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Awolnation – Megalithic Symphony

Awolnation, Megalithic Symphony

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

AARON Bruno’s latest incarnation, Awolnation, is arguably his most keenly anticipated to date, especially in light of the success of former taster tracks like Burn It Down and Guilty Filthy Soul.

But while debut album Megalithic Symphony undoubtedly has plenty to recommend it, it’s also not a complete success.

Recorded together with Christopher Thorne in LA, this is every inch an experimental offering that, by its very nature, hits and misses.

It flits between invigorating party anthems and soulful balladry, via Queen-like moments of operatic rock, Bowie-esque eccentricity, Beck-inspired funk and Mika-style OTT pop.

This is never more underlined than during the 12-minute album closer, Knights of Shame, which changes style so many times you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s about three different songs rolled into one. In that respect, the album demands your complete attention to get the most out of it.

At the front end, opening tracks Megalithic Symphony and Some Sort of Creature are mere set-up offerings… the former a moody, cinematic leaning collection of atmospheric synths and brooding beats that announce the arrival of Awolnation in suitably grandstanding (and exciting) fashion.

Soul Wars, though, is the first song proper and is a livewire fusion of disco and funk that finds Bruno’s vocals at their most insane and stretched. It’s more of an acquired taste than follow-up People, an upbeat ode to positivity (“people need some good old love”) that combines a soulful, melodic central vocal with cheesy, almost ‘80s leaning choruses more befitting The Killers at times.

The psych-rock guitar sound that made Guilty Filthy Soul standout as such a great early offering is repeated during the opening moments of the similarly inspiring Jump On My Shoulders, before opening into a proper pop offering. It’s a keen, inspired mix and another summer anthem in waiting, complete with a dance-worthy chorus.

Burn It Down, meanwhile, is just utterly insane… a frenetic drum beat announcing a rock-like vocal, before some funky electronics tear it down a strip. It’s akin to listening to the Jim Jones Revue mixed with the eccentricity of Beck. And it’s absolutely great.

Guilty Filthy Soul follows (as it did on the EP) and remains the album’s outstanding moment – the stop-start psych-rock guitars giving way to a beat-laden offering of rock and soul elements that even taps into vaguely Supertramp territory.

Thereafter, there’s the subversive lyricism of Kill Your Heroes mixed with more pop-funk, the dark electronica of the anguished Sail and the enchanting pop-dance of Not Your Fault, which includes another euphoric and emphatic chorus.

A piano and a choral group combine over the opening moments of All I Need, another ballad moment, that also shows Awolnation can reign themselves in to extremely satisfying effect. It has Queen-meets-Killers tendencies but charms on its own merits too.

The eccentric pop of artists such as Mika, meanwhile, is evident in Wake Up, which opens with a serene female vocal (suggesting another laidback ballad), before hitting you with an uneven mix of funk and disco. But that marks one of the album’s more unsuccessful departures.

It finishes with a flourish, though, with the 12-minute epic Knights of Shame ensuring you depart proceedings keen to re-live the experience and catch what you missed.

Hence, for all its ups and downs, Megalithic Symphony still rates as a success and the emergence of a distinct new talent.

Download picks: People, Jump On My Shoulders, Burn It Down, Guilty Filthy Soul, All I Need

Track listing:

  1. Megalithic Symphony
  2. Some Sort of Creature
  3. Soul Wars
  4. People
  5. Jump On My Shoulders
  6. Burn It Down
  7. Guilty Filthy Soul
  8. Kill Your Heroes
  9. My Nightmare’s Dream
  10. Sail
  11. Wake Up
  12. Not Your Fault
  13. All I Need
  14. Knights of Shame