Autumn: Cold Comfort

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Autumn: Cold Comfort
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Autumn: Cold Comfort
Gothic Metal
Metal Blade Records
November 8th, 2011
Release length: 49:41
Myspace
Website
When it comes to the whole female fronted Gothic Metal or Rock style, there’s not a lot of originality left. But, when it comes to the bands that started out a little before the craze hit, or when it did yet somehow lasted without feeding into today’s stereotype, you do have to give some of those pushing it along credit. Autumn is one of those acts, and they end up being a bit of a surprise in the slew of generic bands getting all the attention in the world. Formed in the Netherlands back in 1995, the group hit the scene back in 2002 with their debut full-length release, following an EP a year prior. Four albums later, we come to Cold Comfort, their 2011 effort, and fifth full-length effort. But, is Autumn really a group that brings in a rather different experience in comparison, or is this just a slightly altered variation of early concepts?

Honestly, Cold Comfort really does end up being something quite diverse from the norm, and you can pick up on it immediately in the audio alone. Instead of having a highly pollished, sleek modern recording, this album adorns a slightly less clean feeling with slower music that often gives off more of a darker Rock or Metal tone that fans of bands like The Devil’s Blood or Entwine would enjoy, though not straying from a hint of symphonic elements similar to Lacuna Coil, though keeping that aspect buried very far in the back unless completely relevent to the cold atmosphere of the recordings. The guitars here sound very heavy and blunt, coupled with an uncompromising bass performance that just doesn’t let up when the music actually picks up. When it’s a little more toned down, it brings in a slight Occult Rock vibe that can easily put your into a trance, which is what “The Scarecrow” does pretty much as soon as it starts. The drums here have a nice echo to the snares that sound loudly and come through more natural, working with the equally leveled cymbols and deep thudding bass kicks. The gloomy tone of the music is complimented by a mournful clean singing vocal approach that doesn’t ever really try to belt out to high energy and enthusiastic notes and cater to a specific pattern for each and every song. This more down-to-earth performance suits the depressing music perfectly, though it may take a little time to get accustomed to if you’re not a fan.

While “The Scarecrow” welcomes the listener with a slow paced, trance-like Rock track of melancholic depression, standing as a solid welcoming for what’s to come your way on this release, the title track “Cold Comfort” really shows what the band can be capable of. The music itself goes at a slower pace still, but it’s simply beautiful, enhanced gloriously by the beautiful, restrained singing vocals that do have a little bit of a layering done. The atmosphere here is what really drives the track, establishing a truly gothic romance tone to it that is simply awe inspiring at times. But, this grim, depressing tone is not the only approach the band takes. “Black Stars in a Blue Sky” welcome the listener to a little more of an upbeat sound that’s really infectious, while still having that slightly restrained, down to earth feeling to it. The more Rock approach shines through well here, though “Retrospect” offers up a heavier Gothic Metal sound that is a little more on the cliche side, but overall is still performed well and manages to keep you listening the entire time without feeling like you’re listening to another to another Lacuna Coil rip off. The slight synth elements that appear help to give the track a bit of a technological vibe that eventually build into what sounds like a lighter Progressive Rock keyboard solo around the half way point. This touch also comes back during “Truth be Told (Exhale)” around the halfway point, along with a groovey guitar distortion, but this time it all just feels really out of context with the rest of the music and ends up just not fitting in at all.

This makes for a good deal of variety, not just for the start, but for the entire release. But, one thing remains the same through pretty much every track, and it’s that there’s a great amount of both emotion, and atmosphere to the tracks. No matter how upbeat the songs seem, like the aforementioned “Black Stars in a Blue Sky” or “Retrospect,” the songs still hold a grounded vibe to them that can still be a little depressing in either the music, vocals, or even both. And then you happen across songs like “End of Sorrow,” which captures the emotionally driven performances of songs like “The Scarecrow,” but this time taking on a slight ballad form mixed with a strong Metal foundation to really set a dark and heavy tone to the clearly depressing atmosphere, and the distinctively saddening vocals in the manner they are performed, not necessarily the sound. When it’s all coupled together, you get a genuine emotional rollercoaster that leaves the listener feeling like he or she is connecting with the song on many levels, and that’s a feat that many female fronted bands of this style simply can’t pull off anymore. What’s more surprisingly is the seemless transition between this track and “Naeon” despite the song literally ending. “End of Sorrow” feels like the perfect set up to this catchy, more upbeat track that has a rhythm which will have your head going along to it against it’s will while still feeding that darker gothic tone to the listener like candy to a fat kid.

There’s nothing really that negative to say about Cold Comfort at all. The music here is pretty good throughout, though it can start to get a little bland, and it does end up being the kind of album you should be in the proper mood to enjoy. While there’s a great deal of variety in the music, the vocals don’t really do much else then stick to the softer, more depressing clean singing approach, and as you go through the album it starts to lose it’s appeal a bit since it’s all you really hear. Had there been a little extra variety in there, such as a little enthusiasm here and there, even on one or two tracks, it would have been a nice touch. This isn’t at all to say they’re bad, as the more emotional push they have is absolutely fantastic and something the band should never even randomly think about dropping from their performance.

But, overall, Autumn have put together a fantastic album that shows the whole female fronted Gothic Metal scene does have some ideas, it’s just that those more unique sounds are strongly shadowed by mainstream ideas. Chances are good a lot of people are never going to hear this album, or even one song from it, which is a terrible thought since this is perhaps one of the most accurate interpretations of the Gothic music style as a whole that you could find in today’s day and age. If you have never heard of this group before, then Cold Comfort is honestly the best place to start, and can easily be one of the group’s finest releases to date.

01. The Scarecrow – 5:16
02. Cold Comfort – 5:37
03. Black Stars in a Blue Sky
04. Retrospect – 5:01
05. Alloy – 7:18
06. End of Sorrow – 4:35
07. Naeon – 4:46
08. Truth be Told (Exhale) – 5:57
09. The Venamoured – 6:28
Overall Score: 8.5/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Metal Blade Records.