Awake By Design – Awake By Design – Album Review

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Artist: Awake By Design

Album Title: Awake By Design

Label: Independent Release

Date of Release: 14 August 2020

My question to you is this: were you a fan of Kamelot, but have become a little disillusioned by their output in recent years? If, like me, you find yourself answering ‘yes’, then might I suggest you take a little listen to this record by UK melodic metal band Awake By Design. I have a sneaking suspicion that you might find the exercise of benefit.

Awake By Design have been around the UK metal scene for a long time and, despite sharing the stage with lots of big names in the world of heavy music, I think it is fair to say that they have failed to break into the collective conscious as perhaps they should have. It’s a tough world out there of course, but having been aware of this band for some time, I really feel strongly that they deserve to make a move further up the ladder and achieve bigger and better things.

My evidence for my bold statement is this, their self-titled third full-length release. The fact that it is being independently released demonstrates where the band are at in terms of their success levels, not that a five-year hiatus since their last release will have helped their cause. However, the material on the album itself says something entirely different, at least to these ears of mine. The music is out of the top drawer of melodic metal; it is lush, rich, powerful, and full of gorgeous melodies that you simply can’t ignore. Oh and it has been produced by Karl Groom of Threshold fame, so it sounds right on the money in this respect.

I don’t normally prefer to liken bands directly to others. But, as hinted at in the opening paragraph, in the case of Awake By Design, they do have some echoes within their music of mid-era Kamelot et al, thanks to the strong keys-led symphonics, as well as hints of the likes of Evergrey and Fates Warning, due to a smidgen of progressive leanings here and there. You could also throw in a little NWOBHM and a touch of European power metal too if you felt so inclined.

The biggest weapon in the armoury of Awake By Design, however, are the melodies, the choruses and the hooks that are delivered. Whilst recent Kamelot output has struck me as a little dull and sub-par where the melodies are concerned, they are front and centre for this quintet, the cornerstone of their output. And it’s glorious.

I’m going to fly a little bit off-piste by homing in initially on the very final track. Entitled ‘Empire’, it is a sprawling composition spanning over ten minutes. It begins slowly with a bold cinematic intro that then segues into a beautiful piano melody courtesy of Adrian Powell, before delving headlong into the kind of territory that I wish Kamelot still inhabited, especially within the catchy yet epic double-pedal-driven chorus. Given the length of the track, there’s also room for a little of that prog intent to be heard too, aided by the swathes of keys throughout.

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Back to the beginning and the album kicks off with ‘The Coming Tide’, a cracking track that encompasses everything I like about this genre of music. It is satisfyingly heavy, aided by some chunky riffs from Luke Smith and returning guitarist Toby Stewart, pounding drumming from new recruit Chris Threlfall, and some cool bass lines from David Favill that rumble under the surface with style. The song is instantly catchy and memorable thanks to a great chorus, whilst I must commend vocalist Adrian Powell on a commanding performance behind the microphone; full of emotion and with the ideal range for this kind of music, the guy is the perfect fit as far as I’m concerned.

Other great songs are plentiful and include the achingly beautiful and slightly haunting ‘Nothing Hurts’, the synth-drenched, more progressive-sounding ‘Devoid Of Illusion’ which comes complete with a cracking chorus, and ‘This Avalanche’ which caught my ear immediately because of its slightly darker, moodier vibe alongside yet more gigantic earworms. If you’re a fan of a guitar solo or two, you’ll be delighted to hear that this is a staple ingredient within most compositions too, many of which are a heady delight without being too over-cooked.

Naturally, there are a couple of ballad-like tracks of this album too, in the shape of ‘Calling You Home’ and ‘The Unspoken Truth’. The former is a classic builder, with a soulful lead break at the end, alongside a burst of controlled power, whilst the latter is a piano-led & theatrical composition, another nod to the aforementioned Kamelot. The melodies are beautiful and the track has an almost whimsical feel to it until the final third, when it explodes and the piano-playing takes centre stage excellently.

If I had one criticism to level at Awake By Design, it would be that this self-titled record is an absolute beast. It features no less than 13 individual tracks and has an overall running time of over 75 minutes. By anyone’s standards that’s a hefty body of work and, if I’m honest, a little bit of extra editing may have been a beneficial exercise. I feel a bit of a git criticising a band for giving us true value for money, especially when we’ve not had an album for a while and the overall quality of the material is so high. But I honestly think, in a day and age when the average human has trouble sitting still for five minutes let alone 75, this might work against the band in the long run. There are a couple of tracks that I personally could make peace with if they were culled but otherwise I appreciate that the task is a difficult one.

Let’s leave the criticism to one side at this point then, and return to my overriding feelings about this record, which are incredibly positive. Genuinely strong melodies, well-written songs, great performances from each member of the band, and a production that does the music the justice it deserves – what else is there that you could possibly want? ‘Awake By Design’ is a fantastic melodic heavy metal record, the release that should bring these guys the kind of recognition that they fully deserve. Check it out immediately.

The Score of Much Metal: 92%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape
Gaerea – Limbo
Buried Realm – Embodiment Of The Divine
Navian – Reset
Selenseas – The Outer Limits
Quantum – The Next Breath Of Air
Ensiferum – Thalassic
Long Distance Calling – How Do We Want To Live?
Airbag – A Day At The Beach
Re-Armed – Ignis Aeternum
Atavist – III: Absolution
Frost* – Others EP
Darker Half – If You Only Knew
Atavistia – The Winter Way
Astralborne – Eternity’s End
Centinex – Death In Pieces
Haken – Virus
Pile Of Priests – Pile Of Priests
Sorcerer – Lamenting Of The Innocent
Lesoir – Mosaic
Temnein – Tales: Of Humanity And Greed
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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