Welcome a promising new progressive metal band from Portland, Oregon, Never Awake and their debut album Underground. The band easily follows in the tradition of American bands like Dream Theater, Redemption, Shadow Gallery, and Symphony X. It's good company to keep.
Yet when I listened to the opening moments of the first song, Pull The Trigger, my thoughts went to Metallica, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was the riffs in combination with the drumming creating an initial groove similar to Enter Sandman. It's not a bad feeling to have nor is it bad to have progressive metal that merges groove and melody with generous amounts of technicality. Underground has the usual suspects of the expected twists and turns in tempo and time signatures.
The album also boasts some talented and spry musicianship from each member. Matt Galligan is wizard on the guitar and keyboards, soloing with both with dexterity and creativity. Sometimes he does both within a song as with Pull The Trigger. Mostly, you wait in anticiaption for him to rip off a powerful guitar lead as within Underground, History's Pages, or The Will To Live. Sometimes his work is more subdued, taking a bit of a backseat to the totality of the arrangement, as with Downtown. Yet he adds a terrific acoustic outro to the end of this song. And acoustic guitar drives the bulk of Habits, a relatively solemn piece tempered also by symphonic notes.
Habits also shows how gifted a vocalist Taylor Dye can be. He's smooth and convincing over the acoutic guitar and drums. His vocals, the vocal arrangement as a whole, on Wander is another highlight, driving the entire song (although the drums are rather impressive also; more on that in a moment). Then in other songs, like Underground and History's Pages, he reaches for his metal voice, adding more edge, maybe even some sneer, but always melodic.
Another fine aspect of Never Awake is their rhythm section, especially the drumming of Alex McDonald. It grabbed me at the start and didn't let go. He's got that rare combination of precision, steadiness, groove, and innovation that could, if he stays the course, put him in the company of someone like Mike Portnoy. Notable drum lines come within Pull The Trigger, History's Pages, The Will To Live and rather massive in Downtown. When paired with the bass line, as within the latter half of Underground, Wander, or History's Page, it makes for a dangerously impressive rhythm section. Then add, throughout, some killer guitar work over top, and you have some tasty prog metal to drool over.
Now I know what you're thinking. "Dude, you are kissing some serious ass. With all the liberal praise, are these guys that good?" Yeah, I think so. I know I'd buy the album on the strength of Wander alone. With Underground, Never Awake keeps the future of American progessive metal alive and promising. Strongly recommended.
With Underground, Never Awake keeps the future of American progessive metal alive and promising. Strongly recommended.
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