Reality Suite is a New Jersey-based rock band with a fresh sound defined by scorching riffs and anthemic melodies. The band was formed in 2009 by three life-long friends, Brian King (drums) Antonio Valenti (bass) and Joe Padula (guitars). After struggling through a string of male and female vocalists, the wonderful Kimmii Heart came to the rescue, and their winning lineup was firmly established. They released their debut album Skinn to critical acclaim in 2015, and followed a year later with the single “Bury Me Alive.” This May, they dropped their EP Awaken, which I have the pleasure of reviewing today.
The EP is a deeply personal work for the band, each of whom have experienced the death of a loved one in the past few years. In an interview with PopBreak.com, Brian explained: “During the writing for what became “Awaken,” Kimmii and I realized most of what we were writing about were losing loved ones. Each of us had lost someone close to us in the last two years. I lost my mother in 2016 to lung cancer – which spawned the song “Cut, Burn Bruise.” Kimmii lost a close family friend which inspired “Grave.” Antonio lost his mother and Joe had lost an Aunt in 2017 – so, as much as “Grave” and “Cut” are about missing a loved one, in the context with the other songs – “Awaken” becomes an album about recovery and rebirth…leaving the pain behind and moving on. The songs “Live Now Forever,” “Dead to Me,” and “Lust” drive that point home.”
“Dead to Me” perfectly exemplifies their dynamic, hard-hitting sound. Brian’s pounding drumbeats establish a sturdy foundation for Joe’s gritty riffs and Antonio’s buzzsaw bass lines, though the song also has moments of relative calm where glossy synths and delicate guitar notes dominate. Kimmii’s emotive vocals run the gamut from seductive purr to malevolent snarl to impassioned wail as she throws dark shade on someone she’s clearly had enough of: “I’m done playing nice with your sick little ways. Breaking my back just to keep you away. It’s over this time I’m losing my mind. You think that I’m blind well I’m feeling like – You’re dead to me!” The music and vocals ultimately build to a crescendo, with sweeping strings, wailing guitars and a soaring harmonic chorus that make for a dramatic finish.
“Grave” is a dark anthemic ballad with fantastic guitar work that wends its way amongst the crushing bass and crashing cymbals. Kimmii’s passionate echoed vocals are marvelous. The band dials things up a notch on “Live Now Forever,” a terrific head-banger with fierce riffs of fuzzy guitars and humming bass. I like the way Joe makes his guitar squeal, and his blistering riffs and Brian’s pummeling drums in the bridge and final chorus are fire. Kimmii’s vocal gymnastics are impressive as she matches the fury of the instrumentals note for note. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the EP.
Another powerful anthem, “Cut, Burn, Bruise” is about missing someone so desperately you’d do almost anything to have them back: “Can’t bring you back. So I drive through the night. Going fast makes me feel alive. You make me feel alive. / Love’s a cut, a burn, a bruise. But I loved you til I’m black and blue. Feeling broken, I am learning to live without you. But I’d die for another day with you.” Reality Suite keeps the hard-driving rock grooves coming with “Lust.” These musicians are really at the top of their game, delivering more of their signature fiery riffs, throbbing bass and tumultuous percussion, and Kimmii’s dazzling vocals raise plenty of goosebumps. It’s a great track, and Awaken is an awesome little EP that packs one hell of a mighty wallop.