Originally written by Michael Roberts.
Let’s get straight to the point shall we? Awaken the Dreamers isn’t as good as The Price of Existence, but is still an excellent effort in its own right. Yes it’s more melodic, yes there’s more clean singing and overall it’s a lot more diverse, but you’d be unwise to dismiss this album for those reasons alone. All Shall Perish is still a death metal band of significant songwriting talent, and while they’ve brought quite a few new things to the table on Awaken the Dreamers, they’ve pulled them off nicely. Ultimately this isn’t a huge departure from what the band have previously been known for and that should be taken as a recommendation in itself.
While opening cut “When Life Meant More” sounds familiar and even a little safe, the following “Black Gold Reign” sees All Shall Perish throw their first curveball when Hernan Hermida suddenly lets off a Halford-esque power metal scream midway through. There’s also a clean guitar/whispered vocal interlude that you’d more readily expect on an Opeth album. From this point it’s clear the band has progressed into somewhat bigger, grander territory. There’s now a greater emphasis on atmosphere and texture in addition to brutality and aggression. The excellent title track will probably be familiar to most, and is arguably the best representation of All Shall Perish’s ‘new’ sound. Those dueling guitar melodies, the extended soloing and that rousing refrain sees the band evoking traditional metal like never before, and it’s great.
What about those clean vocals? Relax; there are really only a couple of instances. On the aforementioned title track they’re actually quite subtle and mainly in the background, but it’s on the album’s only real anomaly, “Memories of a Glass Sanctuary”, that the singing may raise some eyebrows. A curious number, “Sanctuary” is an entirely clean, mournful piece delicately sung by Hermida. It’s by no means terrible, but not particularly memorable. Thankfully it’s followed by three raging, back-to-basics numbers in “Stabbing to Purge Dissimulation”, “Gagged, Bound, Shelved and Forgotten” and “Until the End” which are most reminiscent of TPOE in terms of their speed, brutality and monstrous breakdowns.
Of the twelve tracks on Awaken the Dreamers, three are instrumentals. The most notable of these is the glorious shred-fest “From So Far Away”, which basically serves as a showcase for the considerable talents of guitarists Chris Storey and Ben Orum. It’s an enjoyable piece that doesn’t outstay its welcome. That leaves the brief, atmospheric interludes “The Ones We Left Behind” and “Misery’s Introduction”, the latter effectively ushering in the epic album closer “Songs for the Damned”. Some might consider these filler but I actually like the way they break up the heavier tracks while adding to the overall depth of the album.
So there you have it folks. No gang vocals, no pig squeals and no cowbells this time around. All Shall Perish have moved on, and it’s really just a question of whether or not you’re prepared to go with them. Personally I’m glad the band has taken a slight step sideways instead of trying to top TPOE only to fall. That album remains the peak of ASP’s original phase, and I’ve judged all subsequent ‘deathcore’ against it. Awaken the Dreamers is clearly different but still contains plenty of what brought All Shall Perish to our attention in the first place. Enjoy people.