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Spotlight: Awaker

Posted on February 13, 2015 at 8:45 AM

Distance and death overcome for the Manchester prog rockers’ return


Spades pierced the boggy Mancuanian back in 2007 to lay the foundations of the band that would become Awaker, but only now do we see, emerging from tragedy, trauma and other reasons largely out of their control, the quartet are finally truly alive, well and breathing down our necks.

Their sound is a virulent blend of brazen metallic brutality, counter opposed with snakelike progressive meanderings that weave in and out of their often sprawling compositions. But in no ways do these two musical ideologies hinder each other’s effectiveness, rather, they are kindred soul mates married together with vocalist Kamila ‘Tirke’ Schmidt as the vicar. I first saw this band at Rebellion as they gave My Wooden Pillow a run for their money for band of the night. Kamila prowled the stage, her performance playing out like an actresses show reel: One minute we saw a honey-coated temptress gushing through the microphone with sweet and soaring melodies, the next she was a guttural, screaming monster wanting to rip your head off. She is the tie that binds the band together, and together they are a damn fine spectacle.

“I grew up on Deep Purple, especially their live shows,” enthuses guitarist Luke Michniewski. “I love the compositions where the tension goes up and down but never loses the groove. Then the more heavy stuff arrived: Metallica, Annihilator, Megadeth and after some time Dream Theater. However progressive thrash and death metal pushed me into more heavy riffs (Nevermore, Obscura) and from the softer and more atmospheric side I think it is Soen, Porcupine Tree, Riverside.”

"One minute Kamila is a honey-coated temptress, the next she was a guttural, screaming monster wanting to rip your head off."

“I admire Mike Patton (Faith no More) for his versatility and...awesomeness, and Einar Solberg (Leprous) for incredible, sometimes purely mad vocal melodies,” Kamila adds. “In terms of female voices I love Sandra Nasić from Guano Apes. Because of her voice I realised many years ago that I can do more with my voice than clean singing only.”

I’m going to be honest, my knowledge on Guano Apes is about as impressive as Piers Morgan is at not being a wanker, so a quick flit on Youtube and good god – and I mean this as a compliment – there were times where I couldn’t tell the difference. The inspirational impact Nasić has had on Tirke is second to none. Alongside her other vocal traits, of which there are many, she is truly brilliant.

While bassist Declan ‘Paddy’ Parry speaks highly of Bob Daisley (Sabbath, Rainbow, Ozzy) and George Lynch, sticksman Dan Webster leans towards the thrashier side of things: “Well for the musical influences it's mainly thrash like Testament, Slayer, Exodus and Megadeth, Strapping Young Lad and Gojira too. I was also very influenced by Slipknot in my youth, Joey Jordison being the reason I wanted to start playing drums. I would have to say my favourite drummers are Mario Duplantier from Gojira or Gene Hoglan. Mario because of his complexity, creativity, velocity and pure speed. Gene Hoglan because he's just a complete badass.”

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Not long after the release of their debut album Control Lost, a 40 minute long, six track opus that sounds exactly like the amalgamation of their talents and influences should sound like, original drummer Marcin ‘Colina’ Kolinski tragically passed away. It was out of respect and grieving that the band would stop for nearly two and a half years. The Rebellion show where they first seduced me also marked their first show since Colina’s death.

“We struggled to find a new drummer, but, to be honest with you we didn’t try very hard to find one. Colina was our friend and co-founder of Awaker so the break was a period of reflection following our loss. Last August we found Dan, or rather he found us, and after a few months of working on the new songs we played at Rebellion. Awaker came back! The magic of performing ran again through our veins. Dan, literally, breathed life into Awaker.”

Paddy currently resides in Bangor, which is a bit more than a Met ride away from Manchester City Centre, but the band are battling on with style.

Kamila: “We have a couple upcoming shows, one in Rebellion again on April 3rd with the mighty Spires and the awesome Agonyst. At the same time we’re also preparing new material for a new album.”

"Progressive music is the freedom of creativity and expression. There aren't many limits of what you can implement." - Luke Michniewski 

Born a Roman Catholic, their striking front-woman opens herself up for a moment when I ask her about lyrical inspirations.

“I’d experienced years of indoctrination before I opened my eyes, so my lyrics deal mainly the fact that we’ve got only one life here and now. I’m an atheist and I love life. Some of my lyrics are about admiring the world, and ‘mother nature’ as means of escape from the rush and mundane life. Complexity of human nature also inspires me, our thinking is so multidimensional. Finally science: It’s a bottomless pit of ideas…and I have barely started talking from it.”

“What I love about progressive music,” Luke begins in a twist of topic, “is the freedom of creativity and expression. There aren't many limits of what you can implement and it allows you to fully express yourself, whereas a lot of other genres can have their limitations.”

Paddy: “What I like about prog is it always makes for interesting and pushing the envelope in my playing.”

Kamila then, I feel, wraps things up rather aptly: “You don’t know what’s coming next with progressive music. ‘Progressive’ is simply inspirational by giving more dimensions to music,” and this is a band with a multitude of dimensions. Each one is like a black hole, sucking you into its depth and each and every style, influence and ounce of inspiration oozing from this band is as clear as a lions roar during a minute’s silence. This is a band of musicians, of people, who sound truly ferocious and wondrous together. Seriously, check them out and support Manchester music.

Words: Phil Weller | Photo: Michelle Adamson





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