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As Autumn Calls : Cold, Black & Everlasting

With their Melodic Death Doom, As Autumn Calls would not be out of place on Solitude’s roster, but fortunately they have a few qualities of their own.

As Autumn Calls are a band I wasn’t familiar with until I heard their recently released sophomore, Cold, Black & Everlasting. They play Melodic Death Doom which would not be out of place on the roster of Solitude Productions. So far, so good: if you do not like this style, there is little point in reading any further. If, on the other hand, you have a weak spot for it, you may be relieved to hear that the Canadians do have some qualities of their own which might catch your interest.

Let me start with the least convincing aspects of the album; keep in mind, however, that none of them necessarily counts as a big flaw, depending on your preferences. First of all, the album does not hold any big surprises – stylistically it is fairly homogeneous and basic on the whole. Given the large amount of similar releases, Cold, Black & Everlasting cannot really stand out. Then, the production is typical of present-day underground Doom: it never quite reaches the professionalism of all the Eastern European competitors who are supported by Solitude/Bad Mood Man, and therefore it cannot fully do justice to the musical qualities which undoubtedly are there. The drum sound is particularly weak and dry when it should be supporting the atmosphere with a certain sense of open space. Fortunately, though, a lot of attention has been given to the mix which comes across as perfectly balanced, thereby compensating somewhat for the shortcomings in sound quality. The vocal performances are another downside to the album. James’ growls are powerful and, one might say, perfectly sufficient, but they fail to convey any sense of recognisable identity or emotional depth, adding to the general lack of musical originality. They also seem a bit too harsh for the band’s melodic approach. The clean vocals performed by Andrew, on the other hand, are in tune most of the time and the vocal lines themselves are well suited to the respective passages, but his singing sounds fairly thin and feeble, very much like in the case of the German newcomers Crimson Swan. Being a vocalist myself, I can clearly hear there is room for improvement by way of training the technique and gaining confidence. But this vocal style is only employed in the first two songs anyway.

All of the above observations point to a group of musicians who have not yet fully matured in their abilities and also lack the necessary equipment and/or financial means to get the best out of the material they have. And it is apparent that their material is, indeed, their greatest asset: we are dealing with talented songwriters who put a lot of effort into working out their arrangements to the last detail. The use of keyboards, if unoriginal, is absolutely appropriate and subtle enough to support the strong atmosphere without being too dominant. There are many catchy and effective lead guitar lines, some of them performed by means of fast guitar picking to add extra flourish. Steering clear of abrupt transitions, As Autumn Calls have achieved a perfect balance between a nice and natural flow and a healthy amount of dynamics – not least due to some midtempo doublebass passages – to keep their songs interesting despite most of them being fairly long. All of this makes for a pleasant listen. Another very positive aspect is the occasional use of tasteful acoustic passages which place the album in the vicinity of Atmospheric Doom in the vein of The Fall of Every Season in places and also save it from becoming overly monotonous. A stronger focus on these calm, atmospheric parts could provide the band with a more distinct identity. In this context, I would particularly like to recommend the second track “Black Light Silent” to fans of the more atmospheric and melodic type of Doom: the beautiful interplay of acoustic guitars (whose recording quality is surprisingly good, by the way) and melodic leads as well as the contrast between fragile sections and heavier Doom riffs best illustrates the band’s immense talent and is only marred by the clean vocals.

As you may have guessed, it was not easy to arrive at a final verdict for Cold, Black & Everlasting. As Autumn Calls seem to a band with the potential to present a really great record someday, but they are not quite there yet for a variety of reasons. Apart from the weak spots identified above, the quality of songwriting slightly deteriorates in the second half. The fifth and sixth track in particular, although not bad when taken by themselves, fail to add anything of significance. Hence, there is too much of the same for the album to really captivate listeners throughout its rather long playing time. Fortunately, the two tracks mentioned above are also the shortest ones, and the closing track is a bit of a saving grace: its melodies are memorable and the brighter, almost blackish tone of growling introduces some welcome variation. The song ends abruptly, though, leaving a slightly sour aftertaste as the album’s last impression and thus representing the album as a whole quite well: it is a show of talent from a band we should keep an eye on, but as it stands, it cannot be described as essential.

Reviewer's rating: 7/10


Tracklist :
1. Haunted
2. Black Night Silent
3. These Doleful Shades
4. The Light Which No Longer Shines
5. Darkness Reflected
6. Darkness Confined
7. Darkness Everlasting

Duration : Approx. 65 minutes

Visit the As Autumn Calls bandpage.

Reviewed on 2014-03-05 by Dominik Sonders
Thermal Mass
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