without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Originally only available through an independent vinyl release in 1986 or a Shark Records vinyl reissue in 1988, Powerlord's The Awakening is widely regarded as one of those releases that just came out at the wrong time. Despite being reissued by Shark Records, the independently produced sound was still fully intact. What I mean is that The Awakening, even though it was a solid six tracks full of Americanized speed metal, the sound was a huge let down because it sounded like it was recorded in a broom closet. In 2014 Shadow Kingdom Records sought to remedy this with a remastered CD release of The Awakening, which is the first official pressing of this EP on CD (aside from that goofy Rusty Diamond Records split release back in 2003).
I listened to The Awakening prior to the remastering job a few years ago and was unsure how I felt about it. The production was rough but the riffs and music were solid. It was one of those cases that I would have gladly followed the band to see what else they were capable of. Alas, the stars didn't align for Powerlord, as this was their only release; destined to obscurity and a life of idle banter on cult metal forums. While the remastering job doesn't bring The Awakening completely into the realm of modernity, it makes this album so much more listenable and enjoyable. The riffs and vocals are sharper and the rhythm section no longer sounds hollow; it really makes a huge difference in the listening experience here.
The six tracks presented here come in at a little over thirty minutes and the band leaves little breathing room as its a constant barrage of speed metal riffing, choppy solos and some high pitched vocals vocals that go between a bark and a screech. There are some solid, grooving licks like the beginning of “(The Awakening) Powerlord” and even a slowed down stomp during the intro to “Silent Terror”, but everything always washes back into voraciously speedy riffing a la Exciter or Razor. The riffs are true to the classic style of US speed metal, with fast paced palm muting and dashes of galloping riffs throughout. A healthy dose of dirty soloing rears its head throughout, adding a nice classic metal element even though they aren't anything mind blowing.
Even with the improved production, The Awakening still suffers the same fate of every track sounding very similar, so nothing really stands out. It's not that the music is bad, rather it's a thirty minute wall of sound that never lets up. It's unfortunate that these guys never released anything else. Regardless of what happened in the past, this should appeal to fans of class US styled speed metal. This isn't the greatest album in the genre but it's a great look into the past.
Written for the The Metal Observer.
Powerlord sure has an odd reputation from what I've seen. People seem pretty torn on this one, they either love it or absolutely hate it. I'm not exactly sure why this is myself, even I wasn't much of a fan of this one for quite awhile but it eventually finally started to grow on me after awhile and well, it's a pretty damn good album. They kind of came out of nowhere and didn't really care what other bands were doing, this stuff is pretty unique and hard to truly compare to other bands (but that's typically the case with power/thrash of the 80's, these bands can usually go in multiple directions. You could definitely call this speed metal in the vein of Abbatoir, etc, though more vile).
While there aren't a lot of bands or albums out there that really sound quite like this, there are definitely a lot of influences from other bands and some comparisons that can be made. Powerlord is kind of like a beefed up Exciter, even vocalist Dane Cook here sounds quite a bit like Dan Beehler though with an all around more powerful voice and those screams are definitely way better. The Exciter influences are there while leaving all ballads behind, speeding things up and making everything more aggressive and thrashier. Fans of Abbatoir, Savage Grace, Agent Steel, Metal Church, Heretic, Deadly Blessing (without the epic touches), Tyrant's Reign, etc, would probably enjoy this release here.
But the issue, the invisible issue that gives this album it's stench for some. What is it? Perhaps it's the claustrophobic production and mix, this could definitely be seen as one of the albums biggest faults. The production itself isn't exactly bad by any means but all the instruments feel a little too close together and at times blend in with one another making it rather hard to make out some of the riffs, rhythm's, and so forth. I think this is definitely one of the reasons why someone will argue this album is repetitive because each song easily has some unique twists and whatnot. Or maybe it's the rather monotonous antics Powerlord wanted to fly with. None of these tracks really go too over the top or transcend into something extremely epic, instead they just kind of wanted to grab your throat and thrash your face off. Not to contradict myself there, the material here is simplistic but the tracks are diverse among one another.
The quality is pretty consistent. As I stated earlier these guys definitely didn't care about throwing in a slow track anywhere here. These quick six tracks are always in your face and pretty nonstop. I have to applaud how damn catchy Masters of Death is with the riffs and drums switching back and forth, almost as if they are constantly competing with each other only to create something extremely melodic and memorable. Vocalist Dane Cook is quite the highlight as well, his aggression and those odd screams that seem to escape the closet the band is playing in are downright awesome and often frightening. The thrashy riffs are often very catchy and the majority of the solo's are top notch, whether it's the mesmerizing leads on Malice and Silent Terror, or the blazingly fast moments on The Invasion Of The Lords and Merciless Titans, they're all impressive. Unfortunately their final self-titled track is a bit weak, dragging out a bit too much at the beginning to hold interest but it eventually pays off in the end. In final it has to be stressed again that this one is hard to love and enjoy. I can recommend it to 80's junkies and to those who may enjoy any of the bands I've mentioned above (second paragraph). I'll take this over Exciter anyday.
Unlike the German school of thought (Running Wild, Accept, etc), which was mainly based on power-metal riffs played extra fast, this is pretty much American speed metal, with the occasional classic-metal riff and lots of single-notes-played-fast riffage. Imagine an Exciter (Violence and Force) without shrieky vocals, or any of the less famous bands (Militia, etc) that were kinda generic, two years too late, and never really made it anywhere. The first Agent Steel LP comes to mind too, and demo-era Anthrax, and the vocalist really does sound like, in his normal pitch, like Dan Beehler, except he doesn't shriek nearly as much.
So now that I've gotten that squared away, you should know EXACTLY what this sounds like. I don't remember a single power-metal riff in here, it's all classic-metal derived (quintessential power-metal riff for those who wonder what the fuck I'm talking about: Two Minutes to Midnight opener - two of the same note and then a pretty recognisable pattern... lots of riffs follow this pattern, as diverse as Lightning Strikes by Ozzy to Am I Evil by Diamond Head to New Song by Nuclear Assault). Anyway, this is classic heavy metal, with kinda barked vocals and the occasional shriek, but the vocalist isn't exactly sharing an apartment in shriek-land with Beehler and Cyriis and Turbin. Sometimes the best comparison is At War, with its dirty speed metal, though this one's not quite as dirty. Lots of melodic soloing, including the extended solo section in Silent Rage, which is surrounded by lots of midpaced-to-fast single-note riffage.
Highlights of the album... well, the problem with the album is that all the songs are kinda the same, so there can't be any real highlight. All songs contain some backbone speed-metal riffage, and it probably works the best in the closer, Powerlord. Usually when a band names a song the same as the band, then they've really thought it out, and here is another good example... sums up what the band is all about, and all. The opener is also pretty decent, with a bit of a gallop to it reminiscent of Stained Class.
Worth getting? Well, it's only 6 songs, and fairly average ones at best. But hey, it is classic heavy metal, meaning you can't go really WRONG with it.