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Primal Rock Rebellion: Awoken Broken
Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal, Progressive Metal
Spinefarm Records
February 27th, 2012
Release length: 53:03
Primal Rock Rebellion is a new supergroup that is formed of Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith, and former SikTh vocalist Mikee Goodman. Roughly one year after coming together, their debut full-length album, Awoken Broken, was issued through Spinefarm Records, and made it’s way overseas to the US thanks to Universal Records. The entire album clocks in a little over the fifty-three minute mark, and looking at the members involved, some may enter the fray with completely different expectations. No, this isn’t an album full of Iron Maiden riffs and influence, nor is it a direct SikTh rip-off, though the history of both members do creep up throughout the Progressive Metal fused tracks that sometimes have a hint of Alternative Metal behind it as well. But, does this coupling, which also features session drummer Dan Foord of SikTh, offer up a release that’s truly unique, or truly suffering from the typically underwhelming supergroup curse?

The recording sounds like what you would expect in quality. The higher end production value sounds really good, offering up a crisp capturing of crushing and energetic performances. The bass really helps to keep things grounded, but ends up quite loud as well with a very dominant presence that can make some of the slower tracks simply feel burdening against the clean guitar leads and more distorted main riffs that are still loud and heavy. The vocals really offer a truly unique experience to the release thanks to the more eccentric cleaner approach Mikee incorporates to each song, sometimes reminiscent of what you would hear of Queen, as well as some harsher, even rougher shouting moments. The drumming sounds fantastic with a click to the bass kick that isn’t too loud or overbearing, allowing the crisp cymbals and tighter snares to really help fill the music.

Surprisingly, the supergroup curse doesn’t seem to exist here. The audio is superb, and there’s plenty of infectious and well done offerings that you’ll instantly fall in love with it. Well, at least with the first half. “No Friendly Neighbour” takes its time to build with some distant chords against a growing vocal performance before finally crashing in with some slower Progressive riffs that carry a good deal of authority behind them with an artistic lyrical approach that suits the eccentric rougher and cleaner vocals. The tension builds until the chorus hits, feeling like a release despite not being too different from the main passages, though still delivers at the end. “Savage World” hits with some strong Heavy Metal material that has a nice Progressive touch to the main verses and melodic Alternative riffs throughout. The edge the song carries, and the higher pitched vocals add to the upbeat chaos throughout with an addictive chorus that instantly hooks the listener with memorable chords and energy. It all seems to just hit at once, only letting up at the half way point for slower, foggy music that doesn’t last too long.

“Awoken Broken” kicks in after the spoken word interlude “As Tears Come Falling from the Sky,” but the track itself is nowhere near the intro makes the listener anticipate. Instead, it’s largely Heavy Metal with some pretty rough material and a rather dark atmosphere. From the moment it starts, you’re offered plenty of catchy areas to bang your head along to, and thanks to the more unique darker tone of the track, which fits in with the gritty eighties style Hard Rock/NWOBHM guitar solo. you’ll end up appreciating it for what it is, unlike “No Place Like Home” which isn’t quite as unique or eccentric, but still has plenty of energy within to move anyone hearing it. Instead, it’s more of a streamlined Heavy Metal and Progressive Metal performance that is a little heavier, but carries a tamer, radio friendly style chorus. The overall result still hooks the listener, but is nowhere near as memorable.

“Bright as a Fire” will leave an imprint on listeners, but for a different reason entirely. The song’s slower pace really pushes the bass forward in the mix, giving it an overall crushing sound that none of the other faster or upbeat cuts really offer. While it isn’t the most amazing, it is by far the heaviest, and still well worth a listen. A similar tone is found on “Snake Ladders,” which takes a little time to appreciate. Sounding more like a conceptual piece, this has a far more sinister vibe that can leave you feeling unnerved and even unwelcome to the restrained hostility in the aggressive chords and vocals that come off as if being performed by a man at the end of his rope and about to go into the violent spree the lyrics seem to suggest. “Tortured Tone” is another slower offering, but it’s clearly driven more by depressing emotion. There’s nothing that really stands out, and even that saddening touch to the vocals doesn’t come off too believable as there’s still that eccentric sense working against it. It isn’t boring, but it just isn’t that good either, never really going anywhere and overstaying its welcome.

In the end, Awoken Broken is definitely something fans of SikTh should take notice of, but devoted Iron Maiden fans may be at a bit of a loss. This album is far from a NWOBHM effort, but the Progressive Metal elements incorporated really do make it a unique experience, both musically and vocally, and it’s clear that both members put their talents to good use throughout. There are a few tracks that don’t really hold up well, but nothing ever seems forced or like filler, only coming off as music that wasn’t as strong as the two probably had hoped it would be when they finished up in the studio. Either way, Primal Rock Rebellion is a surprising supergroup that literally comes out of nowhere to make an impact on the Metal world. There’s plenty of energy, emotion, and general heaviness to be found that anyone with an open mind can easily walk away a fan after just one spin. With plenty of replay value and many memorable songs, there’s no denying Awoken Broken shows great potential for this group, and a sign of things to come that will leave the listener anxious for a follow-up.

01. No Friendly Neighbour – 4:53
02. No Place Like Home – 3:05
03. I See Lights – 4:58
04. Bright as a Fire – 6:20
05. Savage World – 3:37
06. Tortured Tone – 5:08
07. White Sheet Robes – 5:16
08. As Tears Come Falling from the Sky – 0:47
09. Awoken Broken – 4:58
10. Search for Bliss – 4:12
11. Snake Ladders – 4:43
12. Mirror and the Moon – 5:05
Overall Score: 8/10

Digital review copy of this release provided by Spinefarm Records via Universal Records.
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