After spending the past few years heating up the US radio charts, Like A Storm seek world domination with their new album Awaken The Fire.
In 2005, three brothers from New Zealand moved to North America chasing their rock n’ roll dream. Not knowing a single person, Chris, Kent and Matt Brooks fought hard to get their music heard. Being brothers gave them a deep underlying connection, both musically and personally.
The name, Like A Storm, comes from a line of one of their earlier songs. According to Matt, they felt the name really captured the vibe of the band, and the kind of music that they love to play; larger than life, epic! The storm metaphor also speaks to the range of music that they play. From hard hitting rock to more melodic and atmospheric songs, a storm can be both aggressive and beautiful at the same time.
In 2012, the band independently released their Chaos Theory: Part 1 album. The band initially intended to record this EP in a typical US studio. However, due to their insane touring schedule, the band decided to instead make the record while out on the road. Because of this, Chaos Theory: Part 1 was recorded in backstage rooms and hotels all across the US. They have proven to be a very determined and hardworking band.
A prime example of this is how the band would wheel two carts full of recording equipment into their hotel rooms every night after every show asking the hotel staff to put them as far away from other guests as possible to work on recording music. Now that’s dedication.
What might be considered a logistical nightmare to others, recording an album while out on a nationwide US tour, turned out to be a huge positive for the band. According to Matt, walking offstage every night and going straight into making the album, enabled the band to capture all the energy from their live show.
Chaos Theory: Part 1, produced by the multi-instrumentalist Brooks brothers, has been widely regarded as a huge step forward for the band. The EP yielded two successful singles; “Never Surrender” which was voted Song of the Year by Mid-Atlantic Rock Review and “Love The Way You Hate Me” which hit #1 on SiriusXM Octane.
Ironically, the chart-climbing “Love The Way You Hate Me” was never intended to be a single. Surprised by its recent success, Chris says they honestly never thought it would make it to radio. They thought of it as this heavy song that would be a great one to play live. They even put this long didgeridoo breakdown in the middle of it which, Chris says, they thought would probably stop any station from ever playing it. But after Flint, Michigan rock radio station 101.5FM The Banana unexpectedly spun the song one night on their ‘Cockfight’ song competition, listeners responded overwhelmingly. The song went on to win every night for over a month until it was retired from the competition, shattering the station’s existing record.
Like A Storm has made history as the highest-charting New Zealand Hard Rock act in the U.S. Active Rock Charts and they are also the only New Zealand act ever to chart in any U.S. chart with no record label.
As “Love The Way You Hate Me” exploded, Century Media reached out and signed the group in 2014. Instead of recording a ‘Chaos Theory: Part 2’ the band recorded two new songs, brought forward a couple of old ones, added the seven songs from Chaos Theory: Part 1, and Awaken The Fire was born. Already a pro at recording and self-producing, the brothers converted a remote lake house in Michigan into a recording studio to record the new songs and re-work the older ones. Making the circle complete, Roye Robley (who played drums on Chaos Theory: Part 1) came in to drum on these new tracks. Although not the band’s touring drummer, he is listed as playing drums on all tracks of Awaken The Fire.
Awaken The Fire opens up with one of the new tracks, “Chaos.” The didgeridoo (which the brothers have slowly become famous for incorporating into their sound) opens up the track and carries on below it throughout the whole song giving it a cool ‘otherness’ most modern day hard rock bands have yet to achieve. The mix is good and really powerful although the snare drum sounds just a touch loud, which is probably due to the high-midrange in it, but overall this is a really powerful sounding song. The guitar/bass ratio is perfect and the kick drum has an absolutely delicious snappy punch to it. In the bridge, Chris launches into a Matt Holt (from Nothingface) style screaming that just explodes with energy. Hard to believe this track was recorded at a house on Lake Michigan and not some high-priced studio out in Los Angeles, but the brothers have a knack for recording in the oddest of places and self-producing songs with high-caliber sound.
The adrenaline fueled “Love The Way You Hate Me” has a huge mix, with lots and lots of power that just gives this style of music undeniable locomotion. It’s hard, heavy and aggressive. Despite this, it somehow still manages to mix in the primal sound of the didgeridoo, during the breakdown, without sounding out of place. Although other bands such as Test Department and Jamiroquai have had some success using the didgeridoo, Like A Storm is the first band in their genre to incorporate it as a regular part of their band. These guys have definitely found their niche. The song debuted at #6 on the Rock FM, New Zealand and #16 in the New Zealand Singles charts. The Metallica-esque effect on the guitar during the bridge gave it an old-school metal feel which was very fitting for this hypnotic section of the song, and when it all comes together, it gives you the chills. Robley is simply amazing on the drums and the second movement in the bridge contains one of the best riffs of the entire album.
“Wish You Hell” is the other new song. It opens up with a down n’ dirty southern bluesy guitar intro, a mouth-harp and some down-home hand/leg clapping and foot-stomping. You can also hear the popping sound of a needle playing over a vinyl record in the background, giving the song a cool added touch. The guitar kicks in with that familiar ‘punch’ like on the previous two songs. The phased mouth-harp provides a spacy effect in the quieter moments of the song. The end riff is another stellar one and the finger taps are excellent.
