With the introduction of Beau Bokan as the new clean vocalist of Blessthefall, this talented post-hardcore group moved into the upper echelon of bands in the same genre after their sophomore success, Witness. From start to finish, Witness was an intriguing and intricately layered hardcore masterpiece. With Blessthefall’s third album, the consistency and high quality make an eagerly anticipated return, but a lack of variety brings Awakening down a peg. Its borderline repetitive nature and songs that are just slightly less compelling make it pale in comparison to the work of their sophomore powerhouse album. The new record is a solid follow-up, but fails to be quite as dynamic because it’s largely much of the same. From epic and brutal breakdowns to Bokan’s melodic whine, this is the same Blessthefall that garnered a large following even before the band’s new frontman took over: Eric Lambert’s guitar riffs are mesmerizing, Matt Traynor sets the fast tempo with his high intensity drumming and Elliott Gruenberg adds character on the rhythm guitar. Jared Warth’s bass is adequate, but his unclean vocals are what make this band stand out, for better or worse. Warth’s guttural screams are even rougher than most post-hardcore vocalists because of their coarse pitch that verges on being raspy. However, when all is said and done, Awakening is still a consistent third album for a very talented post-hardcore group in Blessthefall.
“I’m Bad News, In The Best Way” wins the title of best song on the album with standout guitar riffs and its compelling balance between the heavier and lighter elements of post-hardcore. Bokan’s nasally whine is perfect here, giving the song its despairing and dramatic edge to make it truly memorable. Bokan’s struggle to put past bad decisions behind him in order to move on with a new relationship is apparent in the urgent lyrics and draws the listener in for a dynamic track.
“40 Days…” narrowly edges “The Reign” for a spot here, but the lyrical poignancy displayed in Bokan’s singing gives it a slight advantage. In his first effort at writing a love song, it’s safe to say Blessthefall shines with this lighter song that still manages to pack a powerful punch. Bokan struggles with the immense pain of missing his loved one, best emphasized by a soulful guitar solo and the rapid-fire pounding of drums.
“‘Til The Death Of Me” displays this band’s ability to incorporate the heaviest and lightest elements of their music in a song, even in the same instance. This epic track seamlessly transitions between Warth’s brutal growls and Bokan’s strained singing and features some transcendent, classic rock guitar from Lambert whining in the bridge. Closing out such a electric track might be a challenge for some bands, but Blessthefall shows some real artistry with an enticing fadeout featuring guitar, drums and strings.
Blessthefall returns with the same post-hardcore verve and enthusiasm as their memorable sophomore album, but can’t quite deliver a superior third effort. They replicated their sound perfectly but didn’t really expand on it, giving the album a slightly repetitive, more-of-the-same feel. Awakening even starts with a short, epic battle cry in “Awakening” to kick things off, much like “2.0” on Witness. The similarities are so uncanny that this slightly repetitive feel may come off as uninventive to some, but when Blessthefall does deviate from their perfected formula, they come up short with songs like the lighter “Bones Crew,” the weakest track on the album. Still others may also be turned off by Jared Warth’s irregularly gruff unclean vocals. However, the majority of the post-hardcore audience who appreciate bands like We Came As Romans, Attack Attack!, Asking Alexandria, The Devil Wears Prada, Of Mice & Men, Woe, Is Me, Alesana and Memphis May Fire should feel right at home with Awakening. From the thunderous breakdowns of songs like “The Reign” to the dramatic closer “Meet Me At The Gates” (written for Bokan’s deceased grandparents), Blessthefall still knows how to create a stellar album with a positive message, even if Awakening doesn’t quite break the mold.
Final Score: 7.9/10
Rank: 2nd (three total albums)
- Promised Ones
- I’m Bad News, In The Best Way
- The Reign
- 40 Days…
- Bones Crew
- Don’t Say Goodbye
- ‘Til The Death Of Me
- Meet Me At The Gates