Awake By Design – Unfaded – EP Review

Artist: Awake By Design

Album Title: Unfaded

Label: Independent Release

Date of Release: 29 October 2021

UK melodic metal band Awake By Design impressed me last year with their self-titled third full length studio release, offering a heavy and satisfying slab of memorable music in the process. As such, it was a no-brainer when I was contacted by the band, asking if I’d be interested in reviewing their newest recording.

The recording in question is a six-track EP but the most interesting thing about it is that it is a largely acoustic affair. Lots of bands have gone down this route in the past, but for a band so reliant on chunky riffing and swathes of atmospheric keys, I was incredibly intrigued to discover whether their music could translate adequately into the acoustic environment.

Despite being much more stripped back and minimal, as acoustic tracks generally are, I have to say that this experiment has come off pretty well. The best part of the EP is the fact that the band have penned no less than three brand new songs, written specifically for this endeavour and for an acoustic setting.

‘Tomorrow’s End’ kicks things off and it is immediately apparent that vocalist Adrian Powell is the focal point, at least initially. The guitar work of Luke Smith and Toby Stewart is precise and clear, but Powell dominates from his first words, hitting some powerful notes with passion and emotion. As the song develops, we do hear some subtle keys, as well as an electric guitar solo, as the entire band come together to great effect.

The bass playing at the beginning of ‘Shadowlight’ courtesy of David Favill is really ear-catching, as is the central chorus melody that feels like it gets bigger and better with every passing listen. I like the blast of the moody and intense electric guitar solo too, a well-placed reminder, should one be required, of the more metal credentials of this impressive band.

The title track is definitely my favourite of the three newly-written tracks. The opening acoustic melodies carry with them a solemnity, but one that is beautiful and incredibly poignant. Again, Powell excels behind the microphone, but the minimalism that runs through the track, alongside those mournful guitar notes is beguiling.

Despite the strength of the new songs, particularly the title track, I have to concede that my favourite song on ‘Unfaded’ is the re-worked version of ‘The Coming Tide’, the opening track from the quintet’s aforementioned third album. Of the original, I wrote:

“…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.”

I still love it and it remains a favourite even in its more minimalist guise. That said, it is the most opulent of all of the tracks on ‘Unfaded’, as it features the most overt keyboards, and there are a few more nods to their normal electric selves. The song also features the guest vocal talents of Faye Brooks, who is a very welcome addition to the composition, one that ably demonstrates what a tight and talented unit this band really is.

For longer-term fans of Awake By Design, ‘Falling On Me’ will be familiar, appearing as it did on the band’s 2015 sophomore release, ‘Carve The Sun’. Benefitting from some gloriously rich piano-playing, a strong but not overbearing rhythm section, as well as crisp, early In Flames-esque acoustic guitars, it is a really nicely crafted composition.

‘Unfaded’ ends with a cover of the classic Scorpions track, ‘Wind Of Change’. Although I must profess to not be the biggest fan of the original, there’s no denying the quality of this version, particularly impressive as it’s their first recorded cover version. Whilst I would have probably preferred another new track or re-worked version of another Awake By Design song, it nevertheless ends the EP in a strong fashion.

I came into this review not quite knowing what to expect and carried with me a little early scepticism. Almost all of this has been blown away like pollen in the breeze, because Awake By Design have demonstrably proven that their ability far extends beyond muscular prog-tinged melodic metal; ‘Unfaded’ shows a softer side, a more nuanced side, but no less entertaining in many ways. That said, I do look forward to a new, more conventional Awake By Design full-length in due course.

