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P.A.W.N. - 2014 - "The Gift of Awareness"

(78:34, P.A.W.N.)


1.  Sailors of the Sky 12:29
2.  The Princess Is out Tonight 5:37
3.  A Voyage of Uncertainty 12:48
4.  Vessels 8:22
5.  Fatal Wounds 13:14
6.  The Gift of Awareness 26:04


Sebastian Rudolph  keyboards, keyboard-guitar; bass; vocals
Dennis Matzat  drums, percussion
Gottfried Rudolph  guitars 
Sven Rhenius  guitars 
Michael Klein  vocals 
Lisa-Marie Rothe  vocals 
Daniel Muller-Ramien  vocals; e-guitar

Prolusion. The German band P.A.W.N. (short for the Projection of Ancient Wisdom and Narration) was formed sometime around 2002, initially an active live unit, but one that over time has been converted to a studio project revolving around the talents of a core duo consisting of drummer Matzat and keyboardist Rudolph. "The Gift of Awareness" is their debut album, self-released in 2014.

Analysis. It is not all that often one encounters a band that has taken the transition from an active live band to a studio based project. In this particular case, there's a tragedy behind this transformation, as this CD is released in the memory of the late Daniel Muller-Ramien, who passed away at the start of 2014 following a five year long battle with a serious disease. I applaud the band for taking on this venture, even if I do suspect that they would have liked to have been able to invest a bit more into the recording of this album. The scope and depth of this production is one that really calls for a variety of instruments, possibly up to and including at least a small scale symphonic orchestra, and while clever use of keyboards can indicate quite nicely how certain sections of music have been mapped out, they will never be able to produce an end result of the same quality, which, obviously, says something about a symphonic-oriented type of music as a prevalent feature throughout this album. The music explored on the album can by and large be described as progressive metal, and it is explored in what I'd describe as a somewhat melodramatic manner at that. It is not a purebred progressive metal production as such, however. Not because of contrasting passages and an ebb and flow in intensity as distinct features in themselves, but more due to the manner in which the contrasts are used and explored. Most compositions tend to fluctuate between a set of fairly distinctive types of passages: on the one hand we have sections mainly featuring layered keyboards, with gentler acoustic guitar or piano supplemental features, exploring a more atmospheric laden landscape. Then we have passages with a richer sound, more distinct symphonic in expression, but with more of a neo-progressive orientation and approach and less of a classic symphonic progressive rock-oriented overall style. At last we have the harder tinged sequences, where we either have dark- toned subservient guitar riffs that combine with the keyboards to create a majestic, grandiose atmosphere, or where a grittier guitar riff is the dominant feature and the layered keyboard arrangements have the supplemental role, still creating majestic atmospheres, but here with a grittier, rougher expression. P.A.W.N. excels in how they create ebb and flow movements using these main building blocks, and while I personally found the band most interesting when honing in on the harder edged parts of their repertoire, all the compositions come across as well developed affairs through and through. The use of keyboards rather than bona fide classical symphonic instruments do give the album a slight synthetic edge, as mentioned, and is one of a few details throughout where, what I'd suspect, would be a lack of budget that creates limitations for what the band perhaps would have liked to achieve. Another detail that is worth mentioning is the vocals. Lisa-Marie Rothe does a fine job as the main lead vocalist here, her voice fitting right into the somewhat melodramatic landscapes explored, but her male counterparts come across as not being of quite the same quality. Not a major issue, but one of those details that separate an album from being a great experience to being not quite as brightly shining. At last I should probably also mention that, while atmospheric classical music-inspired keyboard arrangements are a key feature here, the band does include some details here and there that point back to folk music as well. Whether this is planned or accidental, I don't know, but they do expand the scope of the album ever so slightly.

Conclusion. Epic-length progressive metal in a melodramatic coating is a possible description for the music explored on P.A.W.N.'s debut album "The Gift of Awareness". A production with melodramatic, epic compositions alternating between atmospheric- laden layered keyboards- driven sequences and harder-edged guitar driven majestic passages, with a quality female lead singer providing suitably dramatic impact lead vocals as what, I suspect, will be the icing on the cake for those with a soft spot for progressive metal of this variety. An album that merits a check by those who find this conclusion to be tantalizing.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: March 8, 2016
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