posted on 8/2007 By:
Death metal has been in a particularly healthy state these past few years, and while that’s great for fans of the genre it adds increasing pressure on new bands trying to make an impression on a scene whose premier acts have raised the bar considerably of late. A.W.A.S., a death/black metal combo hailing from Germany, have delivered a promising debut album in Hope that, while musically competent, unfortunately comes up short on the songwriting and production front.
The band’s moniker is an abbreviation of Ardent War Against Satan and that should dispel any mystery as to what these guys are about lyrically. Now I don’t know how the militant Christianity on display will sit with secular fans, but I personally applaud the band for expressing their faith so boldly. In terms of their sound, A.W.A.S. are a bit of a throwback to simpler, thrash-influenced 80’s style death metal (ala Frost/Possessed), as a lot of the songs on Hope remain at a rocking mid-tempo. This is quite refreshing given the recent spate of overly technical death acts. There is still a considerable amount of blasting on offer, but we’re not talking Origin here. The faster moments, such as on standout track “Damned To Death”, with its deeper vocals and brutal yet strangely melodic guitars are reminiscent of Chris Barnes-era Cannibal Corpse, while the more blackened, raspy vocals bring to mind old Immolation.
The production on Hope isn’t particularly strong. The guitar tones are brought out adequately enough and the vocals are given decent treatment, which is a plus given the suitably guttural yet clearly-enunciated growls of lead vocalist Viktor. The bass however is lacking in the mix and the drums fare poorly with a tinny, flat sound which, isn’t so distracting during the mid-paced sections, but when the blasting begins they collapse into an indistinct pitter-patter. As far as standout tracks go, apart from the aforementioned “Damned To Death” I’d also cite “Your Choice” as a highlight, as it displays a noticeably greater sense of urgency and ferocity than most of the proceeding numbers, and the title track features some nicely done old-school breaks which work well. Ultimately though there is too much repetition on Hope for it to stand up to repeated listening.
Increased focus on song craft should be high on A.W.A.S.’ list of priorities right now, as they already have the musicianship and conviction to become a strong, distinguished death metal act. But this is one of the toughest, most unforgiving of genres for newer bands to enter should they come armed with nothing less than a truly standout bunch of tunes. These guys can certainly play, but at the moment too many of their songs lack variety and distinction. I wish them well for their next release.
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