The Score of Much Metal: 80%

Further reviews from 2021:

Cynic – Ascension Codes

TDW – Fountains

Hypocrisy – Worship

W.E.B. – Colosseum

Navian – Cosmos

NorthTale – Eternal Flame

Obscura – A Valediction

Nightland – The Great Nothing

MØL – Diorama

Be’lakor – Coherence

Hollow – Tower

Doedsvangr – Serpents Ov Old

Athemon – Athemon

Eclipse – Wired

Swallow The Sun – Moonflowers

Dream Theater – A View From The Top Of The World

Nestor – Kids In A Ghost Town

Beast In Black – Dark Connection

Thulcandra – A Dying Wish

Omnium Gatherum – Origin

Insomnium – Argent Moon EP

Kryptan – Kryptan EP

Archspire – Bleed The Future

Awake By Design – Unfaded EP

Cradle Of Filth – Existence Is Futile

Seven Spires – Gods Of Debauchery

Sleep Token – This Place Will Become Your Tomb

Necrofier – Prophecies Of Eternal Darkness

Ex Deo – The Thirteen Years Of Nero

Carcass – Torn Arteries

Aeon Zen – Transversal

Enslaved – Caravans To The Outer Worlds

A Dying Planet – When The Skies Are Grey

Leprous – Aphelion

Night Crowned – Hädanfärd

Brainstorm – Wall Of Skulls

At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being

Rivers Of Nihil – The Work

Fractal Universe – The Impassable Horizon

Darkthrone – Eternal Hails

Thy Catafalque – Vadak

Terra Odium – Ne Plus Ultra

Hiraes – Solitary

Eye Of Purgatory – The Lighthouse

Crowne – Kings In The North

Desaster – Churches Without Saints

Helloween – Helloween

Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum

Wooden Veins – In Finitude

Plaguestorm – Purifying Fire

Drift Into Black – Patterns Of Light

Alluvial – Sarcoma

White Moth Black Butterfly – The Cost Of Dreaming – Album Review

Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen

Bloodbound – Creatures From The Dark Realm

Nahaya – Vital Alchemy

Frost* – Day And Age

Obsolete Theory – Downfall

Vola – Witness

Acolyte – Entropy

Dordeduh – Har

Subterranean Masquerade – Mountain Fever

Seth – La Morsure Du Christ

The Circle – Metamorphosis

Nordjevel – Fenriir

Vreid – Wild North West

Temtris – Ritual Warfare

Astrakhan – A Slow Ride Towards Death

Akiavel – Vae Victis

Gojira – Fortitude

Hideous Divinity – LV-426

Benthos – II

Evile – Hell Unleashed

Ninkharsag – The Dread March Of Solemn Gods

Bodom After Midnight – Paint The Sky With Blood

Morrigu – In Turbulence

Mother Of All – Age Of The Solipsist

Throne – Pestilent Dawn

Sweet Oblivion (Geoff Tate) – Relentless

Exanimis – Marionnettiste

Dvne – Etemen Ænka

Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined

Arion – Vultures Die Alone

Maestitium – Tale Of The Endless

Wode – Burn In Many Mirrors

Everdawn – Cleopatra

Unflesh – Inhumation

Mourning Dawn – Dead End Euphoria

Wheel – Resident Human

Wythersake – Antiquity

Odd Dimension – The Blue Dawn

Metalite – A Virtual World

Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm

Ghosts Of Atlantis – 3.6.2.4

Memoriam – To The End

Aversed – Impermanent

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood

Enforced – Kill Grid

Liquid Tension Experiment – LTE3

Turbulence – Frontal

Iotunn – Access All Worlds

Warrior Path – The Mad King

Stortregn – Impermanence

Mariana’s Rest – Fata Morgana

Orden Ogan – Final Days

Witherfall – Curse Of Autumn

Plague Weaver – Ascendant Blasphemy

Ephemerald – Between The Glimpses Of Hope

Paranorm – Empyrean

Einherjer – North Star

Epica – Omega

Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde

Simulacrum – Genesis

Forhist – Forhist

Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix

Empyrium – Über den Sternen

Moonspell – Hermitage

Infernalizer – The Ugly Truth

Temperance – Melodies Of Green And Blue EP

Malice Divine – Malice Divine

Revulsion – Revulsion

Demon King – The Final Tyranny EP

Dragony – Viribus Unitis

Soen – Imperial

Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida

Oceana – The Pattern

Therion – Leviathan

Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

Asphyx – Necroceros

W.E.T. – Retransmission

Labyrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus

TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

Need – Norchestrion: A Song For The End

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

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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