Although released on April Fool’s Day, there is nothing about Dead Awaken’s debut that jokes around – this is honest, brutal, straight-up death metal. Where Hope Turns Dripping Red is the début label-release ten years in the making from an established band hailing from the heartlands of the genre.
Sweden has a well-deserved reputation for producing technically tight and able bands, and Dead Awaken are no exception. Their musicianship and togetherness stood out from the very first listen, complementing and reinforcing what can only be described as a classic death metal sound.
Death metal above many other genres has a certain predictability to it – a consistency of vocals, insistent kick-drumming, and razor-honed abrasive guitar work. It is both to Dead Awaken’s credit and disadvantage that they play up to this expectation with a solid half-hour homage to an old-school sound.
In a fully-established and proliferating genre where every band is looking to experiment, in a way it is something of a relief to hear a band who are unafraid of thrashing out 30 minutes of unrelenting death. This album is nothing special or innovative, certainly nothing to write home about, but in itself this is not necessarily a bad thing. Clocking in at 34 minutes, Where Hope Turns Dripping Red is the perfect length, a healthy and refreshing dose of brutality. Any longer and ‘simple’ would risk becoming ‘repetitive’.
That said, even limited to such a short length, the songs on Where Hope Turns Dripping Red risking blending into one single sound. This is most true of the first two tracks, Carnivore and Kingdom of Damnation – it is only with Deutsches Afrika Corpse that the songwriting opens up, with some well-needed breakdowns and some hint of melody.
One of the strongest tracks and indeed the song which stood out at first listen is the chuggier Rocket Symphony. This and the following Mudhell are two of the most experimental tracks, and inject some vitalising variety. Especially effective is the double-time riff in the middle of Rocket Symphony and the militaristic march in Mudhell, which both serve to subtly alter the unrelenting pace of the album.
The best moments on Where Hope Turns Dripping Red, then, are where the face-melting death metal attitude and sound remains uncorrupted, but with enough interest and difference to warrant repeated listening. Happily the record only improves as it continues – the final three tracks are probably the most successful in combining subtle melodic moments with the old-school in-your-face death sound.
Whilst I commend and would defend Dead Awaken’s uncompromising straight-up attitude, on the whole the record could benefit from some greater variety, of both pace and key. Even another song of the ilk of Rocket Symphony would greatly add to the album. Every album is centred on the struggle of consistency versus variety of sound, and Dead Awaken perhaps try too hard at maintaining a consistent classic brutality, at the expense of difference. That said, tipping this balance matters less when the album passes by so quickly.
As I’ve written above, Where Hope Turns Dripping Red is by no means an outstanding album, but it is certainly a solid effort, which works because it doesn’t try to do too much, not in terms of length or thinking outside the generic box. If you’re into your classic death metal, then this could be worth a listen, no joke.