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P.A.W.N. - The Gift Of Awareness CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.48 | 25 ratings

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4 stars German band P.A.W.N. reached out to a few PA members with the intention of creating some discussion, momentum and perhaps recognition, a smart move that generally helps the artist to get a toe-hold in the underground trans-global progressive rock scene. It's what I would do if I had a band and wanted to 'market' my craft, so a nice round of applause to drummer Dennis Matzat for reaching out so humbly to me. I had noticed the burgeoning reviews, mostly frankly positive and the mailman finally delivered the prized package and the listening process has begun before slowly putting words of critique into place. Others have spoken about their historical background, I suggest to read their bio for more in-depth information. The duo of Matzat and Sebastian Rudolph (guitars, bass and keys) are supported by a crew of guests, no one more formidable than lead vocalist Lisa-Marie Rothe, who shines exuberantly when called upon.

First observation, a fine cover adorns the album, somewhere close to Panic Room's "Skin", silver/steel blue forest scene where something odd and foreboding seems to lurk in the mist. In many ways, the music inside reflects the shimmering shroud that icily depicts the artwork. Secondly, the sound is pristine, flawless, clear and detailed, as expected from the German tradition of sonic precision.

To start off with a 12 minute+ epic shows a great amount of confidence and the sheer bombastic nature becomes immediately apparent, setting the benchmark that will be constantly targeted all the way through the disc. Thus "Sailors in the Sky" does not disappoint, a solid composition where churning whirlwind of roaring guitars, symphonic walls of synthesized splendor, intimate piano (delicious throughout) and shattering drums coexist with only one purpose in mind.

The mellotron kicks off "The Princess is out Tonight", a sublimely melodic piece that also features a gorgeous duet between the fluid Rothe and the robotic Rudolph, in a rather more romantic /heavy symphonic environment with colossal drum support from Matzat, a man who can bash with the best of them. A typical example of modern prog taking the genre into the future by relying on solid historical foundations.

Another 12 minute epic follows, but "A Voyage of Uncertainty" decides to go in a different direction altogether, forging a more story-telling style that is quite appealing. Swerving from gentle piano lullabies to more heartfelt grit, the instrumental playing is always searching for different tones and styles, combining them astutely as lyricist/guest vocalist Michael Klein does his cameo appearance with conviction. Rothe involves herself again, keeping the balance and adding to the joy.

The dreamy and grandiose "Vessels" is undoubtedly the trailer highlight if you will, an 8 minute thriller that espouses more accessible orientation without a glimmer of accusatory wimpiness or sell-out, just a glittering piece of bombastic prog in the Ayreon/Haken mode. The guitars espouse Wagnerian bluster, the delicate keys perhaps more Chopin-like romance, while Rothe sings her painful lament. The über melody is instantaneous and exceedingly appealing.

The first and only weak track is "Fatal Wounds", where a choppier style announces a hard shift in momentum, mainly due to the slithering violin but the arrangement suddenly dives into a darker metal sinew that proves Rudolph not being a very convincing singer as he verges on growling, a fact mentioned by other reviewers, though more for his cold, mechanical style. The drums are exuberant and there is purposefully no melody to be found anywhere. There is little subtlety here, even when Rothe makes ephemeral appearances to soothe the dense maelstrom but so be it! The end part is cataclysmic, I will be skipping this one....

The massive title track is, as expected in prog circles, a clear indication of the band's symphonic vision, as the piece clocks in over 26 minutes and is constructed accordingly. Sweet orchestral delicacy opens the door, letting in glorious mellotron waves, adroit drumming and accentuating guitar patterns, a thoroughly convincing escapade. The busy Matzat in particular does a complex rhythmic exploration on his drum kit, a stunning detail that does not go unnoticed. Rothe once again applies her soothing voice to great effect, the crescendo becoming even more overpowering as the bombast expands into definite waves of contrast, an ebb and flow between hope and despair. Rudolph finally delivers a series of loopy synth solos that effervesces nicely, something that may be used more often in the previous pieces. This is easily the highlight track on this debut, the quiet parts are expertly enhanced with the wider ones, tossing in a wide variety of detailed creativity, back and forth, like the ocean tides.

There is little doubt that both Rudolph and Matzat are onto something here, perhaps considering Rothe to join full-time, so that the next album will be a bona fide killer, more concise, dramatic and even more adventurous. Throw in at least some guitar and synth soloing, please. All thing considered, a definite grower!

4 cognizance presents

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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