REVIEW: Autumn’s Grief – The Dead Don’t Smile

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With the band name being probably lifted from an ETERNAL TEARS OF SORROW song title from 20-something years ago, AUTUMN’S GRIEF is a fresh batch of Finnish metal ambassadors singing the gospel of the dignified gloom and doom of the somewhat more old-fashioned kind. Although the trio just started their journey earlier this year, the songcraft on their debut album “The Dead Don’t Smile,” released independently in October, reveals that these doomsday metal spelmans weren’t born yesterday. Resonating with the vintage doom of bands such as HIM, PARADISE LOST, and the aforementioned ETERNAL TEARS OF SORROW, this selection of ten new schlagers of gloom is quite a strong entry into the metal fraternity hailing the earthly pleasures of utterly sorrowful music.

The album opener, “The Oblivion,” creates an intriguing sonic impression of Stevie Nicks of FLEETWOOD MAC singing HIM‘s blockbuster 1990s hit “When Love and Death Embrace” – minus the iconic Moog ornamentations. Yes, the song plays on the old fortes of metal (or any other) bands – strong melodies, balanced arrangement, and pristine execution. What is there not to like? AUTUMN’S GRIEF‘s code of conduct seems to be about catchy and solemn melodies and I find it awfully hard to object to that. The vocalist, Noora Virtanen, has a voice that channels the hopeless yearning like a true elfin siren only should. Now, this is the perfect way to make a first impression.

The absolute stand-out track on the album is the one titled “Five to Seven.” Everything about it hits the mark: the mournful violin motif, the tribal drums, the cinematic soundscapes, and all those perfectly placed emotional peaks and valleys. The only big setback about it is the fact that it barely makes it to the 3-minute mark. In its current shape, the song feels more like an interlude – which it probably is meant to be – than an actual song. It builds up momentum just perfectly, only to hit a brick wall of silence at 2:55. Yes, it nicely leads into the next track, “We Will Kill ‘Em All,” but in spite of all the blast-beating and whatnot, the song just does not quite live up to the hype created by the previous track. That is not to say the track sucks but the interlude-of-a-track should have maybe been followed by a stronger track, maybe such as “The Seven,” which magnificently channels the mournful-yet-catchy metal aesthetics of bands such as EVANESCENCE and TRISTANIA.

That said, this album is quite consistently good all the way through. Yes, there are a few weaker moments here and there, of course, but they don’t overstay their welcome, so I feel confident to claim that “The Dead Don’t Smile” is nothing short of a prominent debut. At their most catchy, the vocal melodies resonate with a distinct pop sensibility, reminiscent of such vintage bands as ABBA even, while for the most part, the music traverses through deep, mournful waters wearing the metal badge proudly on its sleeve. When the riffs come down crushing, they come down hard like a ton of bricks. The music sounds endearingly vintage in a somewhat 1990s fashion – I guess, with all those exciting polyrhythms and digital glitches around nowadays, the old-school approach of this kind does not appear that sexy to most. I’m glad that AUTUMN’S GRIEF has chosen this less beaten path. Their debut is a tour de force of metal music with a distinct “olde” touch. Although, rather than being lost in the dark forest of nostalgia, the band is pushing its way through the springy foliage, further into the hollow where the woods are dark and deep. Through these ten beautiful and symphonic sound murals of gloom, the band is embracing the darkness and transforming it into light. What makes a star shine? A load of darkness, that’s what. 

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. The Oblivion
  2. The Dead Don’t Smile
  3. The Offerings
  4. Not Much More To Say
  5. Five To Seven
  6. We Will Kill Em All
  7. The Thorn In My Side
  8. Never Say Die
  9. The Seven
  10. Pale Heart

Lineup

Santtu Rosén – guitars & bass

Ville Skön – keyboards

Noora Virtanen – vocals

Label

Independent

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