Marjan Welman: Vocals
Mats van der Valk: Guitars, Backing Vocals
Jan Munnik: Piano, Synths, Samples
Jens van der Valk: Guitars, Backing Vocals
Jeroen Vrielink: Bass
Jan Grijpstra: Drums
Dutch heavy rock collective Autumn make a return to the front line this November with their new album, Cold Comfort. This is the band’s fifth full-length effort, their third for Metal Blade Records. It offers a collection of striking songs blended into a diverse and yet surprisingly compact album, one that Autumn considers to be their most personal and meaningful to date. With a strong and solid lineup, the band thrives on the wealth of experiences drawn from recording and touring during the campaign for the previous album, Altitude. It inspired the six musicians to focus on further enriching and expanding both their songwriting and sound for Cold Comfort.
While Autumn’s roots remain firmly planted in heavy rock/guitar-oriented soil, their branches are stretching out to more progressive musical genres and alternative approaches to the sound of individual songs. Guitarist Jens van der Valk elaborates: "In terms of sound we realized there were still leaps to be taken out of our comfort zone and into unthought-of possibilities. As a first step in the right direction, our main focus was on a more open, transparent sound, one through which the often multi-layered nature of our songs would be optimally channeled."
Autumn needed not look far for a man to put at the helm with the right pioneering philosophy for the band to begin taking leaps: Erik-Jan Dodd, Autumn’s live sound engineer since the My New Time era, envisioned a more vintage approach for Cold Comfort. An experiment the band was all too eager to embrace, explains guitarist Mats van der Valk. "If there’s anyone who knows what we’re all about and more importantly: what we could potentially be all about, it’s E-J."
D&T Audioproductions (run by Dodd and Cees Thomassen in the bowels of Tilburg’s renowned 013 club) was temporarily turned into a home for a large collection of vintage amps and equipment, as well as the band’s tried and tested gear. The producer duo set about doing things in a genre-a-typical fashion, lifting particular highlights out of the mix that would conventionally remain more embedded in a wall of sound, and opting for very dry or harsh sounds to paradoxically create more warmth and openness in the sound palette of some songs. Jens adds: "On occasion it felt like tearing things out of balance in order to create balance. I must admit we were a bit apprehensive at times, but persistently maintaining course resulted in songs with a stronger and more exciting character than we’d envisioned."
Working in an environment promoting creativity and thinking outside the box also paved the way for a bolder approach to recording the music itself: one where striving for perfection took a step back in favor of pure, raw emotion and impact. Mats adds on the process this time around, "In past recordings, we’d often run through a song until every note was as well-executed as possible, often discarding takes with a lot more emotion or groove than the ones that made the albums, but with little glitches in playing or singing we couldn’t live with at the time. Recording Cold Comfort, we finally felt so, well, comfortable that if a take had the right power and feel, it would be a keeper, regardless of the way it was played." Some final takes on the album are, in fact, the initial rough sketches, played on rusty old strings and the drums were recorded with one of the cymbals cracked but sounding just ‘right’ in the mix.
Singer Marjan Welman was given an even more pivotal role for Cold Comfort than for its predecessor. Shewas at the heart of the creation of many of the songs. Mats recalls: "Marjan’s phenomenal hearing, commitment and ability to practically copy great take after great take was amazing to witness and very inspiring. We always knew she would make a huge step forward compared to "Altitude", since she had only been in the band for a short time before that album was recorded. But we never expected her to thrive quite like she did!" It’s Welman’s vocal finesses that emphasize the unique character of each individual song, while at the same time the warmth and ease of her voice act to blend all these different characters into one powerful album.
A curious contrast emerges when the lyrics for Cold Comfortcome into play: whereas the music for the album was created from such positive and progressive forces, the lyrics seem to reflect a more negative, contemplative nature of the band, choosing a distinctly murkier path than the preceding albums. There are fewer positive twists to the stories and the unanswered questions and open endings so prevalent in Autumn’s lyrics this time don’t bode as well for things to come. A theme most lyrics on Cold Comfort seem to have in common: living through difficult times and thereafter reluctantly having to find a way forward into an uncertain and sometimes unwelcome future. Not so for Autumn’s latest effort. An album all about rising up to challenges set and standing out from the crowd, Cold Comfort embraces the future andis poised to take on anything any adjacent genre can throw at it.