a sense of something unfinished and is hugely symbolic of Awake the Dreamer's, no doubt, sensational future.

I can't stop listening to this glorious hurricane of an album. It's epic, poetic and a perfect blend of fury and passion. From stunning vocals, through powerful fret work to earth shattering rhythms the enormous talents of Max, Benjamin, Fabian, Alex and Oscar are clear. Not just as individuals but as a collective. Something brought these five together for a reason and they are wasting no time in proving themselves.

Awake The Dreamer are here for war and 'Damaged Souls' is the weapon of choice.

Fucking tremendous.

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Review - Stuart Leel

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