From German label Eisenwald comes the debut full-length (following a three-song EP) from Australian duo Autumn's Dawn. This is my first exposure to the band—whose members (Anguish and Sorrow—yes, really) have participated in tons and tons of other groups that I'm not familiar with (Austere, Bane of Isildur, Germ, Nazxul, Troldhaugen, Woods of Desolation, to name but a few)—so I was unsure of what to expect. Autumn is by far my favorite time of year, so a band name like Autumn's Dawn had me hoping they would deliver on an atmosphere typical of the bands I love to listen to during said season—Katatonia, October Tide, Thine, Agalloch, etc.—and, holy shit, they certainly do!
It's kind of like early Katatonia (Brave Murder Day) or October Tide meets mid-period Shining (V: Halmstad) under a shoegaze haze. The unexpectedly straightforward song structures utilize lots of pulsing, midpaced rhythms and emphatic melodies alongside tactfully sparse doses of lush, reverberating shoegaze effects and "post-rock" textures. (Even sparser is the presence of keyboards, most directly during the ambient/experimental noise segue track "Dawn.")
The album opens amazingly strong with "The Ashes of a Life," one of the catchier and more memorable songs, loaded with layered guitar melodies and—unexpectedly—actual singing. The second track, "Until My Heart Corrodes With Rust," does introduce some full-on snarling, black metal-styled vocals, however; while the instrumental "Into the Cold" could've been right at home on Agalloch's Pale Folklore (which is, for my money, an extremely high compliment). "When the Sun Sets for the Last Time" takes a slight shift towards jangly, chorused clean guitars and some spoken/whispered vocal passages with one intense burst of scathing vocal shrieks/aggression in the middle. This borderline "ballad" type of approach returns in the closing title track, which provides more back and forth contrast with a big chorus of the aggressive vocals over those soaring post-rock guitar methods. And "Through the Rusted Gates of Time" builds into some of the most explosive blasting of the entire album, boosting the epic feel of its melodies.
Lyrically, the tracks seem to deal with depression and loss and comparable themes to what you would expect from such a band, with lines such as, "We dream of isolation every single day. But who really wants it? Who really cares to live this way? We dream disintegration all along, and for what it's worth, we all will fall..."
My only complaint is that, at least to my ears, the production is too thin and shrill. I'd have to assume they were going for some degree of black metal-influenced rawness, but the cymbals can be irritatingly harsh, and the overall style of their songwriting really deserves a fuller sound. I mean, if this album had the recording of something like, say, Katatonia's Discouraged Ones I'd be absolutely losing my mind right now, and Gone would probably already be considered one of my favorite metal albums of the past decade!
About 15 minutes in my ears seem to start to adjust, so in a way everything works itself out, but... on some level the recording is still a disservice to the impressive quality of the songs (some outstanding guitar solos lose a little luster, too). Even if the band feels that the material requires a certain degree of harshness, were they to rein it in a bit... just a little polish could work wonders. It's just a tad too grating: your ears'll be ringing, even if you're listening at a moderate volume.
Despite my gripes with the production, though, this is an excellent album that leaves me very interested to see where Autumn's Dawn will go from here. It seems like many of their other musical outlets haven't been exceedingly prolific, so I hope they continue to explore this approach. They've demonstrated some incredible songwriting here that boasts a shitload of potential.
If you're a fan of any of the other bands I've mentioned herein, and/or this particular style of metal, Gone is mandatory listening, there's just no question. I'm always on the hunt for more bands of this nature, and I don't encounter them very often, so I'm extremely excited about this album as whole.