AWOLNATION – Angel Miners & The Lightning Riders (Album Review)

AWOLNATION has certainly been one of the most interesting acts of the last ten years. Though technically considered a Rock band, AWOLNATION is really nothing of the sort, bringing a vast mixture of Alternative Hip-Hop, Electro Pop, and at times a taste of Alternative Rock. Not too long ago, AWOLNATION spent 2018 on a highly successful tour with Twenty One Pilots who are among one of the only bands to which AWOLNATION’s sound can be compared. On that same tour, AWOLNATION was playing in support of their 2018 release, Here Come the Runts, and are now ready to drop their new album, Angel Miners & The Lightning Riders, arriving Friday, April 24th, 2020 via Better Noise Music.

For their fourth studio album, Singer Aaron Bruno wanted the music to really mean something and, in a twist of fate, extenuating circumstances became the foundation for Angel Miners & The Lightning Riders. Towards the end of 2018, the horrible Woolsey fires devastated Bruno’s hometown of Malibu, California. Sadly, Bruno’s home and recording studio were destroyed thus destroying the place Bruno and his wife called home as well as the one place Bruno spent dedicating hours to his music. Luckily, no one in the home was harmed. Once the tour with Twenty One Pilots was over, Bruno wanted more than ever to use the music to express much of his experience with the fire as well as to continue reaching fans through the music.

Out of the ashes came Angel Miners & The Lightning Riders. A collection of ten new tracks, this release sees Bruno’s writing take a journey through the last year and a half. This includes all of the emotions Bruno went through, such as worriment, unhappiness, fear, and becoming a better person through it all. On that note, Angel Miners & The Lightning Riders begins bravely with “The Best.” This is a song that tackles paranoia and societies constant pressures to be great at everything. Hearing Bruno sing the lyric “I just wanna be the best” over and over again is telling, however Bruno best describes the content by saying: I always want to write the best song, or become the best version of myself, and it hit me that it was quite depressing because that’s probably never going to happen. I’ll probably never be the best at anything. When it hit me, it was hilarious to me. I realized that everybody would feel a lot happier if they were happy with trying to be the best at something. That’s a pretty cool way to live. 

Written from a state of affliction, the quickly paced formula of “Slam (Angel Miners)” precedes the first of two special guest appearances. With “Mayday!!! Fiesta Fever,” Vocalist Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros joins AWOLNATION on this danced up track. Out of all ten tracks, “California Halo Blue” has to be the most cathartic song Bruno wrote about life on the road after losing his home. A change of pace, “Battered, Black and Blue (Hole In My Heart)” is a wilder track with a rocking verse, raw bass, guitar, and percussion along with a tender chorus and even some screaming. Towards the end of Angel Miners & The Lightning Riders, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer guest stars on “Pacific Coast Highway In The Movies.” The last song, “I’m A Wreck” talks about overthinking, being distant, and letting these emotions affect your life and the people around you. The song is mellow but there is a very brazen and angry breaking point in the end.

AWOLNATION Singer Aaron Bruno certainly went through some rough times since a fire took his home and devastated his hometown in 2018. That said, Bruno is a very passionate musician and there are certainly times in Angel Miners & The Lightning Riders where you can see Bruno has come out the other end of this tragedy a survivor. Knowing Bruno’s story certainly makes Angel Miners & The Lightning Riders a more meaningful listen. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Angel Miners & The Lightning Riders 3 out of 5 stars.

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