Ask most Metal fans what their favourite melodic Death Metal albums are and you’ll get the usual assortment, “The Jester Race” by IN FLAMES, “The Gallery” by DARK TRANQUILLITY and “Slaughter Of The Soul” by AT THE GATES among others. My feelings on these albums vary, indeed, some are worthy of their place among the greats (DARK TRANQUILLITY) while others are vastly overrated (AT THE GATES, I’m looking at you) but I can guarantee you a less represented album in the melodic Death Metal scene is “As Night Conquers Day”, AUTUMN LEAVES’ second, and final release, one that really stacks up well against these already mentioned albums, and in many cases, trumps them. In fact, I would go so far as to say that compared to this, most of the melo-Death classics end up looking pretty uninspired and dull.
Well, maybe I’ve been a bit harsh there, but AUTUMN LEAVES are simply that good. Everything from the technical and blazing guitars to the blistering drumming and demonic vocals is executed flawlessly, AUTUMN LEAVES managed to make a pretty convincing scene of utter hell on earth with both the lyrics (Red glowing clouds covers the Eden sky / As the fire dries our tears) and the brutal nature of their sound. While on their initial release, “Embraced By Absolute”, strayed close to brutal Death Metal with a melodic touch, this album turns the table somewhat, now placing more emphasis on melody while retaining a brutal and unrelenting core to their music. It is helped too by the stellar production, which gives each instrument just the right amount of clarity while always keeping the forceful and crushing atmosphere.
Taking the band at the technical level, they are phenomenal. In particular, the guitarists are truly worthy of mention. Good guitarists are always pretty much essential in this genre, but AUTUMN LEAVES’ are two of my favourites. Capable of blasting out utterly overwhelming Death Metal riffs and also epic and emotional melodic leads they are more than impressive, and truly one of the highlights of the album. I haven’t even mentioned the solos yet (small hint: they are utterly breathtaking). What this band does well, is to manage to make their sound technical and accessible at the same time. Despite featuring some unbelievable riffs they still allow you as a listener to breathe, not overwhelming you at any time unlike a lot of modern acts. It also helps that the songs on this album are as tight and well-written as any in the genre.
Before I begin to imply that “As Night Conquers Day” is a technical jizzfest and egotistical, I will nod to who and what albums I am primarily comparing this to. While bands like BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME will obviously incorporate much more technicality into their music, AUTUMN LEAVES successfully bridges the gap between this kind of band and your typical Death Metal on this particular aspect. Moments of “Shadowland” and “The Discovery” are wonderfully complicated and intense, but it never seems like the guitars are technical for the sake of technical, instead it intensifies the sound the band have, and gives them yet another edge (as if they needed another) over their peers.
I feel like the vocalists execution in both his lyrics and their delivery is worthy of mention on this album, they are perfectly fitting for the atmosphere the rest of the band creates. The lyrics seem to show a fascination with falling from grace and losing your status so to speak, which is ironic, as to how easily the band’s music topples alot of their most recognised peers. Lines such as ‘And God started killing in despair / His fall from grace with an empty black stare’ and the more poetic and heartfelt 'I’ve lost my wonder to the ruler of the sky / Bloodred tears spilled for an eternity of time’ are very fitting for the music that they play. To equal the grandiose of the rest of the band, the vocalist has to both put emotion and aggression into his delivery; he succeeds on both counts. His vocals are a slightly raspy low pitch scream which can easily transform into a growl at a whim. They suit the aggression which simply pours from the rest of the instruments very well, and his voice is also one of the more unique ones amongst the crowd. While his vocal performance is one-dimensional, like a lot of other great vocalists there is simply no need for anything else other than his growl.
The two tracks that are best show off the bands potential are the two final songs, “Shadowland” and “The Discovery”, both incredibly intense tracks for different reasons. The former is a technical and dominating manifestation of everything the band stands for, the vocalist lets some of his most crushing growls out, the riffs are astounding, the drumming is blistering and the overall song is just a roller-coaster ride from start to finish. "The Discovery" is a less aggressive affair, coming in at nearly eight minutes it is the longest song on the album, it also comes off as a lot more personal, with the lyrics declaring ‘I was created / To walk the soil of the earth / And I will wander / Until the night has swallowed the sun / Then I will enter / A dimension beyond humanity’. With melodies that are out of this world and a truly awe-inspiring atmosphere, it closes the album off in a way that no other song would have, and comes off as a truly inspired bit of song placement.
What makes the “As Night Conquers Day” such an inspiring listen is the reason why albums like “The Jester Race” were so popular, everything is done to perfection and it is an absolutely perfect showcase of the genre. Technical, intense, wonderfully written and tastefully melodic, “As Night Conquers Day” is an essential album in this genre. Melodic Death Metal has a lot of overlooked gems; this is one of the very best.
(Online August 1, 2008)