January 4, 2008

CD Review: The Autumn Offering - Fear Will Cast No Shadow

The Autumn Offering? I looked at the band name and could swear that I had seen them live at some point, butI could not quite put my finger on when. I went back to my list of concert reviews, and nope, could not find them. I guess I didn't see them. I could have sworn I saw them with Moonspell or with From Autumn to Ashes, guess not. Anyway, I got this with a pair of other new Victory Records releases, which provided wildly different reactions from me. Fear Will Cast No Shaodow is here to put everything into perspective, effectively splitting the difference between the latest releases from Nights Like These and Arise and Ruin.

This new one from The Autumn Offering, their third and second on Victory (and seemingly my first experience), is a frustrating experience that has as many good as bad moments, moments which push the experience right to the middle. This album lands at the convergence of potential and annoyance. The Autumn Offering bill themselves as a thrash band, and while they are definitely metal I do not find them to be a thrash band (for that you may want to check out something like the latest from Overkill). They are more of a metal band with metalcore leanings with touches of hardcore when they dip into the screaming vocal style.

Fear Will Cast No Shadow finds the band returning to the scene with a pair of new members, drummer Allen Royal and vocalist Matt McChesney (sounds like a country singer). It should be noted that Allen does not actually appear on this album. Nick Gelyon, their former drummer left during the recording of the album and the remainder of the songs were tracked by a friend of the band named Jon Lee, with Allen Royal becoming the permanent replacement who will be touring with the band.

Musically speaking, this is a strong album, not great or revolutionary by any stretch, but there are some nice guitar riffs and solos and strong drumming to be found throughout. The biggest problem lies with Matt McChesney. He displays a lot of range and a willingness to use it all throughout the album, but he relies heavily on a clean style that reveals a really whiny voice that borders on annoying. While the instruments deliver muscular riffs the indication would seem to call for similarly muscular vocals. Instead we get this whiny, should-be-in-an-emo band voice that does not have the confidence of the material. It is a tentative style that is downright annoying. I have no problem at all with the clean vocal style, I cut my early music teeth on the clean style of 80's era hair bands before my palette began to expand, and there were some damn good singers in those days (no matter how lame much of the lyrics were). When he switches to the growling/screaming style he sounds considerably better. However, it is too little too late to save his overall performance, especially considering how much he relies on that clean style.

The album's strengths lie with the combination of Matt Church and Tommy Johnson's twin guitars and drummer Nick Gelyon/Jon Lee's contributions. With a touch less stop and go riffs and getting an adequate singer and The Autumn Offering could actually be a decent thrash band. The pieces are there, but the formula needs to be tweaked. Church and Johnson deliver some really good riffs and solos and keep everything on track. They are truly the reason that the album is as decent as it is. The drumming is good, though I think they could have come up a bit more to lead the songs in a more equal fashion with the guitars. They have a nice crisp sound that meshes well. Production value on the whole is pretty strong.

Songs to focus on: "Crown Yourself a King, Kill Yourself a Queen," "Silence and Goodbye," "March of the Clones," and "Fear Will Cast No Shadow."

Bottomline. Not a complete loss, but yet another new singer could potentially take them to that next level. The whines of McChesney are just not cutting it. Musically, the band is good and displays the potential of being even better. Time will tell which direction they take. Right now they are on the fulcrum and could go either way.

Mildly Recommended.


Unknown said...

Just so you know its Tommy Church and Matt Johnson, not Tommy Johnson and Matt Church - just wanted to give you the heads up, although the boys thought it was amusing.

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