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Crown of Autumn - Byzantine Horizons Award winner

Crown of Autumn
Byzantine Horizons
by Santiago Puyol at 09 May 2019, 7:06 AM

I find it intriguing when bands manage to fuse elements from separate genres and make them feel as part of a whole without falling into gimmicky territory or feeling forced. CROWN OF AUTUMN manages to do that throughout most of “Byzantine Horizons”, putting together elements of Melodic Death Metal, Folk, Electronica, Darkwave and even Alternative Rock in a way that feels organic. It should be noticed that despite this being their third album overall, this Italian band was formed all the way back in 1996, having over two decades of existence. Even with some line-up changes, it’s clear there’s a history here, especially noticeable on the excellent songwriting capabilities.

Album opener “A Mosaic Within” get things going with a gentle folky intro that gets rapidly swallowed by harsh vocals and heavy riffing. Things turn dramatic and theatrical quite easily, and the music adeptly gives that vibe. The interplay between male and female vocals has an almost histrionic quality, more so having two male vocalists, one for harsh vocals and one for melodic singing. An atmospheric breakdown around two-and-a-half minutes gives way to a solemn spoken word passage. The tone of the record laying in plain sight as the first track fades away. “Dhul-Qarnayn” follows in with RADIOHEAD-esque guitar patterns —it really brought “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” to my mind— and more folk textures, punctuated by beautiful cello lines. This song is also a great example of the mixture of programmed beats and live drums the band does. “Cyclopean” is another great example of this, albeit in a more 80’s inspired way, with major THIS MORTAL COIL vibe.

“Scepter and Soil” turns out to be on the heavier side despite its lovely OPETH-like soft chorus, anchored in acoustic guitar and melodic bass lines, while “Lo Sposo Dell’Orizzonte” feels vaguely DEAD CAN DANCE-inspired. The beautiful Italian singing on the latter breathes fresh air to the album, as does the presence of the synthesizers and programmed percussion. The layering of Milena Saracino’s vocals is hypnotic and provides an amazing counterpoint to half-spoken lines by Gianluigi Girardi (assuming it’s him). Heavy riffing and blast beats make for an intense change of pace. “Everything Evokes” manages to be the heaviest and weirdest track on the whole album. Mattia Stancioiu provides some creative drumming throughout the song, but the most impressive moment has to be the ENIGMA-esque atmospheric breakdown around the three-minute mark. The electronic percussion and usage of choir lends an almost soundtrack-like feeling to that section.

Another surprise comes from the Hard Rock inspired “Whores for Eleusis”. A funky bass line, some 90’s rock vibes and a nasty lead guitar provide one of the catchiest and most memorable moments of the record. That chorus gets stuck on your head even if you don’t want it to. Meanwhile “Lorica” and “Wall of Stone, Tapestries of Light” provide the proggiest moments on the album, the former shifting lines in different languages as well as time signatures, while the latter features some intricate, jazzy drumming. “Roman Diary” puts everything that came before over the table, alternating between folky sections, heavy verses and an Alternative Rock inspired middle-section, being a great second-to-last track, before closer “Our Withering Will” end things with a creepy coda of reversed vocals. CROWN OF AUTUMN certainly succeed in building a hypnotic and enigmatic atmosphere in “Byzantine Horizons” while still making an enjoyable and at times even catchy album. Production is superb and brings the music to life.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. A Mosaic Within
2. Dhul-Qarnayn
3. Scepter and Soil
4. Cyclopean
5. Lo Sposo Dell’Orizzonte
6. Everything Evokes
7. Wall of Stone, Tapestries of Light
8. Whores for Eleusis
9. Lorica
10. Roman Diary
11. Our Withering Will
Lineup:
Gianluigi Girardi – Melodic Vocals
Emanuele Rastelli – Guitar, Bass, Keyboards and Vocals
Mattia Stancioiu – Drums and Programming
Milena Saracino – Female Vocals
Record Label: My Kingdom Music
     


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