Album Review: Primal Rock Rebellion – Awoken Broken [9 out of 10]

By Aniruddh “Andrew” Bansal

Primal Rock Rebellion is a UK-based studio project featuring Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith and former sikTH frontman Mikee Goodman. I always find it interesting when musicians from massively successful bands like Iron Maiden attempt to break out of that mould and do something on their own, and Primal Rock Rebellion falls into this category. Smith has always been an integral part of Maiden, and his ten-year long absence from 1989-1999 was deeply felt by the fans, as the Maiden albums released during this period were deemed unsuccessful. While Dave Murray has been the only guitarist to be part of every single Iron Maiden album, Smith has been the more adventurous of the two in terms of musical creativity, which led to his departure from Maiden. During his time away from the band, he pursued other interests, including the Psycho Motel project, for which he released two albums. The Primal Rock Rebellion debut “Awoken Broken” is his first album outside of Iron Maiden since those Psycho Motel releases, and needless to say, the heavy metal world took great interest in finding out what it sounds like.

To start with, it doesn’t sound like Iron Maiden, and undoubtedly takes the Maiden fan in me by surprise. Right from its opening track “No Friendly Neighbour”, it’s relatively modern and groovy as compared to anything Smith has done with Maiden. But importantly, the track has the stamp of Smith’s songwriting all over it, and the same can be said about all of the 12 tracks on this album. Mikee Goodman’s crisp vocals give aggression and power to the music, while Smith’s lead guitar work provides it the exotic touch that makes it a winning combination.

The musical style varies within the album, from song to song. On one side of the spectrum, tunes like “No Friendly Neighbour”, “I See Lights”, “Tortured Tone” and “Search For Bliss” showcase the melodic and exotic side of Smith’s musicianship, and on the other side we have straight-up hard rock tunes such as “No Place Like Home”, “Savage World”, “White Sheet Robes”, and a couple others that are all about the groove. Each song varies from the others in terms of tempo as well, making the album all the more interesting. But my favorite track is most definitely “Bright As A Fire”. The longest track on the album, it moves along brilliantly, and the complete range of Goodman’s vocals and Smith’s musicianship is evident on this tune. I’m also a huge fan of the closing track “Mirror And The Moon”, simply because of Smith’s outstanding guitar work on the tune. Besides Goodman’s vocals, the backing vocals on some of the tracks are also very well done, and they enrich the overall sound even further.

On the whole, it’s an ambitious move by Adrian Smith to write music of this kind, and although I instantly found a sizable portion of the album to my liking, hardcore Iron Maiden fans might take some time to get used to it. I love Iron Maiden as much as anyone else on this planet does, but I have no doubt in my mind that I appreciate this release a lot more than the latest Iron Maiden album “The Final Frontier”, an album that left me hugely disappointed as a Maiden fan. I just hope that more Primal Rock Rebellion albums are released in the near future, and it’s not just a one-off like some of Smith’s past projects, because “Awoken Broken” is a commendable effort, and a worthwhile release for hard rock fans.

Rating: 9/10

Record Label: Spinefarm
Release Dates:
April 17th 2012 (US)
February 27th 2012 (Europe)

Track Listing:
1. No Friendly Neighbour 4.53
2. No Place Like Home 3.06
3. I See Lights 4.59
4. Bright As A Fire 6.21
5. Savage World 3.38
6. Tortured Tone 5.08
7. White Sheet Robes 5.16
8. As Tears Come Falling From The Sky 0.47
9. Awoken Broken 4.58
10. Search For Bliss 4.13
11. Snake Ladders 4.43
12. Mirror and the Moon 5.04