Trauma – Awakening Review

Once again, The-Band-Famous-Only-For-Cliff-Burton is blessing us with another release. But, as Huck pointed out, it’s a crying shame that people only know Trauma for this reason. But I suppose it’s only fair considering their 2015 comeback, Rapture and Wrath, was a slow-plodding bore. And the 2018 follow-up, As the World Dies, wasn’t much better—even if it was a little better. No, the worst part about it is when lung cancer took the life of founding vocalist Donny Hillier in 2020, no one knew. When the headlines hit, most “reporters” didn’t know the cause of death or even Hillier’s age. Instead, his life was explained in a couple of short sentences, and the bulk of the reports detailed the “significance” of Trauma being solely in the hands of… Cliff Burton. Fucking travesty. Especially considering that the band created the killer Scratch and Scream without Burton. And if you haven’t heard impressive numbers like “The Day All Hell Broke Loose,” then you don’t know shit about shit.

But I digress. Founding drummer Kris Gustofson is back with the band’s recent guitar duo, ex-Testament powerhouse Greg Christian, and little-known Brian Allen (ex-Vicious Rumors and the like). And together, these old boys bring the heat. More than any other album in their catalog, Awakening is a true thrasher. While Allen still sports classic high-ends made popular by Hillier, Anthrax, Heretic, and Metal Church, he can also throw down some Zetro Souza-isms and monstrous growls. Awakening sees the band traverse unfamiliar waters that might or might not fracture their fanbase. But this new record feels like the comeback we’ve always longed to hear.

The heft of Awakening is immediately recognizable with the opening “Walk Away.” With an Anthrax-like focus, the guitars journey through thrashing crunch, acoustic interludes, dueling solos, and impressive harmonization. The vocals mix gruffy verses with an addictive, soaring chorus. It’s a safe song, but it’s probably the only safe one on the album. The back-to-back “Death of the Angel” and “Meat” are a side of Trauma I’ve never seen before. Both tracks are dark and will knock you over under the weight of a wrecking ball. The riffs are crushing, the vocals are vicious as fuck, and the harmonizing guitars and concussive drums are top-notch. “Death of the Angel” also shows another side of Allen’s voice. This time with cleans that scream of the days of Stu Block-led Iced Earth.

Awakening also sports various concept pieces, like “Voodoo” and “Falling Down.” The first is a bit goofy, using effects and drum work inspired by every fucking metal song with the name of “Voodoo.” The chorus is a tad awkward, and the song is a bit repetitive, but it’s got that classic feel of the band’s debut. “Falling Down” uses Machine Head-esque effects to introduce the song before it explodes into a killer thrash lick. It’s an intricate song with Allen displaying every nook and cranny of his vocal abilities, including wailing like a Rob Halford banshee. The Machine Head influences stretch even further, making their way into the back-end guitar leads that resurrect the impressive Rob Flynn/Phil Demmel days of The Blackening. These are only a few examples of the various rabbits Trauma pulls out of its hat. The most shocking to these ears is the modern-era Exodus assault, “Death Machine.” Complete with that classic tone and Zet-like vocals, it closes out the album in the strongest way imaginable.

That said, the vocals in “Voodoo” and “The River Red” are a little awkward, and the lyrics are a tad cringey. And “Blind” is so dull that the band would have been better off putting it on the chopping block. But Awakening brings something new to the table. The band known as the birthplace of Cliff Burton has finally made themselves relevant to the thrash metal cause. I haven’t the faintest clue where these massive riffs and impressive guitar play have been all these years. But I’m glad the band was able to dig it up because, in no way comparable, Awakening is every bit as energetic as Trauma’s 1984 debut. It’s good to see life back in these old bones, and maybe now people will begin to take Trauma more seriously.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Massacre Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 9th, 2022

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