Society always celebrates the records that top the Billboard 200 album chart. Back of The Billboards is a Music Times weekly segment that looks at the opposite end: the new record that finished closest to the back of the Billboard 200 for the previous week. We hope to give a fighting chance to the bands you haven't heard of. This week we look at Like A Storm's 'Awaken The Fire,' a passable hard rock album that's at its best when native instruments make an appearance.
Week of 03/04/2015
WHO: Like A Storm
WHAT: Awaken The Fire
Congratulations to Like A Storm...the second band in two years of "Back of The Billboards" to enter the Billboard 200 in exactly the last spot available. It's the New Zealand hard rock band's first time on the main American albums tracking chart and it made it by the skin of its teeth.
So yeah, all those didgeridoos you hear during Awaken The Fire...they're not just some kitschy trick that an alt-metal band decided to throw onto the record. Vocalist Paul Brooks really knows how to play the indigenous instrument and, believe it or not, it works pretty great when employed during songs such as "Chaos" and "Wish You Hell."
Don't get the idea that this is some ultra-ethnic experimental act however—Like A Storm sounds more like Three Days Grace than Indoraza. The native flair is a nice touch however.
One thing that Like A Storm—like most hard rock bands in this day and age—struggles with however is ballads. It's become standard that every band post-Hinder tries to catch the ears of mainstream audiences with one toned down number but Like A Storm weighs down this album with three, including "Break Free," a lumbering six-minute sleeper that serves as a roadblock to kill the momentum developed in the first three tracks. When "Never Surrender" bursts out of the gate at a romp, listeners might mimic the Fluffy Puff Marshmallow kids: "Huh? What?" This band, and most others, would be better off moderating how quiet they get, as the group pulls off successfully with closer "Nothing Remains."
Coolio cover "Gangsters Paradise" is conversational at best.