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Autumns Eyes - "Abandoned Expression" (CD)

Autumns Eyes - "Abandoned Expression" CD cover image

"Abandoned Expression" track listing:

1. Artificial Light (5:15)
2. Break the Trend (5:01)
3. Instinctive (4:20)
4. Shallow Hole (4:24)
5. Wait (3:50)
6. To Say Goodbye (7:04)

Reviewed by on May 20, 2010

"'Abandoned Expression' is an album that not only effortlessly breaks genre boundaries, but also legitimately earns that often overused title of 'progressive.'"

While metal is an absurdly diverse style of music, it’s an unfortunate fact that over time some of the big name bands have begun to rehash old material in new releases. An unending flock of imitators continuously spring up to add their own names to increasingly tired sub-genres, which only further pollutes the waters. It’s that same stagnation that also causes honestly unique releases to shine all the brighter on those rare instances when they come along. “Abandoned Expression” is an album that not only effortlessly breaks genre boundaries, but also legitimately earns that often overused title of “progressive.”

It should be stated from the outset that “Abandoned Expression” isn’t a brutal or face melting album in any way, and the use of growling vocals is extremely limited in comparison to other Autumns Eyes offerings. While the solo act is ostensibly a symphonic black metal band, that definition doesn’t exactly hold true here. The album is extremely symphonic, but not in an epic way like Therion or an occult oriented way like Dimmu Borgir. The disc instead heads in a completely different direction, and one that can be dangerous for metal, by using heavily emotional subject matter.

Each of the songs on the release were originally meant to end up on the “In A Sense” album, but were instead placed together because of their distinct compositions. The tracks are sonic journeys instead of static arrangements. There are numerous transitions, frequently changing elements, and a horde of ideas worked into every track. The broad range of sounds destroys any danger of the songs blending together, and leaves each individual track memorable on its own.

One of the album’s triumphs is its ability to present relatable themes without dipping too far into the mainstream or succumbing to the off-putting angst of many Gothic bands. At its core, “Break the Trend” could easily be interpreted as a love song, but it’s emotional without becoming overbearing or resorting to overused clichés that metal fans would abhor. “To Say Goodbye” takes an idea that could be top 40 pop fodder, the tale of someone left behind after a suicide, and makes it gut-wrenchingly metal. The song uses one of Autumns Eyes trademarks of invoking the often twisted style of composer Danny Elfman in a metal setting. Growling vocals pop up for the first time on the album as the character in the story rails against the unnamed suicide, then switch back to clean singing as the track takes a more sorrowful and introspective turn.

“Abandoned Expression” is significantly less heavy than “Surrender the Fire” (reviewed here) or other Autumns Eyes, albums, but it doesn’t have any less metal credibility. The album is constantly weaving multiple elements together, and has a solid grasp on when to use sound effects and when to let the guitar work do the talking. It may not work for black metal fans who need their music to be raw and constantly aggressive, but it could easily become a favorite for anyone who can dig different faces of the style, such as Dimmu Borgir and Ulver, or Emperor and Hardingrock. Somehow without trying to attain the label, “Abandoned Expression” has added itself into the top tier of progressive music.

Highs: Weaves a huge number of ideas together in each track and uses emotional subject matter without losing the metal vibe.

Lows: Significantly less aggressive than other releases and only has a small amount of extreme vocals.

Bottom line: A heavily symphonic album that earns the title "progressive" without actively working towards it.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

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)