Review Summary: And there is a prison in my mind...
Death is inside of us...
Reality changes around us...
As time unfolds us...
In past reviews and comments etc. I have made it blatantly clear that I absolutely hate the genre that is Metalcore with every fiber of being. Yet here I am, reviewing metalcore, and despite my ridiculous claims that metalcore is in fact a dead genre, "Awake?" is a rather enjoyable album.
Like most metalcore, Awake is formulaic to the t. Complete with horrible track names, a messy guitar arrangement and of course, cliché screams and growls with a few intermittent clean sections. Awake? is not the sort of album I would expect to enjoy, but surprisingly enough, it kept me entertained.
Unlike many artists that attempt to branch off into more creative and progressive genres, Zao stays true to Metalcore by introducing absolutely no innovation whatsoever. The guitars throughout are heavily distorted and appropriately choppy for the stop/start nature of the genre as it flashes between hardcore and popish choruses. Unfortunately the signature metalcore guitar can be quite grating at times such as in "The Eyes Behind the Throne" and they rely a bit too heavily on that obnoxious groaning sound. The one metalcore pitfall that Zao does avoid is the incredibly ugly breakdowns exployed by so many bands that completely ruin the flow of a song.
For some inexplicable reason, even the extremely mediocre sound of Awake? sounds interesting at times. For example, the undeniably awesome bass line/clean vocal section in "1,000,000 outstretched arms" and the excellent head banger style riff of "Human Cattle Masses." A lot of the heavy riffage tends to follow a slowed-down-thrash pattern that is incredibly addictive. The drums are nothing special, but they plod along with the foot-tapping tempo well enough. There are even a few moments of Underoath-esque metalcore such as "Romance of the Southern Spirit."
Perhaps the greatest part of Awake? is how well everything flows. You can tap you foot or nod your head to just about every chorus on the album, and there isn't a single track that stands out as "the horrible song that I'm never listening to again." I suppose there aren't really any standout tracks, but the album as a whole is just a satisfyingly consistent listen, the good kind of 3, not the "barely above average kind." If you're a fan of Underoath or Before Their Eyes (if BtE has fans...) then this is definitely a record worth listening to.
1,000,000 outstretched arms- excellent atmosphere
Human Cattle Masses Marching- awesome riff
Romance of the Southern Spirit- great clean chorus
Awake?- sick guitar melody
Quiet Passenger pt. 1- BASS!