Autumnwind isn’t really a band; it’s a huge musical vision where its founder, Abdulrahman Abu Lail writes and plays everything. He uses this one man band as a vehicle for emotional outpouring, in his own words, as a way of “mind-describing” his own feelings through intensive music. This third album makes that theory even clearer by giving its five pieces of music titles which reflect emotive states. The results, as expected, are very heavy, though never so confrontational you’d struggle to listen or, indeed, want to shut off the feelings that Abdulrahman is keen to share.
A provocative title, ‘The Panic Attack’ might suggest we’re headed for an intensive world of black metal, or something that sounds like a wall of sound as per Devin Townsend’s early work with Strapping Young Lad, but it’s actually quite far removed from both. Using its opening to present quiet drones and a loud piano motif that’s closer to an early John Carpenter soundtrack than any metal, it quickly asserts itself as something of potential interest to fans of film scores, before ushering in a deep and doomy guitar riff. Even with something much heavier to contend with, the keyboards remain an aural lynch pin, cutting through the darkness almost spookily. Adding a bit of speed, the bass drums power the next section as Autumnwind embarks on some solid doom laden thrash, before focusing on the piano a second time to bring back the original musical motif. Somewhere between, you’ll find a cold and rather detached passage where clean guitars throw chords out into the void, seeming lost. Obviously, the contrast between the three major sections isn’t subtle in the way it reflects a troubled mind, but as opening gambit, it’s quite successful.
‘The Hallucination’ begins even more soundtrack-like, with a double-layered keyboard part presenting a descending scale and a haunting, tinkling melody simultaneously. For those who have a fondness for 70s horror movies, it will seem both familiar and unnerving all at once. Taking a third keyboard sound to replicate a mournful cello beneath a crushing doom metal riff, this number is absolutely dense in places, but also quite brilliant. A quieter passage eventually comes to break the tension, but ultimately sets up unease in a different way when cleaner guitar and keyboard sounds launch into a melodic passage that’s part ‘Stratosfear’ era Tangerine Dream and part Dario Argento soundtrack. In terms of creating a genuine atmosphere, Abdulrahman is a master. As with the previous track, the first wave of heavy melodies eventually return to fill the remainder. While the riffs are slow and threatening, they’re always interesting from a doom perspective, especially when the soundtrack-like circular keyboard riff is allowed to cut through such density. If you decide this whole album probably isn’t for you, you should at least set aside seven minutes to at least try this…
‘Lost and Alone’ shifts the keys to a more “pan-pipe moods” affair, while taking a would-be cello melody and replaying it like so it sounds like an echoing drone. It’s the one time on this disc that the atmospheric keyboard work doesn’t quite hit the mark. Luckily, from a metal standpoint, a world of double bass drums and unapologic drone guitar becomes the main focus quite quickly. It mightn’t stretch too far from ideas you’ve heard from Autumnwind thus far, but it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. The second half of this eight minute epic is much better, though, as it re-introduces the faux cello from ‘The Hallucination’ and pitches it against a heavy slow drum, creating something that sounds almost funereal and Viking-esque before settling upon some deep instrumental black metal grooves. While, overall, this isn’t necessarily a tune you’ll reach for very often, the best bits are very well orchestrated, eventually sounding like something from a Howling Void LP.
After such densities, it’s a pleasure when ‘Forever Insomnia’ offers something a bit lighter, with its coming together of heavy bass drums and cleaner guitar work suggesting something more gothic in tone. While the drums dominate – taking up at least 70% of the arrangement and possessing a volume and deepness that could break speakers – it’s worth stretching your ears past the incessant rhythmic sounds and concentrating more on the other accompaniments. Keyboards add a cinematic drone, while the cleaner guitars borrow a reasonable amount of melodic charm from the likes of My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost. The only real issue is that this number eventually becomes far too repetitive…but despite that, the individual elements are all solid. Finally, after almost half an hour’s worth of despair, confusion and anger, the title track isn’t a primal scream, but four minutes’ worth of keyboards, creating a blanket of sound that’s cold and detached, but unlike ‘Winternight Poetry’ by label-mates In Tenebriz, these lack the Tangerine Dream-like trippiness that should draw you in. It’s important that this album should bow out with something more sedate in order for the listener to feel closure, of course – and the funeral bell is a nice Sabbathy touch – but overall this final tune feels a little forced.
This disc is dense and heavy, as most great doom-oriented material should be. However, the way Autumnwind so often uses clean keyboard sounds to cut through the swamp of guitars gives the material a sense of melody that doom can sometimes lack. The cinematic moments are often the album’s most interesting and while it might seem like it’s geared towards a niche audience, those seeking an extreme metal version of a low-budget horror movie soundtrack – and you know who you are – will love this.