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AutumnTears - Promotional Sampler Compilation (Dark Symphonies)

    I had high hopes for this CD from its label alone - as many probably 
know, Dark Symphonies put out the recent Maudlin of the Well albums, among 
the best experimental extreme metal albums ever. However, don't expect 
extreme metal from AutumnTears, as the CD describes it, they play a "unique 
brand of dark, orchestral and dramatic music, incorporating somber, 
neoclassical symphonies with enchanting vocals, foreboding poetry, duets, and 
medieval melodies. Influences range from chant and classical music to Enya, 
Stoa and earlier Dead Can Dance." This CD is a compilation of songs from 
their 4 releases on Dark Symphonies.

    In other words, this is an exclusively minor-key kind of New Age music 
with Goth overtones, especially in the lyrics. As the self-description above 
surely attests, this band is incredibly, incredibly pretentious (each of 
their CDs is labeled as an "Act"), but isn't that really the point of a lot 
of goth-oriented music? As easy as it would be to rip into this CD, I have to 
admit it is pretty good for it's genre.

    The band is heavy on female vocals and synthesizers (actually that and 
male vocals is all it consists of), which has it's plusses and minuses. The 
female vocals are truly beautiful and the male vocals effective in their 
supporting roles, but the synthesized strings (and, to a lesser extent piano 
and percussion) are annoyingly fake much of the time. Again, it's standard 
for the genre I suppose (though I think Elend somehow transcend that). I like 
it better when they use sounds that aren't imitations of classical 
instruments (like the one eerie burst of sound in "A Dreaming Kiss"). Lyrics 
are often in English with some French (I think) here and there, but except 
for some spoken word it's easy to ignore the actual words, which is probably 
a good thing for me.

    My other criticism is that so many bands like this strive for the 
ultimate in "dark mystical gothic romanticism," but still feel obliged to 
stay in straightforward minor keys - I find Gregorian chant, Machaut's 
motets, Schoenburg's hyper-romantic period, etc. much more intense in the 
previous aspects because of the absence of a clear tonal center. Perhaps the 
band is exploring this, since some of the tracks from "Act 3" seem more 
tonally and timbrally experimental (I especially like the a cappella "The 
Passion and the Fury").

    All of this said, there are many moments of powerfully intense minor-key 
beauty on this CD. There are few things more emotional than two female vocals 
lines frantically weaving around each other at a frenzied climax.
    In conclusion, this seems to be a good CD containing much of what is both 
good and bad about the goth-classical genre (oh yeah, there is one 
embarrassingly bad goth-dance track, "The Dance," which I hope is the group's 
last foray into synthesized drum loops). Here's hoping they make an a 
cappella, more adventurous album eventually. ~ Adam Murphree 





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