Canada can't really be all Bryan Adams and Justin Bieber.... can it? Not anymore. At the base of the new wave of Canadian metal is As Autumn Calls, a death/doom three piece from Ontario. Formed in 2005, the band have revamped their original album, titled "An Autumn Departure," and released it to the masses. With a new album in the works, this is merely an introduction to hopelessness this band has to offer. But what a cold, dark one it is.
The intro track, "Initium," gives you a glimpse into what the band is about, filling the air with soft, clean acoustic guitars. It may seem odd for a band of this style to begin with the sublime, but when the first kick drum bursts in, it all makes sense. The force behind each bass note is blinding. The song returns to the delicate beginnings, before fading to black. The true style is revealed in "Closer To Death," a song that is every bit as bleak as the title indicates. The low and slow chugging of distorted guitars underneath harsh growls is a combination we know all too well. Short melodic guitar interludes pop up, cutting the track into pieces. The contrast of dark growls and clean guitars is one that isn't used very often, but perfected here. Even as the hammer drops, and distortion returns, a hauntingly beautiful violin dominates the melody. The harmonies of guitar and violin build to a fever pitch, almost making you forget the song had vocals at all. They do return, if only to take the track home amidst distorted chugging and beautiful acoustic picking.
A short bass intro welcomes you to "The Shadows Follow." It follows the formula for good death/doom, but adds a healthy dose of melodic guitar riffs to the mix. The vocals remain impressive, destroying the old stereotype of cookie monster, barely intelligible lyrics. Even as chaos reigns, the clean vocals have their turn to shine, paired with deathly growls. Every second is used wisely, culminating in a fading screech. The melodic sensibilities are evident in "The Demons Therein," with tangled bass line and guitar plucks that result in a stirring harmony. The vocals have an air of evil and darkness, often sounding as though they are actually emanating from the deepest part of your soul. This track will stick with you for a while, haunting your dreams.
The violin and acoustic guitars take the lead on the early moments of "Wither Away," a song that has a terrifying keyboard sound backing those lead growls. Over the course of seven minutes, melodies and riffs combine into a frenzy of activity. But oh, that eerie keyboard. It leaves the imagery of some demented, evil carnival. I'll be damned if I can shake it. Things drop into a prog rock acoustic interlude, complete with clean vocals and acoustic guitars, before building back to dominance with the thunder of rolling drums. The softer touch of "In The Emptiness" is a good pallet cleanser, refreshing your ears. Light strumming and the patter of drums, lead by clean vocal passages to let you breath. Until, that is, the growling begins. A sea of bells sets the table for an unearthly trail of screams while the pace increases. A short but powerful burst.
There is more intricate guitar work found on "Without You," in the form of some darting notes and twirling riffs. The drums take a more powerful lead on this one, with snares, kicks and cymbals filling the air from all directions. Things build, with layer upon layer of distortion and reverb, until finally things stop, allowing the soft strumming of an acoustic guitar to enter. This isn't the end, but merely a clean slate to build from again. Clean vocals lead the way, on top of a smooth bass line. More traditional death/doom is on display on "Unearth My Sorrow," with that slow chugging returning. This is the track that most closely resembles the titans of the genre. This is not to say you will lose sight of who you are listening to, as they keep their own twist on the formula. The vocals remain the focal point, with deep growls sharing time with some more grating screams. Things drop off to noise, and coast to the finish.
If there is a band that would be considered "dangerous" cover, it would be none other than Katatonia. With such a magnificent catalog, you could be dooming yourself with a bad interpretation. Or it might just not live up to the original. High risk vs. high reward. As Autumn Call choose to play with fire on "Murder," a track taken from "Brave Murder Day." Good choice, and well executed. It won't soon replace the original in anyone's mind, but a worthy effort. The title track and album finale are one in the same, with "An Autumn Departure" tying things up in a neat little bow. It brings things full circle, returning to the first track in its formula. Things begin soft, with clean guitars. Delicate spoken words enter, setting the scene for distortion and intense drums to complete the story.
In a clouded genre like death/doom, the trap is always set. Bands try to mirror the sound of those who came before, rather than staying true to what their music entails. As Autumn Call have sidestepped the iron jaws, and veered off on their own. The liberal use of acoustic guitars on an album of this nature may seem odd at first, but it only manages to further the sound. One of the keys to this style of music is the creation of contrast. And on "An Autumn Departure," it truly is as simple as black and white.
Official Site - http://www.asautumncalls.com/
Myspace - http://www.myspace.com/asautumncalls