The phenomenon of poppier or more alternative post-hardcore bands might only be a few years in the making, but already it seems to have been mastered, copied and completely buried into the ground. That’s mainly the impact of two major happenings within the scene – a complete oversaturation of acts pushing the sound into an even more synthetic style that ends up with little to no permanence, and the simple fact that so many of the songs just aren’t good enough. Even with Blindwish and their debut Good Excuses being among the frontrunners of the new wave that’s taken to a rougher, more real take on the sound, that isn’t a compulsory measure to succeed; as long as the songs stand on their own, these bands can do well. The problem is the quality in recent times just hasn’t been up to scratch, and thus so many have fallen into mediocrity.
With that in mind, it puts pressure on Brisbane’s Awaken I Am to deliver, even if their profile hasn’t been as high as some of their contemporaries. Factor in the fact that new album Blind Love is actually their second attempt at breaking through after the impact of their debut was largely confined to Australia, and one would have enough to believe that Awaken I Am are simply lagging behind the rest of the pack. Except that’s not exactly true, as while Blind Love might be one of the glossiest, immaculately preened entries into this scene in some time, there’s a melodic core and such a firm grasp on writing killer pop songs that, as a foil to the direction Blindwish are taking their sound in, Awaken I Am do stick the landing. In no way is this perfect or even that great at this point, but especially for a band amongst those with a much heavier focus on production trickery, Blind Love is surprisingly enjoyable and easy to get along with.
That being said, the choice to cake this album in such a heavy coating does prove to be its main detriment, particularly at its most overpowering. The Chase actively creaks under its own weight as it tries to cram so much into a track that’s just not resilient enough to hold it all, while Distance, Distance is driven by a brittle clap of a beat where the closest thing to organic instrumentation is a runny guitar fragment that still can’t make this song any less immobile. That’s the main issue with Blind Love as a whole, that Awaken I Am need to improve their resource management. There’s so much put into these tracks to the point where there’s little room for them to really breathe and spread out, which makes the already superfluous instrumental track Be Still even more of a puzzling inclusion. The desire to build scope and drama for a band like this is perfectly natural, but for a decent bit of Blind Love, it feels like Awaken I Am could do it with a bit more tact, letting their own skills as a band do the heavy lifting rather than the thick lashings of production.
Of course, there’s also the flip side to that argument, where most of the drama that actually benefits Blind Love rests on what is arguably Awaken I Am’s most prominent feature. That’s definitely a valid point to make; there’s a sense of scope that’s immediately widened thanks to the underlying layers of programmed strings and sleek waves, and with these songs being as massive and, crucially, straightforward as they are, there’s pop appeal instilled within this album that certainly doesn’t hurt it. Right from the start this becomes evident, with the chunky guitars and buzzing electronics of Walk My Way and the more intricate twinkles of Red Wine Regret setting up a foundation that’s built upon by the towering Black Dreams and Hindsight‘s more lowkey, bass-driven fare. And while it’s hardly a secret that such a reliance on synthetic elements will be a total deal-breaker for some – of all the acts in this vein, Awaken I Am are arguably the most brazen in that regard – it’s hard to deny that the hooks are there, and how they do almost always connect. Even with the fairly unadventurous framing during difficulties in relationships with others and oneself, Awaken I Am do circumvent any real clangers here, mostly by having that greater dramatic emphasis, and also with vocalist Adam Douglas having the range and expressiveness to pull this sort of thing off with more sincerity than a lesser act.
That’s definitely a solid position for Awaken I Am to be in right now as well. There’s still plenty of work to be done, but in the context of a scene as competitive yet frequently underwhelming as this, an album of decent quality is more than enough of a kickstart in the right direction. Whether Awaken I Am will ultimately sit will with the more heavy-inclined listener in this particular scene remains to be seen, but Blind Love has enough to like regardless in the form of solid songs, ironclad choruses to really hammer home their melodic capabilities, and a hunger for something greater beyond where they currently are. This is a band worth keeping an eye on; all the pieces for them to really take off are all there, and just need putting together.
For fans of: Hands Like Houses, Emarosa, Too Close To Touch
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Blind Love’ by Awaken I Am is released on 29th September on Victory Records.