Review Summary: Megalithic Symphony shows that Aaron Bruno's synth-pop group has a ton of ideas, but doesn't know what to do with them.
With so many bands capitalizing on synth-pop anthems and minimalist production elements, AWOLNATION didn’t originally get my attention. That didn’t last long, though. It became clear that Aaron Bruno’s alternative rock band AWOLNATION was destined for the alt-radio crowd when the band made waves on rock radio with infectious choruses and straight-ahead keyboard melodies. After a few years touring the indie circuit, the group has released their first major studio release. AWOLNATION’s debut album Megalithic Symphony
mixes the atmosphere of Radiohead with synth-driven anthems of MGMT, but while you’ll find some promise in Bruno’s brainchild of an alternative group, their first outing is too jumbled and unfocused to make a very serious impression.
If you’ve been listening to the alternative rock radio these days, there’s a really good chance that you’ve heard “Sail,” one of the most minimalist hits ever to grace the alternative charts. It’s a decent enough track with its blatantly simple synth line and Bruno belting out “SAIL!” under heavy distortion effects. Its tempo oozes groove. “Sail” is a laid-back mix of emotive confusion, but it’s also an infectiously good song, despite its obvious simplicity. It stands out as Bruno’s biggest example of trying to be something completely new. “Sail” really doesn’t sound like anything else on the radio these days.
Giving credit where credit is due, Bruno is a surprisingly versatile vocalist. He shouts in “Sail”, croons in “Jump on My Shoulders”, and sounds like a solid alternative ballad singer in “Not Your Fault.” He even pulls out the Little Richard-esque “woo!” in one of the more energetic tracks “Burn it Down.” However, this makes the overall cohesion of the album seem like a distant afterthought. As an artist, Bruno is definitely trying to find his own niche in the multi-versed alternative genre. It’s admirable and makes for an album that has a little something for everyone, but the songs feel scatterbrained and ultimately disjointed.
That’s not to say that Megalithic Symphony
is flat-out awful. Not at all. Bruno has made strong strides toward becoming a mainstay on the alternative circuit, especially with the catchy “Not Your Fault.” His compositions are infectious to say the least and most of them do provide a feel-good mood. The more upbeat songs like “Soul Wars” feel destined to be remixed as dance tracks, because they have an exciting pace that is sure to get people up and celebrating. The groovy track “Guilty Filthy Soul” has a catchy piano line across Bruno’s crooning, while “Kill Your Heroes” is an almost jazzy song. Megalithic Symphony
really shines during the catchier, almost poppy songs. It’s in the tracks like “Not Your Fault,” “Burn it Down,” and “Wake Up,” where you’ll find Bruno in his prime. But when he starts elaborating and over-contextualizing his tone, AWOLNATION starts to feel too out-there and experimental to be digestible.
The brief interludes like “Some Sort of Creature” and the title track feel like short poetic snippets that don’t really go anywhere. Bruno’s bizarre story of a “rodent” being carried by a child in “Some Sort of Creature” could be interesting if brought into a thicker context, but it just feels unneeded, like it was snuck into the tracklist just to make the listener rewind to hear what the hell he was talking about. On the whole, however, there are too few standout tracks on Megalithic Symphony
. Bruno’s creative drive hasn’t found its focus yet, and while there are some promising specimens to unearth, AWOLNATION needs to elaborate on them a bit more.
It’s clear that Bruno is out to make something in his own vein instead of conforming to a template, but Megalithic Symphony
never congeals. Bruno jumps between genres like nobody’s business. One second he’s raging like Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, the next he’s hitting higher notes like Thom Yorke of Radiohead. While the musical influences and comparisons are far from horrible, AWOLNATION does too little with too much. The end result is an album with a lot of offer, but nothing substantial enough to help it stand out. Bruno is pioneering his sound, that can’t be ignored, but if he wants to truly make a masterpiece, the guy needs to figure out what he really wants to do with AWOLNATION. Megalithic Symphony
is a hit-or-miss album in every regard. The successes are well worth listening to, but the diversity in the style of each song is the album’s biggest misstep. Ultimately, AWOLNATION’s debut album is a conglomeration of different styles and a master of none.