Review & Full Album Stream: Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

[Click play above to stream Foghound‘s Awaken to Destroy in its entirety. Album is out this Friday, Nov. 23, on Ripple Music.]

It’s Foghound saying, “okay, let’s go.” And they do. Immediately, the impression Awaken to Destroy (their second for Ripple Music, third overall) gives is of continuing the thread of aggressive, sweeping heavy rock the Baltimore four-piece conjured on The World Unseen (review here) in 2016. A high-paced opening salvo begins with the title-track, and “Awaken to Destroy” seems to be a tailor-made opener for a live set. It brings in all three of the band’s vocalists — drummer Chuck Dukehart and guitarists Bob Sipes and Dee Settar — and launches the band’s third LP with a surge of energy that continues through the sharp and catchy “Known Wolves,” which follows. Sharp production from Frank “The Punisher” Marchand makes its presence known right away in the echo around the vocals and general largesse of tone from Sipes and Settar and former bassist Rev. Jim Forrester, whose late-2017 murder doesn’t exactly cast a pall over Awaken to Destroy, but is certainly present as part of the context in which the record arrives.

Front to back, the album is a good time, and if you listened to the centerpiece interlude “AVE!” and didn’t know that’s Forrester playing the acoustic guitar or that the subsequent “Keep on Shoveling” was released as a benefit single for his family and written in light of the medical issues he suffered through before his death, or that it’s his spoken word in the song itself, it’s easy to breeze through Awaken to Destroy and dig it for what it is: a willfully kickass heavy rock record full of tight performances, smart songcraft and a more dynamic sound than Awaken to Destroy had on offer that brings back some of the groove of Foghound‘s 2013 debut, Quick, Dirty and High (review here), without repeating that album in style or tone.

Hooks in songs like “Known Wolves,” “Keep on Shoveling” and “Gone up in Smoke” do well to carry the listener through the 11-track/41-minute outing as “Filthy” touches on social commentary, “Cut the Cord” brings the charge to an almost frenetic level ahead of the dynamic shifts in “In Due Time,” both of which remind of when Mike Dean stepped back up to front C.O.C. on their self-titled, and the quieter “Staring Down the Demons” presents an organ-laced examination of inner and outer turmoil. There’s further departure as jam-rooted closer “Death Will Tremble” taps a groove like self-titled-era Clutch with an edge of psychedelia in the guitar and keys that keeps a strong foundation as it should in the bass and drums, so yes, Awaken to Destroy handles its business in that destructive regard, but is informed by more than just the initial burst. The fact that Forrester was killed while it was being made, once you know it, is kind of inescapable.

foghound photo shane gardner

That is, there’s no way around it, and I’m not sure there should be, either on an emotional or a sociopolitical level when one considers gun violence even outside the seemingly constant stream of mass-shooting headlines. Frankly, it’s to Foghound‘s credit that Awaken to Destroy exists at all. It can’t have been an easy task to finish it, particularly for Dukehart, who was a bandmate of Forrester‘s in Sixty Watt Shaman as well, but the drummer’s vocals end up as a standout element in the material, and he seems to take a forward position in that regard with complement from Settar and Sipes. Having three vocalists — plus Forrester‘s contributions here in that regard and those on the opening two tracks from current bassist Adam Heinzmann, who’s known for his work in Internal Void and whose CV also includes stints in Pentagram and War Injun — only makes Foghound more of a powerhouse able to pull off shifts in mood and melody in addition to those of rhythm and tempo. Perhaps the starkest example is the turns from “AVE!” to “Keep on Shoveling” and then “Staring Down the Demons,” but the truth is Awaken to Destroy is full of deftly-composed changes that are nonetheless positioned for a clear A/B LP-style across-album flow.

It would be easy to write a thinkpiece about Forrester‘s murder and what a tragedy it was. And likewise, it would have been easy for Foghound to say, well, that’s that, nix the album entirely and either go back and re-record the material, write new songs, or not. Awaken to Destroy represents the harder path. “Keep on Shoveling” is a song about perseverance, and while the lyrics were written thinking about their bassist’s plight in another context — Forrester discussed his medical issues and time in a coma in an interview here — and the album that surrounds that single song is the manifestation of that mindset. This is the sound of Foghound, shoveling. And it fucking rocks. It’s an absolute triumph for the fact that it exists, yes, but what’s more, these songs represent the finest work the band has done to-date, and they already have two outings of righteous heavy rock to their credit. It’s a refusal to be consumed by loss. The cliché is to say that “Band Member X would want us to carry on,” but that’s a cliché for a reason.

I won’t attempt to feign impartiality here — this guy got fucking murdered. Gunned down outside of a tattoo shop. And instead of losing themselves in grief and being torn apart by the sheer senselessness of that, Foghound have stepped up and delivered a record that not only pays tribute to his memory but brings together the strongest elements of their approach in songwriting and execution and pushes their particular take on heavy rock forward from where it could be found just two years ago. It’s a multi-tiered victory and an album that, if they were going to continue at all, absolutely needed to happen. No doubt Foghound‘s fourth full-length, whenever it might arrive, will be marked as well by the changes they’ve been through — lineup being the least of them — but to even get to that point, they will have already managed to come through adversity the likes of which would indeed destroy lesser bands. Foghound, in contrast, could hardly seem more awakened than they do in this material.

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One Response to “Review & Full Album Stream: Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

  1. […] Check out The Obelisk’s review and full album stream! […]

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