REVIEW: Autumn’s Grief – Dead by the Dawn

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It was almost exactly a year ago when I reviewed the prominent debut album, “The Dead Don’t Smile,” by the up-and-coming Finnish metal outfit, AUTUMN’S GRIEF, dubbing the band’s symphonic murals of gloom as a worthy entrée into the pantheon of mournful masters such as PARADISE LOST, TRISTANIA, and ETERNAL TEARS OF SORROW. Now, it is time to dig into their sophomore full-length effort “Dead by the Dawn,” due out on December 9th, 2022, via Inverse Records. From the first few seconds onward, it becomes obvious that the band’s old charm is still there; this selection of ten new songs resonates by turns with the air of vintage doom and symphonic metal classics, as well as a robust cinematic flare. There are also a few surprises along the way; how they go down with the unsuspecting listener depends greatly on their stance about, say, mixing almost rap-styled nu-metal vocals with the classic doom-metal aesthetic. Then again, I guess rock and metal bands with a somewhat Gothic inclination must go through this sort of phase in one way or the other – flirting with somewhat “outlier” genres that are prone to rub the trve kvlt gatekeepers the wrong way. Sometimes it pays off and here, it surely does.

The Tide” opens the album with a staccato synth motif that bounces to and fro with a strong vintage feel. The song could basically be a lovechild of PARADISE LOST and early NIGHTWISH (minus the operatic vocals, of course). I’m not sure what age demographic the members of AUTUMN’S GRIEF fall into but I’m pretty sure they have grown up on a steady diet of 1990s metal; yet, instead of constructing facsimile pastiches of a select bunch of golden oldies, these doomsters seem to have adopted the tried-and-true virtues of old-school songwriting – strong melodies, first and foremost. Speaking of which, the following track, “The Sea of Apathy,” stands out as a prime example of conveying nothing short of a haunting feel. If I were to single out a song from the album to speak for itself, this would be the go-to song, hands down.

On the debut, there was a song or two that created quite intriguing sonic impressions of HIM‘s greatest moments of melancholic doom. This time, the honor falls to “Under the Belt of Orion.” It makes me wonder what it would sound like if AUTUMN’S GRIEF were to make a cover rendition of one of those revered HIM classics. While these two bands have quite a few traits in common, they are different enough to turn such a rendition into something really interesting. Take the next track, “Hanging in Midair,” for example; with all those cinematic strings and multi-layered vocals, it’s not something HIM would probably ever have taken a shot at, I reckon. If there is a distinct DEAD CAN DANCE vibe about this track, it only gets stronger on the instrumental interlude, “In the Presence of the Sun,” which plunges almost into the emotional depths of “Host of Seraphim” from the 1988 DEAD CAN DANCE album, “The Serpent’s Egg.” If that’s not impressive, I don’t know what is.

Showing a whole new facet of the band’s signature sound, “There Was A Light” traverses a more mellow and atmospheric sonic terrain, one that is not a far cry from the Finnish alt.rockers, THE CHANT. Unsurprisingly, both bands have a knack for dealing with the lyrical concept of light in nothing short of a haunting manner. It sure helps that both bands have such powerful vocalists. Here and there, AUTUMN’S GRIEF vocalist Noora Virtanen delivers her vocals resonating almost with the spine-chilling air of OCEANS OF SLUMBER singer Cammie Gilbert – which is not a small feat!

Then, it’s time to face the track that might prove a hard pill to swallow for some: “They Talk To Me” brings the electronic elements to the forefront, almost as though reminding us that, “Hey, back in the day, everyone flirted with the electronics!” Paired with the nu-metal-ish vocals in the verses, symphonic-metal puritans may feel betrayed a little. Judging by the online reviews, this is perhaps the make-or-break track on the album. I would say: suck it up. As KORN already showed earlier this year, despite the rumors of nu-metal’s demise as a genre, these rumors of its death are greatly exaggerated. In my opinion, “They Talk To Me” does not shy away from those late-1990s doom-metal efforts that flirted even more openly with the dance music elements of the era.

The title track wraps up the album with a piano-driven power-ballad type of thing, with the cinematic ornaments sounding particularly delicious. It’s a befitting coda to a splendid and nuanced assortment of doom-metal splendor. As you can quickly see from the band’s lineup, they seem to be missing a drummer; apparently, the drums on the album are programmed throughout the album, which is probably one of the reasons why the band has not yet become the talk of the town. With such portfolio pieces as “Dead by the Dawn” and the 2021 debut, “The Dead Don’t Smile,” I’m sure things are to change for the better soon enough.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. The Tide
  2. The Sea of Apathy
  3. Under the Belt of Orion
  4. Hanging in Midair
  5. The Clearing
  6. The Dragonfly
  7. In the Presence of the Sun
  8. There Was A Light
  9. They Talk to Me
  10. Dead by the Dawn

Lineup

Noora Virtanen – vocals

Ville Skön – keyboards

Santtu Rosén – guitars & bass

Label

Inverse Records

Links

Bandcamp

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