AwakenUs is a group of nine friends and musicians from Overland Park, KS, some of whom have been
playing together for a full decade. The band as it is now has recently released a full-length album entitled Reveal.
The focus of the album is to reveal our need for God, hence the title. When taking a look at the band's line-up, it appears
to be rather impressive, as there are plenty of instruments to keep the songs lively, not to mention eight of the nine
members provide vocals. The problem, though, is that the only times in Reveal that one can really tell the vocals
apart are when it goes from a male vocalist to a female vocalist. Otherwise, it's very difficult to tell who exactly is
singing in which song. In addition, a good majority of the vocals are either flat or just off-key. For the male vocalists,
it's mainly a style of singing similar to Michael Sweet or John Schlitt - which would be fine if the music was anything like
those artists' respective bands. However, the songs switch gears musically so often, with only a couple instances bearing
somewhat of an '80s rock vibe. "Carry Me" and "Lavish" are the two that come to mind, but even then it's not really close
enough to be put in that genre. Not to mention, both of the songs sound pretty empty (which is surprising for so many band members),
and the latter of the two songs had a strange and unappealing effect on the guitars (almost like a video game sound effect).
Sometimes what you get with the music is a strange combination of styles, like "Bend," a semi-acoustic rock song that lands
somewhere between an upbeat hymn and an Irish drinking song. Another style change comes in some of the female-fronted songs,
where the sound usually leans toward something you might hear from Evanescence, yet much drier than the mainstream rockers.
Several of the songs on the latter half of Reveal bear a sound like some early-90s Christian rock (ie, "Reveal" and
"Grace In Action"), and AwakenUs also incorporates a completely unexpected saxophone in "Sent," which ends up sounding like a
random pick of an instrument (as it does in other songs that they use it, none of which benefit from its presence, but rather
suffer slightly instead).
On a positive note, the production isn't bad for a band without a big name producer, and the lyrics
show that their hearts are in a good place. Although the messages seem to be held captive within cheesy and/or mediocre
lyrics that, quite honestly, don't show much creativity, the lyrics display a longing for God, and make it known that the band
is trying to reach people and show them God's goodness. Through all of this, it's pretty clear that AwakenUs has potential,
they just need to find the right steps to reach it. One thing that may help is to find a particular style of music and just
focus their talents on that. It's good to have diversity, but it's also a must to use that diversity right. Too much
genre-switching can cause confusion, and even disappointment for the listener if they liked one sound and then it changed up
right afterward in the next song. The right music can also help with the flat vocals. Ben Crist from The Glorious Unseen
doesn't have the best voice, but it goes well with the style of music they play, so it works for them. AwakenUs may need to
do a little experimenting, but if they can find a way to step up their game, I would look forward to hearing what else they could do.
- Review date: 12/29/09, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com