Kindly overlook the album cover you see to the left. Not only does it lack the good grace to include some kind of cool spherical object, but it also resembles something from a Christian new age rock group (the kind they play at inoffensive volumes in Christian, new age-y coffee joints). Worse still, it doesn’t give the slightest indication that Autumnal is a winningly morose, melodic doom act from Spain, or that The End of the Third Day is destined to be one of the sleeper hits of 2014. With a sound nestled snuggly between My Dying Bride, Katatonia, To Die For and Saturnus, they cover a lot of depressive ground and do it with a deft ear for true sadness, keeping the whole construct steeped in heart rending atmospheres and soundscapes. There’s not an uplifting, sunny moment to be found anywhere in this grey haze, but once you embrace the beauty in the darkness, you find something pretty impressive indeed.
Talk about opening on a high point! “A Tear From a Beast” may just be the song of the year. It’s rife with exquisite To Die For and Katatonia worship as seen through the goth prism of The Cure and man, does it work like a charm. At nine minutes, it floats by effortlessly, carried glumly along by the pained but melodic vocals of Javier de Pablo and the downcast riffs and melodic flourishes of Julio Fernandez. It’s a gloriously somber, introspective number and it effortlessly checks every box a good doom song should.
While they can’t quite maintain this uber high standard, the rest of the album is loaded with very high quality doom. The Katatonia influence gets blended with a mid-period Paradise Lost esthetic on “One Step…and the Rest of Our Lives” with impressive results and de Pablo stretches his vocal range with some surprising Danzig and Keith Caputo impressions. “Head of the Worm” unpacks the My Dying Bride / early Anathema baggage and serves up heavy doses of sad violin/cello as death roars get intermingled judiciously with clean singing. Things take a turn for a more commercial To Die For style of glum goth rock on “Man’s Life is the Wolf’s Death” before drifting into heavier Rapture and Insomnium territory.
All the songs hold their own weight and feature first-rate playing and expertly crafted moodiness, with only “The Storm Remains the Same” falling a bit short. Hell, even their cover of Supertramp‘s “Don’t Leave Me Now” works well and reminds me a wee bit of Saturnus.
Unfortunately, here’s where I’m forced to do my usual rant about song lengths. While their material is wonderfully emotive and more depressing than a puppy drowning convention, Autumnal sometimes lets their epic doom ditties run too long. While length isn’t an issue on a song as stunning as “A Tear From a Beast,” it does weigh upon cuts like “One Step…” and “Head of the Worm” despite a lot of bells and whistles designed to keep the music interesting. This is compounded by the 70 minute plus running time of the album. That’s a whole lot of gloom and doom to endure and by the end, you’ll be sorely in need of many a Zoloft. I know that’s the point of the album, but a little editing wouldn’t hurt anyone.
There’s also a tendency to overdo the strings section at times, as on the otherwise solid and mega moody closer “Father’s Will.” This isn’t too big of a deal, but the sad strings of fate are best kept to a minimum with this kind of music, lest they become a distraction and compete with the guitars.
Quibbles aside, I’m an instant fan of de Pablo’s vocal work. His vocals run all over the map as the album goes along, proving him adept at both gothy crooning and death roars. He has the perfect voice for this kind of music and his singing really grabs your attention. I’m equally impressed with the fretwork from Fernandez. He lays down some truly beautiful harmonies and leads and has the a real gift for sullen and bleak playing. His work on the last minute of “Resigned to be Lived” (ESL wipeout) is understated but captivating and similar subtle touches appear throughout the album.
Though I had absolutely no idea who these guys were when I sampled their promo, it only took a few minutes to realize they have something special going on. Remember their name and by all means check this out. I’m already excited to hear from them again and I predict good things for their future. Despite that damn album cover, Autumnal has given us a delightful album for the winter we all know is coming. Enjoy the sadness.