Fleshkiller
Awaken


4.5
superb

Review

by DePlazz USER (8 Reviews)
August 10th, 2019 | 17 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Close your eyes. Listen to the call of the empire.

Fleshkiller's Awaken is quite a few things in itself. For one, in general, it is a well-constructed extreme metal album where chuggers, groovers, growlers, shredders and proggers alike will find plenty to chew and savor. What makes the album stand out, however, is its ability to sound extremely heavy while at the same time exuding ethereal lightness as well as invigorating elation. This is a feature apparent from the very beginning, and it seems that the songs all follow a similar pattern or recipe to that effect.

Perhaps the most obvious musical means to play out the 'heavy vs light' contrast is the frequent alternation in the vocal sections between death growls/screams (Elisha Mullins) and layered harmonic clean singing (Ole Børud). The latter has a distinct choral and 'angelic' vibe, reminiscent of some of the vocal harmonies on, say, Yes's 90125 or Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's Deja Vu. For those not immediately eager to embrace, there is always the heavily distorted and downtuned technical riffing (on two 7-strings in dropped A, if you are interested), overlaid with melodic lead lines and paused by clean interludes at the right points. Overall one hears a strong penchant for combining catchiness with complexity in the riffing, chording and chord progressions, with a highly peculiar interplay of diminished and augmented notes that is difficult to put one's finger on. Let's just say there is an amount of jazziness involved. It is the continuous interaction of all these contrasting elements that drives forth each song as well as the whole album, determining a lot of its appeal and replay value. On top of that, there are layered harmonies throughout, from the lowest to the highest registers. Production is crisp, a bit too polished perhaps, with every instrument equally clear in the mix.

Incidentally, there most likely is a motivational link between the album's musical design and its lyrical content, which is Christian-inspired. Though mainly abstract and philosophical (no Gods or Jesuses mentioned literally, but all the more emphasis on immaterial and eternal truths/values), this is an aspect of the album one may easily cringe away from. But it does put the pervasive use of contrasting vocal and harmonic elements in perspective, as a means for conveying ideas of battlings and bridgings of opposites (dark vs light, earth vs heaven), with 'harmony' getting the undisputed overtone in the end.

If nothing else, Awaken is testimony to the writing and instrumental skills of founding Extol member Ole Børud - which also brings us to the album's particular musical legacy. The Extol influence is undeniable, with Undeceived vibes ringing through especially in tracks like Parallel Kingdom, title track Awaken and Secret Chambers as well as in the baritone tremolo picking throughout, while the complexity of the riffs more than once brings the cerebral jazz of Synergy to mind. Mostly though, this feels like a logical continuation of Extol's self-titled last effort, for which Børud was also the main writer. Extol skeptics may find Awaken less demanding to get into, however, due to the absence of Peter Espevoll's signature 'grating' vocals, as well as to the fact that the dissonance in the chords and riffs is noticeably less 'punky'. (Fellow Extol guitarists/writers Ole Børud and Christer Espevoll had a peculiar chemistry going in this respect, some of which can also be found in Espevoll's own post-Extol output with Absurd² and Azusa.) The same does not count for the odd time signatures with which this album still abounds (to take just one case in point, Parallel Kingdom switches between 4/4, 5/8, 7/8, 9/8, 6/8 and 11/8). But what 'masks' such avant-garde madness and makes it readily digestible is the sheer number of catchy riffs and harmonies, the generous distribution of which is maintained with surprising stamina right until the end.

The album's overall consistency makes it difficult to pick standout tracks. Listeners looking for the less unconventional 'banger' may find a gratifying access point in Warfare. The riffs in the middle and bridge sections of Secret Chambers and Evil Eclipse for me are highlights in terms of catchiness and complexity, together with the beautifully woven fusion lead in the former. True Image could be the track to turn to for an appreciation of the balanced production, while Wisdom is a good example of the array of various transitions just one song can handle without losing the composure of an organic whole. But as already hinted, most songs present an equally effective mix of all the musical elements put to use on the album. Exploring any individual track will therefore give you a good sense of the feel and quality of the entire package.



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user ratings (54)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
recommended by reviewer
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Comments:Add a Comment 
DePlazz
August 10th 2019


1570 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Putting into words why I think this album is good was quite a challenge. Anyways, it deserved a review imo. Discussion welcome!

Lucman
August 10th 2019


3060 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sweet! Excited to read this. Haven't played this in a good minute so that'll have to be remedied.

Source
August 10th 2019


12712 Comments


dude

Observer
Staff Reviewer
August 10th 2019


6920 Comments


This one needed a review, very tight album and well done. I'll need to spin it again.

And you're right, it was hard for me to pick out a highlight since it's so consistent from track to track.

Digging: Shadow of Intent - Melancholy

Davil667
August 10th 2019


3814 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review, well worthy of this mighty album. Have a hard pos, was really hoping for someone to review this one. The production on here is my main point of complaint. Although the instruments are mixed pretty good it’s way too compressed for my liking. The vocals are what makes me enjoying this record better than any Extol album, the contrast between harsh growling and piercing screams to soothing clean vocals is captivating. And of course, Ole is a fckng beast on guitar. Salt of the Earth is my fav on here by far, it’s the one track that makes me return to this record and dive into it again.

Kusangii
August 10th 2019


2353 Comments


That might be the cheesiest band name I've ever seen

Davil667
August 10th 2019


3814 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Well did you even listen to the album? Might change your mind :]

Source
August 10th 2019


12712 Comments


It's not even that bad of a name lol. There are way worse names

Observer
Staff Reviewer
August 10th 2019


6920 Comments


yeah, like beardfish

DePlazz
August 11th 2019


1570 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks y'all.

@Davil667 you're right, production is compressed, not enough breathing space left. It think it should sound 'dense' tho, but sound-technically there must be ways to do that without brickwalling it. Oh and Salt of the Earth is fantastic, that opening chug just devastates.

Demon of the Fall
August 11th 2019


11908 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice, this needed a review. Pos. I really like this but it doesn’t touch the upper echelons of Extol’s material, or Azusa for that matter.

Digging: Fever Ray - Live At Troxy

ramon.
Contributing Reviewer
August 11th 2019


3262 Comments


plazz mvp

dwightfryed
August 11th 2019


64 Comments


you did not just reference 90125 in a metal review.

nicely done

Digging: James Gang - Yer' Album

ChaoticVortex
August 11th 2019


813 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review and album. It's essentially the followup to the s/t Extol album with a return to the Undeceived sound as well.

DePlazz
August 11th 2019


1570 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Cheers peeps

@Kusangii check it out man, riff-writing is SoP level

@Demon I feel ya dude, this is so deceptively complex and consistent tho

Source
August 11th 2019


12712 Comments


Plazz you should review that Twisted Into Form album :D

DePlazz
August 12th 2019


1570 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Ha, perhaps I will. But might try something different first.



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