Angel Miners and The Lightning Riders
October 14, 2020
One of the best things people like to see about their favorite artists is to see them develop their sound throughout the years. Even better, fuse the many different sounds of their discography into one album. This was the very distinct variable I have noticed in AWOLNATION’s new album, “Angel Miners and the Lightning Riders” and it has made this LP another success from this seemingly underrated alternative rock band.
Most people only seem to know AWOLNATION from the success of their 2011 single, “Sail.” But what if the band had never released it? That was the main idea for bands frontman Aaron Bruno going into the development of this album. In an interview with Billboard the singer had stated, “I wanted to act as if I had no success before and really prove myself all over again.” After three strong, dramatically different albums, with this LP Aaron’s statement has been proven with another reinventing energetically fused album.
With 10 tracks on the album we get a wide variety of new sounds sonically as well as a very interesting story/concept with the album. One of the first things you notice about the album is the two main characters mentioned in the title, and you may ask, “Who/what are the Angel Miners, and the Lightning Riders?” According to Mr. Bruno (not the tik toker) the Angel Miners are essentially this group of cyclopean monsters led by Zuno who represents evil and other such traits such as recklessness, selfishness, chaos, and discomfort, an acknowledgement to the presence of our darker personalities. With every villain we need some sort of hero, so we have the Lightning Riders, led by Capala. These elemental beings in this mythical story pretty much represent the opposite of what the Angel Miners stand for and were created by the people to fight off the cult of these monsters. I don’t think I really need to explain all what the Lightning Riders stand for, hero things, positivity, selflessness, altruism, etc. You get the gist. They look a lot cooler than the Angel Miners though and that’s practically a fact.
While the characters and the story don’t really have a lot to do with the album, as this is not a concept album telling a story, they pretty much set the groundwork for what this album is going to be. Listening to the songs in depth, you pick out which parts of the lyrics you would think connect to the Angel Miners, same thing with the Lightning Riders. Once you figure out all of these parts of the lyrics the concept starts to make a little bit more sense and you start to connect the characters to the songs.
Enough about the story though, let’s get into the tracks.
AWOLNATION has had a pretty good history of choosing really good first singles, and the first track off the album, “The Best” certainly adds on to that list. An inspirational song from the frontman, coming down from realizing that he will never be the best, so he decided to write a song about it. This track is overall a pretty mid-paced but still energizing song with a catchy melody and inspirational lyrics, the guitars punctuating Bruno’s words everytime the chorus hits that uplifts you. A decent start to the new album to give you a positive sense of what the rest of the starting tracks will be, until that sense is slammed by something more avant-garde.
Next we have, “Slam (Angel Miners)” a track completely different and fresh that sets it apart from the rest of the album. Dark, cryptic lyrics that let you explore and see the whole, “Angel Miners and the Lightning Riders” concept more clearly once applied. The song is, as stated by Mr. Bruno himself, a “sarcastic dance song.” The tone of the track, musically, being more somber than our previous song, but it still provides well with a groovy bassline and drum beat that gets you moving. The lyrics are uttered in a fashion that evokes spoken word poetry, talking about bringing together your two sides of your own personality spectrum, the good and evil after the evil has taken over for too long (or the Angel Miners wanting to be with the Lightning Riders with the concept applied). But then it all comes crashing down being represented by the wailing scream of Aaron Bruno close to the end of the song. This track gives you insight into the mind of Mr. Bruno and the weight that has been put on him after certain events before production of the album, and his droning vocals express it well with repeating the unsettling line of, “Always someone watching, always someone watching over you.” This much detail put into a song that’s only four and a half minutes long makes this easily accessible as with the rest of the album. This track is certainly one of the best to come from the album and overall fresh with its experimentation.
Our third track, “Mayday!!! Fiesta Fever,” features the first guest star on the album with Alex Ebert featuring vocals on the bridge of the song. This driving dance rock track instantly kicks into high gear and doesn’t stop until the song is over with heavy, groovy guitars, pounding drums, and passionate, chill-inducing vocals pushing us along. This track is overall pretty simple lyrically, somewhat typical lyrics you would hear from some party rock song except this is AWOLNATION and nothing is really typical around here. Everything is in the music on this track and it is one of my favorite songs off the album.
After hearing three sonically different tracks, the album begins to move along in a more steady and slower pace with the songs musically being more of the same with slight variations, but that doesn’t mean it does not have it’s fair share of highlights. Tracks like, “Lighting Riders,” and, “Radical,” keeping up the positive standpoint given to us by, “The Best,” talking about burning bridges and being a radical by Bruno’s views of just living in the moment and feeling good about yourself taking on the world without a care. Then we have our other contradicting songs, giving us insight into Bruno’s experiences that have happened within his home state of California. “California Halo Blue,” and, “Pacific Coast Highway in the Movies,” whose sound, mood wise seem pretty catchy and upbeat, but lyrically talk about something much more heavier and personal. “California Halo Blue” talks about Bruno’s experience with the Woolsey fires and how it burned down his studio, leaving him to be depressed with the weight of losing his studio. “Pacific Coast Highway..” giving us a different retrospective on specifically the Pacific Coast Highway in California. This track features Weezer vocalist Rivers Cuomo and talks about how seemingly a paradise that’s all sunshine and bright skies can still make you feel miserable with everything that’s going on. It’s not all what it seems to be in the movies, hence the title of the song. A great and bright sounding catchy song. And then we have “Battered, Black & Blue (Hole In My Heart),” one of the other heavier tracks on this album, with a nice hook, heavy guitars, and emotional lyrics about Aaron Bruno wanting to reevaluate himself because he feels lost and you feel empty inside without a purpose, ultimately showing Aaron’s more vulnerable side along with two other stellar tracks that heavily express his emotions.
The Angel Miner and Lightning Rider scene comes to a close with a pair of emotionally heavy songs, “Half Italian,” and, “I’m A Wreck.” The lyrics of these songs show a very big side of Bruno’s sensitivity, wanting to exercise his own demons and trying to release himself from the binds of his own past. Aaron Bruno yelping into the microphone as these plunking piano keys and thumping drums play in the background of, “Half Italian,” switching from statements saying that sometimes he is vulnerable, and then switching to a very flippant attitude. “I’m sorry man, but I’m not feeling grand, don’t even think I could…. I’m emotional, maybe too emotional, but I love you.” The name, “I’m A Wreck,” earns its title for what this song is musically and lyrically, being the closer of the album and being the most wild track of the album. Starting off with soft vocals and a guitar, but then the track continues to get more chaotic with the bridge of the song having these running cinematic strings leading us in with a driving drum beat, then the song absolutely takes off, exploding with these distorted guitars and Aaron screaming into the microphone crying out about a certain someone that was involved in his past. After all the chaos is over the last thing to ever be said on the album is actually the title, as if closing off a theatre production and taking a bow as we have just finished this amazing journey going through the mind of Aaron Bruno himself. An astounding closer to this wonderful album.
This album overall gives us a fresh start to the new decade with AWOLNATION providing us with new sounds and refusing to stay stagnant in their music. Another question we could ask is, “Well who won this mythical war?” well we don’t really know that, but it’s a great concept and story to dive into and make of your own. We can only hope that the band will continue to develop their sound even more and that this new and crazy decade can bring us some more stellar material to the table.
Favorite Tracks: Slam (Angel Miners), Mayday!!! Fiesta Fever, I’m A Wreck, California Halo Blue