CROWN OF AUTUMN – Byzantine Horizons

CROWN OF AUTUMN – Byzantine Horizons

It’s raining metal in Italy! This is apparently true of more than one genre (power metal) although the gothic melodeathsters, Crown Of Autumn (COA), stylistically and vocally recall Frozen Crown despite having nothing to do with power metal. Similarities notwithstanding, COA, which formed in 1996, folder a year later and reactivated in 2010, is powered by three, instead of two, vocal stylings: the female cleans of Milena Saracino, the male croons of Gianluigi Girardi – somewhere between Bruce Dickinson and Ronnie James Dio, as well as male growls of the guitarist, bassist, keyboardist Emanuele Rastelli – strongly reminiscent of In Flames’ Anders Frieden, which, unsurprisingly can turn an entire track into a near-In Flames cover (Whores For Eleusis). Mattia Stancioiu admirably and impressively completes the lineup with great and powerful drumming patterns and synthed percussion (Walls of Stone, Tapestries of Light) on this, their 3rd LP.

Lyrically, from what I was able to decipher from Saracino/Girardi vocal delivery, having no actual lyrics available, "Byzantine Horizons" waxes incredibly spiritual. From the opening "A Mosaic Within" which features an unknown sage’s claim that all happiness and true source of strength is found within, which some Bible translations, such as KJV, erroneously atribute to Jesus Christ in Luke 17:21, and which rather mirrors Buddhist philosophy, through the timelely message, "how can we let the enemies of mankind reign" (Whores For Eleusis) as if to echo the Biblical warning against enemies of God and mankind who only appear to be rightous (2 Timothy 3:2-5), to the closer "Our Withering Will", which appears to decry the present times that inspire helplessness, despondency and hopelessness which leads to…enemies of mankind reigning in place of the righteous lovers of mankind, the album has a firm base to build the songs on, a base not entirely succesfully merged with the most important part – the music.

Whereas instrumentally the 11 track "Byzantine Horizons" is tight as lamb’s testicles in sub zero temperatures, they seem to be hit and miss in the songwriting department. There’s nothing downright terrible here but the 2nd part seems to be better than the 1st, as if the 1st side favored the calm, slow and atmospheric to short bursts of aggressive melodeath constant experimentation, particularly annoying on the opening "A Mosaic Within" and downright frustrating on "Scepter And Soil" which feels as if some band members were consciously pulling toward melodeath but the rest were slowing it down and sweetening it using copious dual clean vocals, or the lukewarm and weird "Cyclopean" reminiscent of Evanescence covering Soul Embraced "My Tourniquet" with occasional bursts of misplaced aggression. Some listeners may find this back and forth killing and resurrecting the momentum original and innovative but to me it just sounds incoherent, disjointed and sloppy.

Where COA really shines are those tracks that emphasize the melodeath and downplay the delicate and sweet, never getting so brutal so as to sacrifice the melody. "Everything Evokes" is a much needed melodeath scorcher after the disappointing take on Tool’s "Lateralus" moody dynamics (Lo Sposo Dell’orizzonte), ushering the more aggressive and cohesive part of the album, and it’s a pity the Iron Maiden/Marrilion-ic "Walls of Stone, Tapestries of Light" doesn’t go with that established flow. Fortunately, the aforementioned "Whores For Eleusis" is one of the best written tracks on the album, even if more than inspired by In Flames’ "Worlds Within The Margin", same bass-led verse rhythm, same "talking" to climax in a hypermelodic powerful chorus, but COA reaches into Amorphis’ "Elegy" to round it up for one of the catchiest songs. Immediately following is a lot faster thrashy "Lorica", which recalls Dark Tranquillity’s "The Gallery" in tone, style and melody. Even the last two tracks, although weaker and less cohesive in comparing, do round things up in a matter worthy of the aforementioned standouts.

"Byzantine Horizons" is a mixed bag and full of experimentation that not always hits the mark, but when these guys focus they stand with the best in melodeath even if they wear their influences on their sleeve a little too much at times. A little more focus on their aggressive side subtly supported by the gentle should yield more coherent and more engaging product on future endeavors, as we are neither Nightwish nor Epica but a more nuanced construct that is more convincing as melodic death metal rather than gothic and I suggest you keep that in mind.