The last year and a half has tested and shaped Awaken I Am in several major ways. Shortly after the release of their Victory debut, Blind Love, vocalist Adam Douglas parted ways with the band to be with his family during a rough period in his life. Jimmy Stevenson took his place, and the band recorded “Dissolution.”
Weeks after its online release, a deliberately reckless driver took the life of guitarist Connor Verner-Oakley. Jay Sibthorpe (a close friend and sometimes fill-in) joined the band in the U.S. following the accident, and the group started writing/recording their new EP with Taylor Larson. The Beauty in Tragedy became a salve of sorts, allowing the band to express their grief and anger in way that kept Connor’s dream alive for them all.
The album – featuring five tracks, including “Dissolution” – feels more energetic, more in the vein of Shields & Crowns (their independent debut). Where Blind Love went for something more darkly atmospheric and sometimes mystical, The Beauty in Tragedy has a strikingly raw emotion to its energy.
Though the single “Dissolution” does feel more like a B-side of Blind Love, the rest of the album is more intimate and passionate, while retaining a somewhat aggressive stand. The first track, “Kin,” is clearly directed at Connor’s killer, with such lines as “Does it keep you up? // I hope that there’s no peace,” and “Each day I try to learn how life can go on // When you have fifty more years in a life where he had belonged.”
However gripping, this track is only the start. The collection, as a whole, has a deepness not generally heard in music. It takes true pain to bring out the words you hear and feel here. The final entry, “The Stages of Grief,” speaks in resonating waves. Instrumentally, the song is soothing, yet explosive; vocally, Stevenson shows his best during the gut-wrenching chorus: “And I know they say time will heal my wounds // But I’m only feeling bitter without you // Time has no friends (x2) // I cannot find my place in a world that you’re not in.”
The Beauty in Tragedy will leave a mark on the band’s career, one that is both sad and powerful. Awaken I Am have stood the test and returned with heart. They deserve your attention.