Awaken EP

When my metal comrade, multi-instrumentalist from Seeking Obscure and owner/founder of Metalbolic Records, Rob Luckie, recently got in touch with me to see if I would be interested in checking out Samarian and their four track EP,  Awaken, released on Metalbolic with Rob contributing his bass talents,  I tented my fingers with pure Mr. Burns aplomb and laughed with a mirthless evilness. Of course I would check out and review Awaken. After all, what good is having the Infinity Gauntlet like power of a metal review writer if you can’t use it for personal and even biased gain?  I really wasn’t sure what to expect out of Samarian, I knew the band played a more traditional veined heavy metal as opposed to the extreme sounds of death or black metal that Mr. Luckie was usually associated with, and after having listened to Awaken more than a few times, I’m not really sure where I completely stand with it.

Okay, first things first, when I say Samarian play a more traditional styled metal, I should clarify and expand that to a mix of progressive, power, and traditional. I hear a bit of influence fom some great acts, so if you’re a fan of the works of artists such as Fates Warning, Blaze-era Iron Maiden, Queensryche, Dio, Dream Theater, Savatage, Galactic Cowboys, Jag Panzer, or Blind Guardian, you are probably going to find something of interest within Awaken. If none of those mentioned bands do it for you, well then, plain and simple, there’s not much for you to see here. Now, lets get back to where I said I’m not sure where I completely stand with Awaken.

After my initial spinning of said EP  I was left a smidge  underwhelmed. The frustrating part was that it wasn’t because of anything Samarian did that was afoul on Awaken, but more so what they didn’t do, and that was provide any real rip and shred moments that could have elevated the material from damn good to fucking great. Don’t get me wrong, this is by no means a bad release in any way. In fact, not only is bassist Luckie in fine form in both performance and tone,  but guitarist/songwriter Ron Michalski is also quite an adept player, especially in the lead department, the man’s playing and composing reminds me a lot of Blind Guardian mixed with 21st century Jag Panzer, definitely not a bad thing; and lets not forget the vocals of Jon St. John. I mean with a name like that you can practically imagine how the man sounds before ever hearing a note. I honestly hear shades of a few different influences in St. John’s vocals, but for reviewing conjecture’s sake, I will say that if you never found Blaze Bayley’s vocals to your liking then you may not dig what St. John brings to the table.

All of Awaken’s four tracks pretty much stay in the slower to mid-tempo range, and while there are a few driving build ups here and there, none of them truly bring the payout. Opener and title track “Awaken” has some nice lead work, as does follow-up, “The Arrival”, which also features some great flourishes of bass and piano/synths. The track even tricks you with a bit of driving build up and epicness around the 4:20 mark but ultimately leaves you wanting more when it goes back to the chorus as opposed to delivering more of the goods so-to-speak. “Bringer of Rain” has definitely got some great things going for it with some wonderful  bass happenings and a nice melodic guitar lick that has just a tad of middle eastern flair shine quickly within it. Though the track is mostly just a vocal show with a wanted heaviness or break out moment that never comes. To its favor, the last minute of the track is nothing but excellent in its change up vibe that brings to mind the best of Blind Guardian.

EP closer, “Seek” might be my favorite track on Awaken. With a beginning vocal intro that brings to mind Manowar‘s Eric Adams, coupled with some fat prominent bass, the song quickly shifts to a strong ’80’s metal vibe. You know, the kind of vibe when all metal was metal, be it Iron Maiden, Dio, Venom, or Motley Crue. Having a bit of a bombastic flair and once again some really good lead guitar work amongst a simple and solid, if not safe, tempo/rhythm, the track has nice change up with some great soloing that really feels like it is leading you somewhere. Yet a stellar opportunity is missed at the 6:11 mark when the build up to break out and kick it into some shredding, balls to the wall territory, leaving all in your path demolished, instead goes back into an already overworked chorus.

I guess I was wrong in saying that I wasn’t sure where I stood with Awaken. It’s clear as day to me that the group has a shit load of talent and a decent idea of what they want to do. As it stands now the material presented here seems to focus more on the vocals of St. John and the lead guitar work of Michalski more than anything else. Not necessarily a bad thing, but the material would benefit greatly with some more emphasis on some rocking/thrashing the fuck out elements as opposed to another round of a St John verse or chorus; as well as a proper kick ass drummer, as I do believe the majority of the drums on Awaken are programmed.

I can only imagine what would come from Samarian or how the material would pop given the chance to work with a producer like Jim Morris or the like. Samarian clearly have the means to release some truly fantastic material, though they may need to cut a tiny bit of fat and get an outsider/producer’s opinion, as I feel Awaken is some really good stuff but falls short of greatness due to a few missed opportunities.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kristofor Allred
December 24th, 2021


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