Autumn - Cold Comfort

Metal Blade Records
Produced by Erik-Jan Dodd

Having reinvented themselves with the album My New Time following several major line up changes, Autumn have long since evolved from their gothic metal roots into a malleable and ever-shifting rock band. Influenced by everything from modern alternative through doom and stoner rock and on to traditional heavy rock, the band could draw comparisons to fellow countrymen The Gathering and the UK's Anathema, if only due to a lack of closer comparisons. Across My New Time and its follow up Altitude, the band's first album with new singer Marjan Welman, the band have proven difficult for fans expecting atypical female-fronted goth rock – but exciting and different for listeners with a broader perspective on the rock genre.

Their fifth album, Cold Comfort, brings with it some interesting changes that further distance the band away from their roots and into fresher territory – or, rather, into older territory. The album utilizes vintage equipment to produce a much more warmer and earthy sound, giving the album a much more traditional old school rock feel. This is complemented by the band's song writing – whilst the last two albums had a distinct modern shine to them, Cold Comfort's songs are often centered on very heavy riffs that wouldn't feel out of place on a doom rock album. Opener and lead single The Scarecrow exemplifies this – at its core is a repeating, droning guitar riff that isn't particularly like Autumn, but definitely takes full advantage of the band's setup and new sound. This accompanies more familiar elements to Autumn's music, such as prog-esque and mildly psychedelic keyboards and softer and more melodic guitar parts.

The other thing the album takes full advantage of is the voice of Marjan. On Altitude, the singer was brought on at the last minute to perform over already written songs, the result being passable but a bit underwhelming. Now that she has been included in the actual writing of the album from the start, the way the songs have been written make much more use of her singing talents. Her voice is often much more soulful than those of her peers, giving a much stronger emotional resonance to the band's music. There are also moments where her voice so perfectly and seamlessly entwines with the rest of the band – for example, on the album's title track the lowest note of the bridge matches and harmonizes with the guitar part in such a way to produce such a warm, perfect sound. On this album we finally get to see what the singer is capable of, which as it happens is far more than even her most adamant supporters might have expected.

It has to be said though that Cold Comfort is, as the title might suggests, not the most cheerful of albums. The title track is, aside from its bridge, a bitterly cold and chilling song. Retrospect might have a hint of a cheerful chorus, but the mid section has other ideas. Alloy, at over the seven minute mark, oozes with melancholy, depression and sorrow. There are songs on the album that feel more cheerful, such as the more upbeat Naeon, but amongst the rest of this album they offer, well, Cold Comfort. Lyrically the album brings even darker shades to the music. This might be off-putting for some listeners – though others might find themselves relishing and losing themselves amidst the band's deep and intense emotional palette.

Mostly though, Cold Comfort is the most confident the band have ever sounded. It has a unique, warm and voluminous texture that should be at the very least interesting and involving. It isn't an easy album by any measure and isn't likely to appeal to the casual listener – for some it is likely to be an album that only rewards the listener after multiple listens. Those that don't appreciate such moody music won't get it at all. However it is an album that is really worth putting the effort in, showcasing a talented and blossoming singer along with a band who have well and truly rediscovered themselves. Definitely the best thing the band have ever produced.

“ exciting and different ”

Tracklist: The Scarecrow / Cold Comfort / Black Stars in a Blue Sky / Retrospect / Alloy / End of Sorrow / Naeon / Truth be Told (Exhale) / The Venamoured

Written by James Donovan
More: 2011, Albums, Alternative, Female-fronted, Hard/Heavy Rock,

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