For Dutch rock band Autumn their new album Cold Comfort was a welcome adventure and experiment whilst for the world it is an imaginative and engaging collection of songs that equally inspire, soothe, and inflame emotions. Released via Metal Blade Records the band’s fifth album is a shining result of Autumn’s focused intent to push their boundaries and explore their sound, Cold Comfort an introspective and personal release given inspiration from experiences around the previous album, the emerging album one that warms as much as it ventures into the shadows.
Musically Autumn have stayed within their solid hard rock grounding and instead approached the songwriting and the recording in a way that not only brings in more flavours such as progressive rock but has also reassessed, stretched and almost reinvented the creation of their songs. This has been done alongside Erik-Jan Dodd, Autumn’s live sound engineer since around the time of My New Time and someone who knows the band and their process almost as well as they do themselves. Guitarist Jens van der Valk has quoted “In terms of sound we realized there were still leaps to be taken out of our comfort zone and into unthought-of possibilities. As a first step in the right direction, our main focus was on a more open, transparent sound, one through which the often multi-layered nature of our songs would be optimally channelled.”
In a temporary studio loaded with the bands gear and a large collection of vintage amps and equipment Dodd and the band set about the music in a fashion that involved lifting particular aspects out of the mix that would previously have remained more ingrained into a wall of sound, and choosing strong dry or harsh sounds to paradoxically create more warmth and open clarity in the tapestry of songs very much as the album’s title implies. Jens van der Valk also commented that “On occasion it felt like tearing things out of balance in order to create balance. I must admit we were a bit apprehensive at times, but persistently maintaining course resulted in songs with a stronger and more exciting character than we’d envisioned.”
A full listen of the album proves their daring approach was inspired and a complete success, Cold Comfort a release that lifts the spirit and thrills the senses to a high degree and fashion. The album is full of variation, enterprise musically and in vocalist Marjan Welman who has fully integrated and expanded within the band since her debut for the previous Altitude album, a voice to mesmerise angels. Cold Comfort plays as a complete package and is not simply just music with wonderful vocals. The guitars of Jan and Mats van der Valk stride confidently and creatively from song to song without any sense of indulgence which with the inclusion of a stronger progressive flavour was always a danger, while the keys of Jan Munnik are impressive whether they float within the rest of the sounds or vein a song directly and with the rhythm power of bassist Jeroen Vrielink and Jan Grijpstra on drums there is always strength and firm intensity whether in the pacier tracks or atmospheric emotive ones.
It has to be said there is not a weakness across the length of the album each song bringing something varied and strong to the release from the stirring but mournful opener ‘The Scarecrow’, the touching beauty of the ballad ‘Alloy’ where Welman fully unveils her glorious voice, to the eager and graceful ‘Retrospect’, and the expressive and diverse ‘Truth Be Told (Exhale)’. Each and every track gives something special and it is easy to fall within the albums arms and focus on nothing else.
To be critical the only ‘complaint’ that can be levelled at the release is that there is a sense of familiarity to the music though it is hard to pinpoint from where. Many of the songs or certain elements within, whether a riff, a melody or chorus harmony do not hold many surprises but more are memories of something else but with an album this good really it is being almost pedantic in the face of such enjoyment. Though this recognition means the album lacks the extra sparks to become a classic Cold Comfort is easily one of the best and most rewarding rock albums of the year.