|Album Title: Embrace the Gutter|
|Artist: The Autumn Offering|
|Label: Victory Records|
|Primary: Melodic Death|
|Production: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● (90%)|
|Songwriting: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● (90%)|
|Muscicianship: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● (100%)|
Comment: "Proving why this era is the renaissance of metal."
+: Chunky riffing, tasteful breakdowns, guitar virtuosity
-: Spasre blast beats, typical death vocals, too short
To put it simply, this album is everything that is right with the American Metal scene right now. In the wake of the late 90s/early 2K's influx of rap/nü-metal, it seems that a swathe of European-influenced young musicians have to decided how to learn to play their instruments again in a movement many have dubbed "The New Wave of American Heavy Metal". I had originally seen this band/album advertised on Headbanger's Ball in a video for the title track, seeing phrases like "This is real metal" flashed across the screen. Having not been able to find it through "other means", I decided to go out completely blind and pick up the album based on what I had heard on that commercial.
Boy, they were right.
This is real metal. Okay, so you power metal fans might disagree with me on that. The album is actually a very tasteful hybrid of melodic death metal and metalcore (ala Shadows Fall, God Forbid, etc.)with guitar prowess reminiscent of the aforementioned power metal genre. But in my opinion, this album epitomizes the current, razor wire, balls out, bleeding edge of modern metal music. Like Metallica and Megadeth in the 80s and Pantera in the 90s, Embrace the Gutter is both aggressive and melodic, riffy but ear-friendly enough to those who don't like hardcore.
So let me get this out of the way up front: you're not going to like this album if you can't stand harsh vocals. However, as guttural vocals go, these particular ones are mixed far enough back and done with enough style that when compared to the excellent musicianship, they are rather bearable.
Getting that out of the way, everything else on the record is done extremely well. Not to keep heaping accolades on this band, but on my first listen to this album, I initially thought "this is the second coming of In Flames" . The guitars are quite obviously styled after the Scandinavian "Gothenburg"/melodic death metal sound pioneered by In Flames and Dark Tranquillity. Luckily, the annoying (in my opinion) tremolo picking employed by many bands of the prior mentioned genre is heard very little. However, while the guitarists show these roots, there are still enough metalcore influences to give The Autumn Offering a distinctly American sound, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Yes, there are breakdowns to be heard, but they are done more subtly and tastefully than most and interwoven through incredibly catchy and melodic leads.
And don't think that this band is all about crunchy, mindless mosh riffs, either. There are quite a few clean and acoustic sections. Take for example the instrumental psuedo-ballad, The Final Cut. The song starts with an eerie vibrating classical piano, coming in with a trudging riff and dragging double bass and then fading into an interlude with a light piano and clean guitar melody, almost sounding like a child's bedtime song. Or what about the classical acoustic guitar break at the tale end of One Last Thrill (starting at 2:51)?
As is the case with most bands in the metal genre, it's hard to really comment about the drummer, and even less about the bassist. To my ears, the bass is pretty much inaudible, as it is most likely miming the rhythm guitar parts or syncopating with the double bass of the drums. But is it usually ever any different in if riff-heavy music anyway? I can say, however, that while the drums didn't particularly stick out at me as being innovative, the drummer seems quite talented and the production of the drums is "solid" feeling, not tinny sounding, and adds a perfect background to the crunchy hooks of the rhythm guitar. Unlike most extreme metal drums, the drums on this album serve more to keep the momentum and provide traction with the guitars, rather than be all at blast-beat fests.
The Autumn Offering is by no means a one trick pony and quite possibly one of the most talented bands in the genre. They rise above the pack by not rehashing the typical song styling and structure of more generic bands. Having not had heard of the band before this release, The Autumn Offering now ranks among the modern American metal elite (along with Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage, God Forbid, and to a lesser extent, Unearth and Trivium) in my book. For fans who like their metal to have balls but not be mindless down-tuned shit, pick up Emrbace the Gutter.