Review Summary: Awoken Broken is an absolute mess from two musicians who are very much capable of so much more.
I remember the day like yesterday. Barely into 2012, a surprise announcement on Iron Maiden
's website announced "something of primal interest to Maiden fans, on January 3rd." While Maiden did post a claim on their twitter that it wasn't for a new album, DVD, or tour, fans still speculated like there was no tomorrow. It was only January 3rd that they would find out that the claim was true, in fact, for the first time since Bruce and Adrian's rejoining the and, one of the band members would be doing their own side project. Adrian Smith's fourth project since ASAP
(Adrian Smith and Project), Adrian Smith and the Untouchables, and Psycho Motel
, this time he collaborated with progressive-metal Mikee Goodman (ex. SikTh
), who's known for his very unique yet harsh vocal style. Surely, I thought there was going to be a riot. And the reception to the song they posted to their page, "I See Lights" didn't do much to help matters- in fact, response was so tepid that I thought there was going to be a mass turning away from Maiden as a whole!
Thankfully this didn't happen, as a tour announcement and successful sales later, the album hit the shelves in Europe and Canada. And I remember that people either loved or hated the album- but when the album passed through my ears, I knew it was certainly a difficult album. After quite a few listens, I still couldn't make up my mind. I love both Maiden and SikTh, so what went wrong here?
Awoken Broken's biggest problem is that much of it sounds like something that many other musicians, with only half H or Goodman's talent, can do. From the lead single "I See Lights" alone, it's clear that it's not going to sound like Maiden or SikTh (even though at times SikTh had some nu-metal sounding tracks) but at the same time, if you've heard Maiden, ASAP, Psycho Motel or even the few songs that Untouchables did, you'd know that H is capable of so much more. He does have a few solos here, and while most of them are impressive, the whole time you're reminded of blistering solos he's done in the past, like in "Aces High" or the solo that lasts a whole minute in "The Wicker Man". The actual riffs are more reminiscent of nu-metal/industrial metal artists, and whole I don't expect everything H does to sound like Maiden, sadly what he does here falls flat. On the press release, the
He also has the credit of playing the bass, something he never did in Maiden, and it would have been nice to hear what he brought to the table, the atrocious sound mix that has drums and guitars pushed so high into the forefront makes it practically impossible to hear. His singing, on the other hand is just fine. He doesn't have a great voice, but it is unique in its own right. No complaints whatsoever about Goodman, his voice fits this type of metal and it fits with the heavy/sludgy music. But with this album being mostly mid-tempo nu-metal dirges, his unique voice pretty much stays in one category the whole time, except for the 47 second spoken word track "As Tears Come Falling From the Sky". And while it is a nice break from the rest of the album, it sadly only lasts so short and fails to make much of a difference.
So is there anything to like about the album at all? Well, I'll admit that the first three songs do start the album out on a good note. "No Friendly Neighbour" begins with eight bars of double bass before a drum sample and an H riff kick in, and Goodman makes his intro with the opening lines: "There's a man in the park/walking his dog to a mark/in the picture he painted...
", before the song kicks into a mid-tempo track that apparently seems to be about what all the other songs on the album are about
: injustice, violence, disturbance of the peace, etc. "No Place Like Home" is catchy and fast paced with a good solo and a catchy chorus that has some excellent harmonizing from both H and Goodman, and despite how polarizing it is to the masses, "I See Lights" is a cool industrialish tune that is dark, slow and brutal, which paints a picture of a truly messed up world. And finishing the album is "The Moon and the Mirror", a nice acoustic track that provides an atmospheric and ambient touch and makes it the one truly different song on the album.
Yet even then, and while it's cool that H and Goodman have quite the bro-mance (as revealed in IMFC mag #92), Awoken Broken is mostly a tepid, timid, uninteresting album that showcases two musicians performing below what they're capable of, and it leaves you feeling angry and wishing it was so much more. While there have been worse collaborations out there (cough cough, Loutallica, cough), simultaneously it leaves you wondering why either even bothered if two such talented musicians can only scrape up something subpar when working together.