Here Comes the Runts: AWOLNATION Album Review

AWOLNATION’s first album pushed the boundaries of alternative music and helped to originally popularize the Dubstep genre with the hit song, “Sail.” The album was entitled “Megalithic Symphony.” Ranging from strumming guitars to hard hitting punk to a sweeping 15-minute ballad, it covered death, mysticism, heroes, sex and everything else that can be talked about in the time constraints of an album.

Their next album “Run” came out when the ranging genres from the first album coalesced into one. Gone with the punk, in with the synth. The megahit “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)” incorporated the synth elements from the first album while bringing the sound in a new direction with a more esoteric, less clear message. The rest of the album passed under the radar of any pop factories, but nonetheless continued to promulgate the band’s message and refine its sound.

Then, two weeks ago, AWOLNATION released their first new album in three years, “Here Comes The Runts.” This album takes the band in a completely different direction from “Run” and is more heavily focused on instrumentation without as much synth. Leadman Aaron Bruno is quoted saying, “I think I hit a wall when it comes to electronic sounds, I became bored and a little uninspired by playing them. So I wanted to go back to my roots, and my love for guitar and rock and roll music.”

“Here Come The Runts” incorporates synth in much the same way that the first album did on tracks such as “Kill Your Heroes” on “Megalithic Symphony.” Starting off with the hard-hitting title track, “Here Comes The Runts,” the album prepares you for something a little different.

Pop music is popular because you can always guess what is going to happen next; when you guess correctly, your brain produces “feel-good” chemicals, and thus pop music is loved. The title track completely subverts any expectations you may have had for the album to be predictable at all. I found this clarified in the random slow-down the song had almost a minute in. It was as if Aaron Bruno was winking at anyone who was listening, saying, “Listen closely.”

The album does not stop after the first track, though slowing down about halfway through. The single “Passion” shows up directly after the first track, and gives anyone who’s been following the band a sense of satisfaction from knowing a song so soon. Immediately after AWOLNATION brings back one of their old tricks, having random liner “songs” which only contribute to the environment of the album.

The other singles, “Miracle Man,” “Handyman,” and “Seven Sticks of Dynamite” are all on the first half of the album, and give it a sense of familiarity, which leaves the second half a completely blank slate.

The second half starts immediately after “Seven Sticks of Dynamite,” and is where the slow down occurs. “Table for One” and “My Molasses” bring the listener to a far away place full of sand. The album cover belays the contents, and describes them perfectly in this respect. “Cannonball” once again brings the hard rock to the forefront and snaps you out of the sleep you have been lulled into.

From there, the train starts going and will not stop. My favorite song, “The Buffoon,” is in this section, and feels like a pre-mastered studio recording: the rawness is beautiful. Immediately after is the lovely hard-rock ballad “Stop That Train,” which is a journey in and of itself that only feels complete if listened to as the end of the album.

The album takes you to a place far away and does not take you back. The end of the album leaves you wishing for more, and surprised that it is over. The spoken “That’s it,” at the end of the album lends finality, but it also makes you question why it was necessary. It almost feels like the ending was placed there as a pausing point, as though there was more to be had, but this is all that was given to us.

All in all, it is one of the best albums of 2018 released thus far. My favorite tracks are “Passion,” “Seven Sticks of Dynamite,” “My Molasses,” “Cannonball,” “The Buffoon” and “Stop That Train.” The only song I dislike in any sort of fashion is “Miracle Man,” I feel as though it is a low point in the album, but a low point in this album is not low at all compared to any other album: it is but a mild disappointment.

11/10 stars.

Story by
Matthew House for SUU News

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