OCTOBER ALBUM OF THE MONTH
Something different for October. The last few months have seen a run of really fine albums released and, when things get busy, the releases that grab the headlines are often the ones backed by label muscle or big fan clubs.
For this month, I’ve resolved to dig a bit deeper and back the output of a band that doesn’t necessarily have the marketing firepower – but has produced an album that is worthy of attention.
The Autumn Killers might be partial to a bit of marmite on toast. I have a feeling that rockers will either love or dislike this album, but the band demonstrates a boldness and a bravery that I admire. The inclusion of keyboards and electronica will have some ardent rockers running for the hills, but it’s important not to miss the point that, with this album, The Autumn Killers are leaving behind safety and formulas – instead, they are starting the journey to evolve a new sound. At a time when the focus for rock has to be on broadening the audience, this is exactly what we need to see more bands doing.
For ‘Darkside,’ we have a showcase of eclecticism as the band members draw on the universe of musical influences that have inspired them. They’ve put all these influences in a pot and, you know what, there’s a musical truth to doing that. I remember meeting the boys at Wildfire Festival and they were excited about what they had created. The conversation wasn’t about having a week in the charts, or climbing ‘the staircase of success’ (whatever that is). No, it was about something more real and meaningful – the boys making music they believed it. With ‘Darkside’, there is excitement with experimentation, trying new things and confidently trashing the notion of neat genre silos. In terms of music identity, this is the start of a new journey for the Autumn Killers rather than a destination but, already, with this bold first step they have made their previous music feel like it’s from another age, another band. Yes, ‘Darkside’ marks the arrival of a new band.
As The Autumn Killers would probably admit themselves, they’re no teenage pin-up poster boys. Like other bands we follow – such as Cloverhill, Copperworm and Sons of Liberty – The Autumn Killers are a more mature band. The important thing in the grassroots rock scene today is that everyone is entitled to have their kick of the ball – a chance to live their dream and experience the journey of creating, releasing and touring. This album is the band making the music they believe in and doing so on their own terms. It is different to a lot of the rock albums released this month but there is value in them bringing something different to the party.
For me, this album marks a moment in time. Artistically and lyrically, there are references to the dark lockdown era. The album arrival also concludes a period of close connection with ‘the rock caravan’ during Covid. The band always did sets for our radio festivals, always put their hands up for the various themed series we ran. They focused on writing and crafting music when they were stuck indoors, they were always free to join on a Zoom call and – to this day – they often jump on socials on a Friday to say ‘hi’ to rock show listeners. They asked for feedback on songs they were writing and they have given us premieres of three fine songs from the album – and each has had a big reaction. This album is a culmination of 18 months of real engagement and proactivity – it’s not a press release landing on release week. The band have taken us on their journey, and they have stayed in listener’s lives through the lockdown era. The album that follows puts an important marker in the ground, as we all remember the challenging year of Covid and how music and positive human togetherness has helped us all to get through.
Last Christmas, the band released their cover of ‘The Power of Love’ which, looking back, was a hint of things to come. The Autumn Killers were embracing the mainstream, their nostalgia for 80s synth classics and a focus on songs that stood out as ear-worms. Following the Christmas single, this year the band has given us three songs to premiere from the new album. ‘One of 5’ was a big hit – different, modern, uncompromising – and listeners kept it on the playlist for a six-week run. ‘Numbers,’ a standout from the band’s Wildfire set, also went down well and, most recently, ‘Do You Want It’ brought the party. Listener requests rather than promoted social posts tell you a lot more about true impact – and all these songs have won hearts and minds from people, many of whom know little if anything about the band. The new album builds on these three tracks, which alone are enough to warrant adding this CD to your collection.
Set against the “triffic trio” above, ‘Rise’ probably wouldn’t have been my choice for album opener but the song somehow resonates with our re-emergence from enforced lockdown. Electronica dominates the setting of the song, which speaks for both the past and the present: 80s synth nostalgia mixed with a bite and narrative that is very contemporary as we rebuild and recover.
Next, we are into the now infamous trio of tracks mentioned above, enough of a convincer to encourage anyone give this album a chance.
‘Spin the Wheels’ offers good lyrical narrative and, once again, a strong vocal performance. And despite the electronica backdrop, the guitar solo and drums dominate the song. I felt a bit of a Then Jericho moment (or ‘Once Upon A Time’-era Simple Minds) with this song and there’s nothing wrong with that. A standout track from the album.
‘Let it Out’ delivers another powerful vocal, and is yet another earworm, chorus lines you’ll probably end up singing along to in the car. There’s half a dozen of these on the album. Like it, dislike it – either way, you’ll remember the songs.
‘Mother of the Monkeys’ has a bit of an 80’s Genesis keys party mixed with punchy classic rock chorus lines, all wrapped into one song. Another song that goes off in its own defined direction; no wasteful detours, it’ll pull you in.
There’s a gear change into a lighter mood with ‘Social Animals,’ which I’d class as a Sunday afternoon melodic saunter. This one could easily be remixed to be electronica dance club track. More ambient, but it works.
‘Stand Up’ is eclectic; it’s got a bit of everything in it but the pervading mood is empowering. Following ‘Steal my Sunlight,’ the track ‘On the Outside’ hits you with something leftfield. Truck rockers may need sedatives or a lie down to avoid hyperventilation, but this song evokes the band wanting to play with different styles and textures. It’s experimental, but that’s just fine.
And we finish with a rave – and why not! ‘Darkside’ rocks, dances and raves in less than four minutes. Unapologetic from start to finish, the song doesn’t fit in a neat box but it works and is a song that captures all the colours and styles that shape this album. It has a single-mindedness and urgency that ensures the album finishes on a cohesive, charging high.
My only quibble with this album is that it’s possibly a tad too long; by track nine it was all beginning to get a bit familiar. A shorter collection of 10 songs would have possibly packed a bigger punch and kept the surprise. And whilst the electronica flourishes give the album a clear point of difference, the album may have benefitted from the inclusion of one pureplay three-piece rocker or a piano ballad, along the lines of their Christmas single. Leaving the electronica in the pantry with Mrs Robinson’s cupcakes just for a track or two may have added something to the overall sense of range that this evocative album delivers.
Overall, it’s the bravery of this album that impresses. In the sea of album and EP releases every month, there are lots of releases where you sense the artists are going for a market with their sound. There are also some albums where – deep down – you know what the music will sound like before you play it. Big credit to The Autumn Killers for forging ahead with an album that will surprise you. It is a marmite album – and this is brave in a rock scene where many have traditional tastes. But the future of rock requires people to push boundaries, to question conventions and to experiment. The Autumn Killers could have played safe – but it’s to their enduring credit that they did not. And for that reason, this album deserves its moment in the sun.
‘Darkside’ is released 24 September
Order a copy from http://theautumnkillers.uk/products-category/all-things-darkside/
The band are touring the new album this autumn: Tour dates at http://theautumnkillers.uk
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