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Best Danish death metal album ever? “Embraced by the Absolute”! Best demo? Most likely the awesome “Hope Springs Eternal”! Yes, both are from the little underrated and forgotten band called Autumn Leaves and damn… what a good stuff this band recorded back in the old days! Surely their sound was very, very close to the Swedish melodic death metal scene, with bands like At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity, In Flames or Finnish Sentenced… but we can only compare them to the early recordings of those bands, when they were not that commercial crap they turned into after the demos or debut albums. “Embraced by the Absolute” is not so easy to find, but I am happy that Ancient Darkness released it on vinyl! And did killer job here, unleashing a double LP set housed in the gatefold cover (with the band’s demo “Hope Springs Eternal” on side C and etching on side D) and adding a nice booklet with the detailed history of the band, written by band members plus a lot of old photographs, scans of gig posters, reviews, old interviews… and limited number of vinyls even had a cassette with the demo. Fuck, what a killer set! Absolutely recommended to all collectors!
I started to listen to this vinyl with LP number two, which contains the demo material. “Hope Springs Eternal” is such an excellent demo! For me it’s actually better than all EPs and demos, which the Swedish well known bands I mentioned above have released. Yes, I am serious. It just sounds better, in my opinion. Not only the production of “Hope Springs Eternal” is simply very good, but also the songs are perfectly balanced between the aggressive and melodic, harmonious death metal. All demo songs later appeared also on the album, so I won’t be writing much more about the demo, only that it is simply killer and such a great listen and these versions are just better! So good that it’s now on vinyl! There’s also one bonus song, which is “Forever the Destiny” in way harsher version, previously released on a compilation. Not as good as the actual demo, but good addition anyway to complete the release.
And now LP one with the killer “Embraced by the Absolute”. I dare to say that this underrated album should be considered as a classic melodic death metal of the same weight as such “The Red in the Sky is Ours”, “Lunar Strain”, “Skydancer” or “A Velvet Creation”. For me it is actually better than such “Skydancer”, but why it never has been considered as similarly important classic LP is simple - “Embraced by the Absolute” was released in 1997, so slightly too late, I am afraid. At that time the bands I mentioned, except maybe Eucharist, were so much ahead, getting more and more popularity and also becoming more accessible and commercial. When compared to such “The Jester Race”, “Embraced by the Absolute” sounds just so harsher and more aggressive I think. Which is probably another reason why Autumn Leaves did not get the deserved recognition. I must be honest here though and admit one thing – I actually prefer “Hope Springs Eternal” demo over this album haha! Why? Well, firstly, I like the production of the demo more! And secondly, I have sometimes difficulties to stay focused when I listen to long melodic death metal albums. I just must be in a mood for them, otherwise they become boring for me and this is why maybe I prefer shorter recordings, where that dose of technical and melodic riffs with many tempo changes, breaks, etc is smaller haha! Besides, “Hope Springs Eternal” just sounds so damn fantastic! Just compare the best song “On the Verge of Tears” from both recordings! I really prefer the one from the demo… But saying that, I surely don’t mean that “Embraced by the Absolute” is a bad album. No way, it’s still a very strong release and surely one of my favourite melodic death metal albums.
All in all “Embraced by the Absolute” brings ten songs with almost fifty minutes of music. Four of these songs have been taken from the demo and then re-arranged and re-recorded, while six were brand new. The demo songs are great, especially that memorable and catchy “On the Verge of Tears” and “Forever the Destiny”, but also “Weakening Trip” with some very obvious Paradise Lost references. As for the newer tracks, I like “Blood” for example for being Autumn Leaves’ one of the most aggressive song, with hardly any signs of that melancholic, melodic playing, which you’ll encounter later on the album. It actually reminds me such bands like Grave! Yes, what a bloodshed! It’s definitely something what you would not expect from a melodic death metal band, because it just sounds too brutal for them! But this is also the reason why I like Autumn Leaves so much! Also such “Serpent” is similarly heavy and brutal song; one, which should crush most of In Flames albums into dust! Raw, aggressive death metal with killer, memorable riffs and small harmonious touch. And there are more such fragments on the album (“The Surface Anger” for example) – similarly technical, aggressive and melodic to the early At the Gates, but no so weird and easier to listen to. And some other worthy and standing out tracks would be “Universal Flood” and also “On the Verge of Tears”.
Summing it all then, “Embraced by the Absolute” is a very good album! I really like the whole packaging, this is how I like to see old albums and demos released on vinyl. And the music, despite being so underrated and kind of forgotten I think, is just really damn good as well; even to someone who’s usually not so much into more melodic death metal bands. So, I recommend Autumn Leaves totally. And what else can I add? Only that it’s maybe also a good opportunity to release “As Night Conquers Day” on LP as well? Hahaha!
Final rate: 85/100
This is Autumn Leaves' debut album, a hard-to-find death metal disc from the heart of Denmark. "Embraced by the Absolute" is composed of traditional, midpaced Scandinavian death metal mixed with modern, groove-tinged Gothenburg-style structures. While some of the songs blend both styles together, most of them tend to lean only towards one of these techniques and stick with it until the end. The debut album from At the Gates followed a similar formula, where a number of the tracks were predominantly melodic in nature while others were more standard, aggressive death metal assaults. Autumn Leaves aren't quite as technical as At the Gates, but the genuine aggression and emotion is definitely there.
The dividing line between the styles can be heard straight from the beginning. The album opens with the monstrous riff tempest of "Bleed" with virtually no elements of melodic death metal. It's a straight-up assault of heavy Euro-death with a modern touch. The following track, "Forever the Destiny", is completely the opposite - made up of fordable Gothenburg riffing and epic, intertwined guitar harmonies. The atmosphere of the album continually shifts between that of aggression and melancholy, and because of this disjointed formula it's difficult to listen to it in its entirety in one sitting.
The frequent use of trendy, start-stop groove metal riffs does little to help the disc's appeal. Songs like "The Surface Anger" are especially guilty of this technique, but these riffs are widespread throughout the album. Fortunately, the bulk of each non-melodic song is consistently heavy death metal. The songs often start out boring and uninspired, but they always seem to pick up towards the middle and amount to a healthy dose of headbanging. "Universal Flood" is a great example of this. The downside is that the songs don't flow very well due to these inconsistencies in structure. "Bleed" and "Weakening Trip" are among the few compositions that do flow seamlessly from beginning to end. The latter track is a beautiful, slow-tempo piece with some surprisingly progressive guitarwork towards the middle.
The production is about average for a death metal CD released in the late 1990's. The guitars are tuned to a heavy Swedish tone and sit well in the mix along with the murmuring bass. The drums are a bit hollow, especially the kick drum which sounds too similar to the snare. The drummer mostly uses simple thrash beats that alternate between the high-hat and ride cymbal. Occasionally, he'll go into a half-blast and display some double bass work during fills. The vocals are solid but typical death metal growls. During parts of the first song, there are some computer-generated hardcore backing vocals that sound like complete shit. It's just another one of those modern touches that didn't work out very well for the band.
"Embraced..." is a good CD that could have been a lot better. The potential is definitely there, but the excessive modern elements and inconsistencies in ideas do not make it an essential purchase.