|Review: Autumn - Altitude|
Label: Metal Blade Records
Year released: 2009
Genre: Gothic Metal
Review online: March 23, 2009
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Rated 3.5/5 (70%) (8 Votes)
So-called Gothic Metal has really been blowing up the last few years, but despite that there are still some excellent bands to be found within the style. Autumn took me by surprise with their excellent third album My New Time, and so I was watching obsessively for their follow-up. The loss of singer Nienke de Jong was a blow, as her smart, charismatic performance was a definite highlight of the band. I was concerned, but with the addition of the superlative Marjan Welman as replacement Autumn have turned a loss into a gain.
Altitude is less aggressive than its predecessor, with more involved melodies and less of the dense rhythms that made My New Time so addictive. There is almost a prog sensibility at work here, inviting comparisons to bands like Yes or mid-period Kansas with compositional complexity that does not obscure the smooth flow of the song. There's a lot more going on than a first listen will reveal, and the album rewards repeated listens. Opener "Paradise Nox" is the most ‘typical' Autumn song here, sounding the most like a tune off their last disc. Subsequent songs that stand out are "Liquid Under Film Noir", "The Heart Demands", "Cascade (For a Day)" and the album highlight "Skydancer". There are some not-as-good songs present, as the slowdown of "Sulphur Rodents" and "Answers Never Questioned" can attest, but all can be forgiven by the marvelous closing title track. All the songs feature smart hooks, deft playing, and memorable melodies.
The new centerpiece of the band is clearly the delicious voice of Marjan Welman, who is just breathtaking. When I heard she was the new singer I went to her MySpace to check her out, thinking I'd listen to a minute or so of her samples just to get an idea, but I couldn't turn it off. She has such a marvelous tone – a darker voice than Nienke's, with a warm undercurrent and a slight mournful feel – I can't really describe it. Tone is such an ephemeral thing. It's like the difference between an ordinary violin and a really good one: they can both hit the same notes, but they are not the same at all. Welman has one of the greatest-sounding voices I have ever heard – not for her range or phrasing (though she is very pro) but just because the way her voice sounds literally makes me twitch every time I hear it. I get chills.
If you loved My New Time, then this is an album to buy without fear or hesitation. While showpiece bands like Within Temptation are sliding off into mediocrity, Autumn has become the band to beat and a measure for all other like bands to stand against. An irresistible album.
|Other related information on the site|
|Review: Altitude (reviewed by MetalMike)|
Review: My New Time (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Interview with Mats van der Valk (guitar) on June 8, 2009 (Interviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
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