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"The blue deep thou wingest" - 88%

Antioch, March 18th, 2012

Fronted by a new singer, Autumn unleashed their fourth studio album, which they regarded as "a logical progression" from its predecessor. Personally, I cannot tell for sure whether Altitude was a progression from My New Time or a complete transformation of the band’s sound, but I am quite convinced the move was not a logical one. Nobody – not even the most avid or optimistic of fans – could have possibly foreseen the heights Autumn attained in Altitude. If truth be told, I had never expected much of Autumn, nor had I thought the day would ever come when I would survive a single listen to an entire Autumn record without getting bored, let alone have it played nonstop for hours on end. Therefore, I have to admit I had overlooked Autumn’s potential and had doubted their musical vision which had seemed to be drifting into more pop grounds; however, Altitude proved me, as it did myriads of other sceptics, confessedly wrong.

Autumn have advanced considerably throughout their career, especially in the song-writing department: the music on Altitude is better-thought-of and much richer than anything they had ever done. Yet, despite their diversity and the various elements incorporated into each, the songs have an incredibly smooth flow, which makes Altitude an endlessly enchanting listen. Autumn feel at ease playing the heavier up-tempo songs as well as the softer slower ones without affecting the uniformity of the album even when such opposites are played in succession as are “Sulphur Rodents” and “Horizon Line”. Moreover, Marjan’s voice does not falter as it straddles such dividing lines: it neither sinks underneath the other instruments during stormy weather nor fails to float peacefully when the calm comes afterwards. It has certain warmth which Nienke’s voice lacked – that’s why Autumn sounds more genial than before, particularly to those who found Nienke’s voice quite cold and uninviting.

Stylistically, comparisons can be made between Altitude and The Gathering’s Home, especially when Autumn's music is at its serenest, as in the title track, “A Minor Dance” and "Synchro-Minds", which is the most atmospheric of all three. Autumn are, nevertheless, groovier and less atmospheric in nature, which gives their sound an identity different to that of their legendary natives. "We set out to write music that captures our hearts or imagination, not necessarily songs that fit a typical format," Jens van der Valk, the band’s guitarist, states. Accordingly, it is actually harsh to classify Altitude as gothic metal since the range of influences Autumn bring to the table is evidently broad. The Camel-influenced tunes, for example, are masterfully employed in songs like “Horizon Line”, as are the prog rock elements, which endow this record with such a peculiar elegance. Thus, Altitude is definitely not a mediocre release whose scope is narrowed down to the basics of a genre.

All in all, Altitude marked a radical step forward – or upward as it were – and demonstrated the development the band’s sound had undergone. On the one hand, the music is lavish, opulent and multi-dimensional; on the other hand, the band’s imagination is proven fertile: their vision transcendental. Thus, the songs are more than just an employment of random elements and influences; they are an evolvement of those elements into a unique sound that is Autumn’s own. Hence, it is worthy to note that the fundamental change in Autumn’s music on Altitude is not solely "one of voice", yet one that has to do with their sound altogether—even though Marjan’s voice was the trigger the band pulled to fire eleven of their most musically-shattering bullets thitherto.

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Originally written for http://www.metal-observer.com