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Autumn - "Cold Comfort" (CD)

Autumn - "Cold Comfort" CD cover image

"Cold Comfort" track listing:

1. The Scarecrow
2. Cold Comfort
3. Black Stars In A Blue Sky
4. Retrospect
5. Alloy
6. End Of Sorrow
7. Naeon
8. Truth Be Told (Exhale)
9. The Venamoured

Reviewed by on November 7, 2011

"'A sign of a band in perfect harmony.'"

If there’s one marketing-driven qualifier that has bastardized and obscured otherwise quality music from more modern metal bands than any other, it’s “female-fronted.” An unnecessary and excessive description, it has done much to upset the balanced group dynamic that fully-rounded, functioning bands require (who outside Lacuna Coil’s diehard fan base can even name a single male member?). Admittedly, I’m not helping divert any attention with this very paragraph. So in the interest of protecting my scrotum from Angela Gossow’s rage, I’m going ahead and calling Dutch act Autumn simply a stellar rock band.

Album number five, “Cold Comfort,” is difficult to classify in five words or less. Not quite heavy metal, but possessing a harder, more distorted edge than typical radio fare. Not quite the challenging exploration of Opeth or the polarizing wankery that passes for “progressive” today, but certainly more imaginative than the cookie-cutter formulas that made stars of Evanescence. On that note, it earns gothic and doom bona fides not through cartoonish imagery or overtly depressing lyrics, but through the sheer melancholic atmosphere of the music. “Female-fronted” woes aside, the vocals of frontwoman Marjan Welman do indeed buoy “Cold Comfort” – her second album with Autumn – without distracting us from the whole.

Opener “The Scarecrow” demonstrates the construction of an Autumn song from the ground up. A mournful, “Taps”-esque electric lick, an evocative keyboard line, a crooned verse, and a bass-heavy riff are smoothly introduced, one by one, in layers. This even mix remains prominent throughout the album, attuning our ears to each individual instrument as they interlock by turns complex and minimalistic, daring and familiar. Several songs, particularly title track “Cold Comfort,” fondly recall Lacuna Coil from their “Unleashed Memories” and “Comalies” era, while the hushed, piano-led “Alloy” is Autumn’s barest and most mesmerizing composition. Those looking for more straightforward stuff will appreciate the classic-rock bounce of “Black Stars In A Blue Sky,” the beefy rhythm guitars of “Retrospect,” and swift, synth-laced ride of “Naeon.” “The Venamoured” closes the album the same way it opened – with each instrument skillfully displayed (including some tasty guitar leads) as they begin to intertwine, segueing into a hypnotic Opeth-style outro. Very few of these tracks are “single” material; this music is not easily drawn, quartered, and served up in individual doses. “Cold Comfort” is a complete body of work.

As such, this album should immunize Autumn from the shameless marketing ploys that invented the ridiculous “female-fronted” non-genre to begin with. Absent any single musical contribution from any particular member, “Cold Comfort” is woefully incomplete. That’s a sign of a band in perfect harmony.

Highs: "The Scarecrow," "Alloy," "The Venamoured"

Lows: For some, it may take patience and multiple listens to separate this from the current slew of "female-fronted" bands.

Bottom line: A layered, atmospheric, and progressive rock/metal album. A stellar step forward for Autumn, and a fine introduction for Opeth and Lacuna Coil fans.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 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)