With an album title as grandiose as Megalithic Symphony, new listeners to Los Angeles based rock band AWOLNATION [no, I’m not shouting; the all caps by all accounts appear to be proper spelling] should expect the group’s full-length debut record to consist of accordingly monumental music, a set of songs truly worthy to be released on a record label operated by the world’s most famous energy drink–literally, Red Bull Records. Track by track, frontman and founder Aaron Bruno does everything he can to live up to these expectations-yelping, screaming, the occasional croon-always keeping the energy at a high enough level to move the music from verse to chorus and back again. Unfortunately, Bruno’s vocals make Megalithic Symphony sound a bit too caffeinated, with the end result leaving listeners wondering if Mr. Bruno consumed a few too many complementary Red Bulls during production.
I imagine seeing AWOLNATION perform in person could be a lot of fun, as the band maintains a consistently powerful musical presence throughout the record. Thanks to a fine blend of midi-electronics, guitar effects, and the busy rhythms of drummer Hayden Scott, the music behind the vocals is kept fresh. The best songs on the record leave room for the whole band to shine-the electronic blues and 70’s funk transitions in “Guilty Filthy Soul,” the Styxx inspired “Sail.” Even as the album moves between its many genres of dance rock the music is still able to keep the listeners’ attention, with each track sporting plenty of weird-out frequencies and syncopated basslines.
However, Bruno’s over-the-top vocals consistently overshadow Megalithic Symphony’s wonderfully versatile instrumentation. This is fair enough (it’s his band after all), but it comes across as more attention-starved than appealing, as his vocals cover nearly every minute of every song. At best, he provides a catchy chorus for fans to sing along to such as in the tracks “Burn It Down” and “Kill Your Heroes,” but the constant changes in genre and vocal style make Bruno’s singing more like a restaurant that tries to put too many items on the menu. Instead, he might do better to focus on one or two things and do them well, whether it be making rock music that sounds like an angrier version of The Killers or creating club-style electronica.
Either way, I’m sure some folks in the increasingly popular electronic rock and dance scene will really enjoy this album, and especially enjoy seeing the group live. But as for this reviewer’s opinion, I just hope that their next record is a little more AWOLNATION and a little less Aaron Bruno.
My Rating: 2**/4****-one for the tastefully done electronic rock music, and the other because, like him or not, Aaron Bruno is really, really excited.