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Lacking consistency - 77%

Drowned, May 22nd, 2006

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.