Album Title: Follow The cold Path
Label: Independent Release
Date of Release: 16 February 2023
I’m breaking one of my own rules with this review, as the album in question has not been released in a physical format. However, rules are made to be broken, and when the music is as good as this, it has to be brought to your attention immediately. One can only hope that it helps to generate enough interest for a CD to be pressed, that I can gleefully add to my collection. I have my fingers firmly crossed.
A recommendation nestled in a group of recommendations from a social media acquaintance, ‘Follow The Cold Path’ might have otherwise been completely missed. As it is, the debut full-length from Autrest immediately had an impact upon me. The work of one man, Matheus Vidor, ‘Follow The Cold Path’ takes the listener on a journey through the realms of atmospheric black metal. One look at the gorgeous cover artwork and band logo, and perhaps this isn’t the greatest surprise – on this occasion, you can safely judge the book by its cover.
Handling all the instruments yourself is a big enough challenge in itself. However, to then be able to put them into some kind of cohesive and listenable structure in the form of songs, is another ball game altogether. However, Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Matheus Vidor does just that. And, in the process, he has created one of the most magical records that I have heard from within this genre in quite a while. I have always been a sucker for this kind of music, predominantly because I enjoy the blend of extreme music and melody that it often creates. In the case of Autrest, the melodies are heartbreakingly beautiful, and thoroughly captivating.
My only slight disappointment is that the production isn’t better. Admittedly, I think the music sounds better if there’s a touch of rawness about it, but on this occasion, it actually hurts my ears if I play it anywhere as loud as I’d like. And believe me, I’ve tried. Unfortunately, the treble is simply too much to take, with the whole thing become way too indistinct at high volume. But I urge you to do as I have done and ignore this trifling complaint, because the rewards are far too great to pass on.
It was literally love at first listen for me, beginning with opener ‘December Dusk’. The gentle sound of birdsong is gradually built on with fast-picked guitars and synths, cleverly interwoven with delicate melody. Even when the song explodes fully to life, the full-on black metal assault only serves as the framework within which the rich, inviting melody works its magic. Blastbeats and skipping drum patterns duel with frosty guitars and the familiar higher-pitched gruff vocals ensure that Autrest is first and foremost a black metal entity.
But then, just after the halfway mark, everything except for a piano, drops away for a moment or two. Before long, the heaviness is reintroduced but this time, the melody is even more stunning than before. What sounds like a violin but could be keyboard-created creates a genuinely mournful tone which is taken up by the rest of the instrumentation. The music just radiates loneliness, gut-wrenching melancholy, and the vastness of the wilderness in perfect, elegant misery. If you don’t reach out and grab your nearest and dearest, your beloved pet, or your childhood teddy at this point, then there’s something wrong with you, I’m afraid.
The title track follows and is just as impressive, albeit in a slightly different way. Just as melancholy, it also carries with it more of an extreme metal intent. To my ears, it boasts harsher riffs, and faster drumming at points, but also it has the upbeat energy of classic metal too. This isn’t Iron Maiden or Judas Priest, but the way in which the song skips along with a touch of groove is wonderful. The song also deliberately starts off and later slows down to more of a doom-laden pace, creating light and shade, as well as a feeling of real dynamism too.
‘Watchtower’ is a shorter composition and less overtly melodic, but instead, it has an altogether darker, more sinister vibe, as if Autrest have gone subterranean, into the dark, damp caverns beneath the surface. The vocals, as they are across the album, are deliberately buried deep in the mix so that they are barely audible at times, only adding to the layers of atmosphere and texture on offer. This tactic can also be heard within the penultimate song, ‘Pale Night’, which is quasi-instrumental as a result. It also happens to be another quite brilliant composition too, with really strong melodies that create a grandiose soundscape of stunning beauty alongside a sense of forlorn hopelessness.
What I also like about this record, aside from the fact that every single song brings something magical with it, is the fact that the seven songs, which includes a delicate final instrumental (‘The Place Where I Belong’), only last for around 42 minutes. To me, this is a perfect length for an album like this. It isn’t too brief, and you’re not put off by mountains of material that others with the genre are liable to deliver. This record hits you in the gut, tugs at your heartstrings, and then leaves, a mess of a human being left mercilessly in its wake. What’s not to love about that? So come on everybody, join me in checking this out and joining a louder chorus of voices demanding that Matheus Vidor turns this wonderfully emotive album into a tangible product for us to add willingly to our collections.
The Score of Much Metal: 90%