The Autumn Offering? I looked at the band name and could swear that I had seen them live at some point, but I could not put my finger on when. I went back to my list of concert reviews, because I could have sworn I saw them with Moonspell or with From Autumn to Ashes, but could not find them. Anyway, I got this with a pair of other new Victory Records releases, which provoked wildly different reactions from me. Fear Will Cast No Shadow 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 is their third, and their second on Victory (and, apparently, my first experience of the band). It is a frustrating experience that has as many good as bad moments, pushing it right to the middle and landing the album 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, and with touches of hardcore when they dip into the screaming vocal style.
Fear Will Cast No Shadow finds the band with a pair of new members: vocalist Matt McChesney, who sounds like a country singer, and drummer Allen Royal. It should be noted that Royal does not actually appear on this album. Nick Gelyon, their former drummer, left during the recording, 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 with some nice guitar riffs and solos, and strong drumming throughout. The biggest problem lies with Matt McChesney. He displays a lot of range and a willingness to use it all, but he relies heavily on a clean, tentative style with a really whiny voice that borders on annoying. The muscular riffs from the instruments would seem to call for similarly muscular vocals. Instead we get a whiny, should-be-in-an-emo-band voice that lacks the confidence to match the material.
I have no problem at all with a 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). But it doesn’t work well with this music. When McChesney switches to a 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 the weaker, clean style.
The album’s strengths lie in Matt Church and Tommy Johnson’s twin guitars and the contributions of drummers Nick Gelyon and Jon Lee. With slightly fewer stop-and-go riffs and an adequate singer, The Autumn Offering could 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 the reason the album is as decent as it is. The drumming could have come up a bit more in the mix to match the guitars, but the band has a nice crisp sound that meshes well, and production values on the whole are 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.”
Bottom line: Not a complete loss, but yet another new singer could potentially take them to the next level – McChesney’s whininess is just not cutting it. Musically, the band is good and shows the potential to be even better. Time will tell which direction they take. Right now they are on the fulcrum and could go either way.