AWOLNATION is a Los Angeles-based band formed and fronted by singer/multi-instrumentalist Aaron Bruno. The name is derived from Bruno’s personal grade school nickname; he wasn’t one for saying goodbyes (in other words, he would be "away without leave", or AWOL). The former Under the Influence of Giants frontman started AWOLNATION as a solo project in 2009 through Red Bull Records. From the get-go, the band picked up an exceptional amount of attention with their anthemic “Sail,” first released through their debut Back from Earth EP (2010), leading to commercial features for the likes of Fox’s House and Nokia. But this was only the beginning for the five-piece indie/electronic rock outfit, which also features lead guitarist Drew Stewart, drummer Hayden Scott, bassist David Amezcua and keyboardist Kenny Carkeet. AWOLNATION's debut album, Megalithic Symphony (2011), showcases “Sail,” among other notable singles like “Not Your Fault” and “Burn It Down.” Its success still fresh, AWOLNATION continues to perform across the globe on its 2012 Fall tour.
What would the end of the world sound like? AWOLNATION's first single, “Sail,” could very well be the perfect sonic representation of impending doom—the plucked string opening has the rhythm of an anxious heartbeat; that moment of anticipation when you know something monumental is about to happen. Buzzing electronic elements come in, with a deep bass drum beat, leading up to frontman Aaron Bruno giving scratchy shouts of, “blame it on my A.D.D, baby!/Sail!” Bruno is, by no means, what you would call a conventionally-accomplished vocalist, but it's the imperfections and gritty tone that give real soul to the music and truly command your attention.
It's no wonder that the single went platinum, landing spots in a number of commercials, TV shows, and even a video for professional skydiver, Jeb Corliss. Though you might already be familiar with “Sail,” the rest of AWOLNATION's debut album, Megalithic Symphony, is worth delving into. It's a genre-bending collection of 15 dark, booming songs that all seem to revolve around the end-of-the-world vibe.
Though it sounds depressing in writing, the music itself always has a sense of light-hearted fun—as if it's AWOLNATION's way of saying, “hey, the world's ending...but we can still party!” Take “Knights Of Shame,” which starts with repetitions of the line “dance, baby, dance, like the world is ending!” before taking an epic (the song is nearly 15 minutes long), genre-hopping journey through disco, dance punk, and even a bit of hip hop.
Another album highlight is “Burn It Down,” which has an aggressive punk rhythm that might just bring out your inner pyrotechnic tendencies. Bruno is a preacher of destruction and anarchy, repeatedly shouting out, “burn it down!”
Dotted throughout the album are short interludes like “My Nightmare's Dream,” which is just under 30 seconds. It's just the faint sound of a choir practicing the line, “all I need/all-all-I need.” The song doesn't really make sense until you get four songs ahead with “All I Need,” a piano-led gospel tune that shows AWOLNATION at their most stripped-down and serves as a great contrast to some of the album's more aggressive tracks.
By not constraining themselves to one genre, AWOLNATION have come up with a sound that's, as their album title suggests, nothing short of a megalithic symphony.