After a hiatus of almost five years, British progressive metallers Awake are back with a brand new album. Forever More is the successor to the 2007 debut album; Illumination. Splitting up with guitarist Richard Hall and intensely touring with bands like Magnum and Evergrey made it take a while to finish the new album. After the split, an intense search for a guitar player started and in 2008 a new axeman was found by the name of Andy Coles. During the process of writing, Andy's brother Steven Coles joined the band as well to give the band a second guitarist. Together with long-time members; vocalist Simon Shedwell, keyboardist Craig Burkitt, bass man Chris Le Mottee and drummer Alex Townsend, the band went touring with Magnum again, before entering the studio for the recording of Forever More. The last hand on the album was laid in the midst of 2010, including the female background vocals by Jennifer Hardy.
Lyrically, the album tells about the loss and hardships you face when you lose someone close to you. Musically the band has grown into a heavier sound, but still keeps the depth and intensity of the first album. The double guitars are nicely recorded and sound warm and crunchy at one instance, heavy and dirty the next, depending on the song. Awake has been touring with Evergrey and I have to say that this band can be seen as a big influence for Awake. Although, listening to the majestic intro Into The Storm, names like Royal Hunt also comes to mind and even some aspects of Dream Theater. The instrumental intro leads into Out Of Control, where we can hear Simon's vocals in their full glory. Heavy riffs with a layer of symphonic keyboards underneath sound great together and the double bass is definitely present. The heaviness of the previous song continues in Release Me, where the vocals have an edge of modern rock and a cool and catchy refrain. Building up the tension in Drift Away, a symphonic undertone takes you to vocals that just breathe desperation, and you just feel them drifting away. Simon has a touch of 3 Doors Down in his vocals, still modern, but certainly not happy. A wonderful opening on Taken-one of the more power ballad orientated songs on the album-together with For The Moment and One Wish, this song takes us from the smooth relaxed part towards the depths of the soul in perfectly built songs. For me, the piano songs Closing The Doors and King are real highlights when you want to hear the true emotion in the vocals, perfectly accompanied by a relaxed piano. Simon sings his heart out in despair. Bleed From You is a powerful song which takes you towards Evergrey again with a stunning guitar part in the middle showing the brothers can handle their instruments. Closing the album is another up tempo basher (the title track) where the double bass rumble and the bass and guitars are nice and fast. On top of this power, the symphonic keyboards and Simon's voice take a step back in speed, which leads to a combination that is just great to listen to.
After their first album, which was produced by Tom Englund (Evergrey), the band was ready to produce the next one by themselves. Adding two great new musicians did make the line-up nice and stable and the songs are very impressive. So, Forever More is a great album in the line of a band like Evergrey, but with a sad undertone. Well done! However, I hope the band will take a musical step away from the Swedish progressive metallers on the next album.
**** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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