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Awake - "Forever More" (Lion music) 4.5/5

It's been four years since Cambridge prog/melodic metal outfit Awake last hit us with an album, and there has been a lot happening since. Line up changes, tours with the likes of Magnum and Everygrey, live BBC sessions and a number of praise winning festival appearances, but now at last we have the new studio album in the form of "Forever More".

And what a corker it is. Right from the off it's easy to see that this release is a more complete and rounded offering than it's predecessor, 2007's "Illumination",  The over all sound is more polished, the new guitar paring of brothers Andrew and Steve Coles bring a new heavier and more purposeful diamention to the sound, Keys player Craig Burkitt, who I felt was a bit of a spare wheel on "Illumination", seams to have found a place in the band at last and adds more to the over all sound than just a vague synth wash. Even vocalist Simon Shedwell sounds more at home here than on previous releases, his voice seams less edgy and somewhat smoother over all, and it fits into the Awake sound all the better for it.

There are 12 tracks on offer here, all pretty damn impressive. If you've not encountered the band before, imagine if you can a sort of subtle blend of Royal Hunt, Iron Maiden, Marillion (Fish era), Magnum and perhaps classic Queensryche, all rolled around a core of Judas Priest and seasoned with hints of Rush and Fates Warning. We get cuts like the beautifully realised, almost balladic Closing The Door, the vast and epic power rock of the closing title track, the driving prog metal of Bleed From You and the anthemic Drift Away; all of which go to show what a superbl;y talented and wonderfully diverse outfit Awake really are.

Highlights? well, Mr Shadwells vocals on the intro to One Wish are spine tingling, the guitar work and riffage on Out Of Control is to die for and then there is my favourate cut on the album King, with is sweet piano intro, Wishbone Ash style twin guitar lines and sadly plaintif vocals, a real shiver maker if ever there was.

Over all this is a great record, it shows that Awake are a band who are on the up and rightly deserve a place at the top table of British metal. Highly recommended.

For fans of... Iron Maiden, Royal Hunt, Evergrey, Dignity, Charred Walls of the Damned....

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