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The Autumn Offering - "Embrace the Gutter" (CD)

The Autumn Offering - "Embrace the Gutter" CD cover image

"Embrace the Gutter" track listing:

1. Prologue
2. Decay
3. The yearning
4. Embrace the Gutter
5. Ghost
6. Misery
7. This Future Disease
8. One Last Thrill
9. No End in Sight
10. Walk the Line
11. The Final Cut

Reviewed by on March 4, 2009

"Most refreshing are the double guitar leads of Tommy Church and Matt Johnson."

The tray artwork in the case for “Embrace the Gutter” says simply “Abandon All Hope.” After repeated spins, it is clear that this warning is meant not for the listener, but for other young metalcore bands trying to compete with The Autumn Offering.

The Autumn Offering creates a brand of metalcore that is refreshing in today’s landscape; combine the twin guitar leads of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, the chugging riffs of Pantera, surprising range for mainly lower-range vocals from front man Dennis Miller, and standard double-kick blastbeats and open guitar riffs that bring in a touch of a black metal sound.

Most refreshing are the double guitar leads of Tommy Church and Matt Johnson. Many metalcore bands that have a black metal influence get bogged down in the sludge, never coming up from the morass of screaming guttural vocals and intermittent blastbeats. However, The Autumn Offering combines standard metalcore elements with some of the best guitar leads to come out in the last few years. This has the effect of giving each song character and something to build on as the record moves forward; the song “Ghost” is a great example. The first half of the song features Miller’s vocals, pounding drums and heavily downtuned guitars. However, the song moves into a short twin guitar solo and then a synchronized and syncopated outro that lasts for the last quarter of the song. Harmony and restraint take over the leads during the outro, and the song finally fades away with still more to give.

The next song, “Misery,” picks up right where “Ghost” left off; beginning with the twin leads that again drive on an aggressive riff. Replace Miller’s vocals with James Hetfield, and “Misery” would fit right in on Metallica’s “Death Magnetic,” even though it was written two years earlier.

This isn’t to say that “Embrace the Gutter” is derivative, because it isn’t. Shifting from influence to influence keeps the music fresh, and The Autumn Offering never overplays their hand. Just when a song would get old with one last refrain, they replace it with a bridge, theme or style shift, or just end the song outright. This keeps the listener quickly honest, as the changes roll into and out of each other easily.

The highlight of the album is the eighth song, “One Last Thrill.” Starting with a simple guitar riff, the band slowly builds behind it, stopping only for a quick guitar lead before the first verse. Already two musical themes and styles have been shown only 30 seconds in; a Pantera-esqe riff and a guitar lead straight from Guns N’ Roses. The song then proceeds in a black metal style, continuing the riff already established and combining it with the guttural vocals and double-kick drums. The whole way through the song keeps its aggressive nature; each segment adds a small embellishment on the last, and one wonders when the beast will break the cage.

It does about half way through, with another twin attack from Church and Johnson; the instantly swapped back and forth leads amid synchronized sections makes for one of the most invigorating 40 seconds in metal. The leads build into a clean twin lead, which then takes the song into the final section. Here the band introduces a completely new riff – a breakdown that is menacing and unexpected. This new sequence carries to the end of the song, and into the next, and the next, and the next…

Highs: Aggressive and inventive metalcore, highlighted by the constant addition of new musical ideas throughout the record.

Lows: The black metal influenced sequences are often the lowlight of a song, as they are the most straight forward.

Bottom line: One of the best metalcore albums released over the last five years.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)