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Metal Blade (2009)
Rating: 7/10

Dutch “heavy rock collective” Autumn return to worldwide audiences with their latest album, Altitude. The album follows the critically acclaimed My New Time (2007) as well as the departure of vocalist Nienke de Jong.

Faced with many hard decisions, Autumn recruited new vocalist Marjan Welman, who recently appeared on Ayreon’s 01011001 (2008) album as a guest vocalist. Welman goes beyond expectations here, which has to be giving the band a heavy dose of encouragement. The band sound tight and Welman’s voice is a surprisingly perfect fit to lead them down new paths.

What I love most about this album is that you know this is something special the minute you first hear it. Much like similar bands such as Theatre of Tragedy, Lacuna Coil and Epica, Autumn has that “X” factor that most bands lack. While the sound is certainly most similar to Lacuna Coil, Autumn is even more accessible sounding, clearly carving themselves an imaginative path to the mainstream.

The best example of this is ‘Skydancer’, one of the catchiest heavy songs… probably ever. As Welman uplifts with her lyrics and vocals, the band lays waste to the music end, creating a crushing sound that is worthy of any expensive sound system. ‘Paradise Nox’ and ‘Horizon Line’ are similar works of beautiful fury. The latter offers an excellent downward spiraling break mid-song that practically reinvents the song, creating a pivotal moment on the album.

Far from a one trick pony though, Autumn turn the tides on a number of occasions. The ballad ‘Synchro-Minds’ is as beautiful as it is atmospheric. Welman takes a back seat to the band on this one. While her voice leads it, it’s the guitar and piano that provide the enrapturing flow. The faster moving ‘Sulphur Rodents’ is another interesting moment. Laced with electronics and rapid paced rhythms, the song keeps you guessing at every turn, never staying in one place long enough to become predictable. Even the more straightforward ‘Cascade (For A Day)’ is inventive while maintaining the signature heavy hooks.

Altitude is the sound of Autumn really going for it. When you listen to this album you get the sense that this is a make or break moment for the band. Time will reveal whether it makes or breaks them, but I am thoroughly impressed with this effort. It doesn’t sound like everyone else and will likely appeal just as much to fans of darker-oriented pop music as fans of the goth rock market. If you enjoy Lacuna Coil, Sirenia, or mid-career The Gathering, then this is certainly work checking out. If you have a great sounding stereo system, I’d pick this up as well and let it surround you wholly. You won’t be disappointed.

Mark Fisher

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