Awaken Solace – In Nightfall’s Embrace

August 17, 2012 in Reviews by blackwindmetal

Awaken Solace
In Nightfall’s Embrace

It’s interesting how perceptions can change after some persistence.  Upon my first listen to this Aussie five-some’s debut album, (which is actually a two-CD release with CD 1 being the  metal version of the 14 tracks and CD2 being an unplugged, symphonic version with only an orchestra accompanied by vocals), I wasn’t really impressed.  I preferred CD2, where I thought things worked much better.  However, after subsequent listens to the first disc, I’ve found myself moving away from dislike and more towards ambivalence. On the plus side, I really enjoyed the easy catchiness of the songs.  I also found the symphonic elements to be complex, rich, and very lush.  The song titles look a tad on the cheesy side, but the lyrics, which revolve around fantasy themes, are not as cheesy as they might seem.

The first song, “Moonlight’s Wake” is a lovely piece that sounds like it could very well belong on Nightwish’s Imaginaerum .  The second track, “Escaping the Beast”  is also very strong.  You get the feeling early on that this music is going to be up there with big name symphonic power metal bands like Nightwish and Epica, and indeed, the band lists those bands as two of their main influences. Things change however. Unfortunately, I found that  the bands’ symphonic elements often overpowered the metal part of the compositions.  The guitars, for instance, had very little impact because they were either overwhelmed by other instruments or, it seemed to me, kept low in the mix.  There were no crisp, crunchy riffs that got into any kind of groove.  When there were solos, I had a hard time picking them out because they were often accompanied (at least to my ear, and I could be totally wrong here) by another instrument playing the same melody.  I’m not knocking the competence of guitarist Elspeth Johnson, but I have to say that for symphonic power metal (which is how the band classifies itself on Facebook) the guitar work had very little impact (Editor’s note: a band mislabeling themselves? Perish the thought!).  I think the drumming had much more of an impact on me, and I rarely notice drumming.

Another issue for me was the vocal performance of singer Maree Nipperess.  Her upper register simply didn’t convince me, and at times I found her voice took on too sweet or childish a tone for the maturity of the music.  Again, not to diss Maree’s voice at all – because she does have a good voice – I just didn’t feel it fit in with the overall sound of the band.  There were two songs sung with a male vocal, too, and I don’t know who it was, but I didn’t enjoy those songs much. So, CD1 was a bit of a miss altogether.  It lacked bombast and for symphonic metal, it was really light on the metal.

However, all this being said, the symphonic version of the album was fantastic. It really had an impact, mainly because the orchestral elements were so strong  in CD2 that they were not competing with any other musical elements other than Maree’s vox, which interestingly enough, really shone on the second disc.  I think that’s also because she wasn’t competing with any other instruments.  There are lots of great orchestral sounds in here, like harpsichords, various wind instruments, and strings.  CD2 is a very enjoyable listen, especially if you need to wind down from something and might be in need of some relaxation; it’s a feast for the ears and is definitely the stronger of the two CDs.

On the whole, this group from Brisbane shows with In Nightfall’s Embrace that it has great bones and great potential.  They’ve already garnered some attention: they will be opening for Apocalyptica in Awaken Solace’s hometown on August 30.

Allyson’s rating: 3.0 out of 5