“Break Free” is a wonderful, stripped down, almost acoustic sounding ballad with excellent vocal harmonies. This song is about falling deep within yourself and having a hard time trying to dig your way out. About wanting to “Break free from everything. Break free before it breaks me.” It is soulful sounding and passionate with great harmonics and a beautiful single-string breadcrumb melody. The textured music compliments the highly emotional vocals.
“Never Surrender” is another heavy tune where Matt’s guitar soars over Chris’s anthemic vocals. The mix jumps back in your face and the riff gallops along with massive amounts of ‘awesome’ and the superfast-waltz kind of rhythm really adds to this. This song tells a story about not letting people put walls up in your way; about not letting what people say about you affect you. You can’t help but pump your fist in the air as you sing along to the chorus, “No, I will never surrender. No, I will fight forever. No, there is no turning back from here. I will never surrender.” Chris’s accent screaming mixed into the verses really make the rolling and bouncing guitars move, and only deaf people will be able to resist bouncing their head along to it! When the chorus hits that third chord as a full-on major, one can picture epic stadiums filled with screaming fans and a front man with his arms wide open.
“Become The Enemy” is a re-worked song taken from their debut album, The End of the Beginning. Although the song is similar to the original, it is also different than the original. The band has matured and it definitely shows on this newer version. There appears to be too much of a V-curve in the EQ giving the song lots of bass, lots of really high hissy treble and little body. This song has the biggest opening of any of the songs on the album although the guitars do sound a little thin. Whoever wrote the guitar melodies truly understands how to get butts out of their chairs and hands in the air while the skull-cracking halftime bridge captivates your attention.
“Southern Skies” slows the pace back down. It is a beautiful ballad built around the soft sound of the keyboards. Here are some extremely vulnerable vocals which offer up a set of personal lyrics. No matter how far away from New Zealand these brothers are, they will always have their ‘Southern Skies’ to go back to. The exact place where everything they were looking for and everything they thought they had lost they were able to find in the exact place where they belong; their Southern Skies. The song is written, performed and mixed very well. The cymbal accents during the verses are a nice touch and the electric acoustic carrying the arpeggio melody is wonderful. Once the power chords kick in you are aware of how thin sounding they are, but it is not distracting nor does it take away from this style of song.
“Six Feet Under” is hard and heavy and lets the listener know they are in for one hell of a ride! The vocals are strong, loud and demand your attention however they are sung clear and precise so you understand every word. The song is about not giving up. When others think they have gotten the best of you, you fight back letting them know they won’t bury you… six feet under. The guitars do sound slightly thin, possibly from a V-curve in the EQ? The compression might be a bit too aggressive too because there is a noticeable volume change in the high-hat when the song goes from quiet guitars to power-chord guitars. The toms on the drums also could use a bit more pronounced pitch. Robley is playing a sort of complicated pattern on them during the verses but it comes off sounding slightly monotone. The intro to the solo was great and the rapid finger-taps gave it a nice added retro feel.
“Gangster’s Paradise” is a remake of the classic Coolio song. The band does the song justice and adds a little humor to their album. It’s not every day you hear a hard rock or metal band, other than Anthrax or Limp Bizkit, do rap-covers, and even when you do, it’s rare to hear one that pays tribute as much to the original as this one does. It was still too thin sounding in the guitar riff department, but the song pays adequate homage to Coolio’s singsongy original. And the surprising screamy roars during the bridge were a pleasant shock!
“Ordinary” is simply stunning. This is the way to do a ballady song. If you’re going for it, go whole hog and drag out the cello. No drums, just strings and autotuned vocals. The vocal melody throughout is wonderful causing one to hum it to themselves afterward. It definitely resonates with the listener and the vocals are hauntingly beautiful.
“Nothing Remains (NIHIL Reliquum)” ends the album with a perfectly balanced marriage of both the heavy side and the soft side of Like A Storm. The song is about the end of a relationship where you can’t believe it’s over and feel you are nothing without that other person. The rhythmic guitars puts you in a trance and the bridge with the echoing vocals has a riff that climbs up there with the best of them even though the guitars do sound a little thin.
Awaken The Fire was released by Another Century records, an imprint of Century Media. Making the jump from self-releasing their own material to a record label was inevitable. The album is steadily climbing the charts due to the success of “Love The Way You Hate Me” and “Wish You Hell.”
Recording outside of the constraints of a traditional studio environment gave Like A Storm the freedom to realize their ambitious vision; an album where hard rock contrasts haunting acoustics and progressive metal that collides with the primal tones of the didgeridoo, all while retaining the powerfully meaningful lyrics the band is known for.
According to Chris, the band is making music that they want to make. There are no rules when they are writing songs except that the three of them have to love whatever they are doing. They push the envelope creatively and like to see how far they can take things. As Chris says it, “That’s the sound of Like A Storm.”
Smashing their way onto the American airwaves, Kiwi rockers, Like A Storm, have now achieved more successful US Hard Rock singles than any other New Zealand band in history. With its unique musical statement, Awaken The Fire is grabbing the attention of rock fans worldwide. It is currently sitting at #13 on Rock Billboard!
Special thanks to Jason Tucker for his musical expertise and input on this review.