When I first heard about Waken Eyes, I was drawn to the pedigree of the musicians and Tom Frelek’s profile seemed understated. But once I started digging it came to light that Tom had started the band in early 2013 and had gone on to write all the lyrics. He wanted to create a progressive album that was heavy whilst also being melodic and having a cinematic sweep. The musical inspiration came from classical composers like Chopin, Mozart, Stravinsky and soundtrack composers like Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard and Danny Elfman.
After recruiting the other members, the line-up became Henrik Båth (vocals – Darkwater), Mike Lepond (Bass – Symphony X), Tom Frelek (Guitars/keyboards/orchestration) and Marco Minnemann (Drums – The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani). The theme of the album is about being fearless and the struggles of everyday life. It looks at how people, emotions, media and governments can manipulate fear to make you think a certain way and control your thoughts and actions. It’s also about the struggle to stand up for yourself and attempting to let your voice be heard. It is dark at times. but with glints of hope in the distance.
With progressive albums, it is all about being patient and letting the atmosphere rise (rather than setting off full tilt) as the four minute instrumental intro ‘Cognition’ takes its time to build up to a crescendo. Then ‘Aberration’ appears to be about the after-effects of a relationship that has knocked you out of kilter. “Someday I’ll be found / Abandoned memories / These melodies soar”. But there is a much harsher lesson to be learnt in the torment of ‘Deafening Thought’ as the damage has gone deeper into the psyche. “Look in her eyes / Misery and hate coincide / Feeding her fear, It’s constantly near / Leaves her so powerless yet whole”. As if to emphasise this, it is much heavier with squalling guitars.
After all the histrionics, there is a tenderness in ‘Back To Life’ as it rises from the ashes of despair into a glorious declaration with speech excerpts from Martin Luther King. “Still in sunrise, darkness will fall / Dead in silence, I hear your call / All these days are withered with strife / All of these dreams are bringing me back to life”.
Whilst ‘Palisades’ starts off gently, it suddenly leaps out and grabs you. The tempo speeds up to a gallop, eases back and surges into life as it becomes a guitar-driven tour-de-force. Then ‘Cornerstone Away’ takes a leisurely pace as it moves across the landscape and bursts with vibrancy.
There is another thoughtful, instrumental interlude in ‘Still Life’ before the calm is rent asunder in the darker mood of ‘Arise’. It features an extended slow passage, with a monologue, before technical guitar takes over. Also there is light and shade in ‘Across The Horizon’ as the vocals soar and blistering solos fly.
The final track, ‘Exodus’, is the obligatory epic of the album as it takes over 19 minutes to unfold. This is a staple of the progressive genre as undertaken by Dream Theater. It starts with graceful swoops before picking up speed with technical riffing and moves into a half-balladic setting. There is a drawn-out mid-section with diverse sound bites from a Nazi speech, Martin Luther King and Ronald Reagan. Thankfully this picks itself up again, has lyrics aplenty and does not fall into the trap of repeating the same verses.
This album should appeal to fans of progressive metal, prog rock and melodic metal with its creative songwriting and musicianship making it worthy of investing time and effort.
Reviewed by Peter John Willoughby
03. Deafening Thoughts
04. Back To Life
06. Cornerstone Away
07. Still Life
09. Across The Horizon
Henrik Båth [Darkwater] – Vocals
Mike Lepond [Symphony X] – Bass
Tom Frelek – Guitars/Keyboards/Orchestration
Marco Minnemann [The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani] – Drums
Mixed and mastered at Fascination Street Studios [Opeth, Symphony X, Kreator] in Sweden and the layout was made by Jan Yrlund [Delain, Korpiklaani, Apocalyptica].
Record Label: Ulterium Records, Oct. 2015
“Exodus” can be pre-ordered at the Ulterium Records Store:
Video below: “Exodus” (Album Teaser)