Italians are responsible for quite a few of my favourite things: sumptuous wines, indulgent cuisine and eminent suits. With their debut album, Awaken, Amouth have proved Italians are also pretty damn good at writing post metal.
Awaken certainly is an interesting beast. It’s melancholy but in an uplifting way. It’s seemingly simple, while in actuality, fairly complex. It pairs dreamy, shoegaze guitar lines with vocals straight out of hell. Awaken feels like an album full of paradoxes, juxtapositions and dichotomies.
Self-proclaimed minimalists, Amouth provides what feels like a stripped down take on post-metal compared to Pelican, Isis or even Russian Circles. This makes the album feel more accessible to newcomers to the genre. Despite complex layering, one can still follow what each instrument is doing. This accessibility can also be attributed to Amouth’s songwriting prowess. As with bands such as Porcupine Tree, while each instrument may be playing a complicated part (rhythmically or otherwise), you don’t necessarily notice because they all gel so well.
The journey each track takes you on is both enjoyable and evocative. Despite making use of traditional post metal song structures, focused on evolving a repeated theme or riff to a crescendo, these themes don’t wear out the listener. This may be due to the fact that all the base riffs are rock solid, and some, such as in “City of Gold”, even have a sludge metal/stoner rock groove to them.
The songs on Awaken are constructed from several consistent building blocks. Hypnotic, repeated riffs; irregular rhythmic patterns; the pre-requisite amount of palm-muted chugging for any metal band; shoegaze soundscapes; ambient interludes; and shouted vocals that would make Aaron Turner proud.
While prominence is given to his powerful roars, Gabriele Maurizi’s clean vocals have been kept lower in the mix, a la Electric Wizard. His deep cleans add another dimension to the tracks, and I wouldn’t have minded them being a bit more prominent (especially in the first movement of “The Priest”).
“City of Gold” would have to be my favourite track on the album. The song starts with Maurizi shouting over a mammoth aural assault, featuring some of the grooviest riffs on the album. This soon fades away, making way for a whispering guitar line. The contemplative, quieter movement is the calm after the storm, the first ray of sunshine as the cloud parts: it’s still grim, but there’s hope. The entire album has that kind of vibe. After a slow and steady instrumental build, the track regains its former ferocity, and just keeps building until it suddenly drops away into the following track, “Untold”.
My only criticism is that a few of the album’s ambient passages, such as the one at the end of the title track, occasionally outstay their welcome. While they provide a refreshing respite from the crushing guitar tones and pounding drums, the album would have flowed better if these were just a tad shorter.
Overall, Awaken is a balanced, cohesive album. Amouth’s evocative, minimalistic brand of music is a great addition to the post metal genre, a thoroughly enjoyable debut album and definitely more than just an imitation. I eagerly await the band’s next work.