I’m about to say (type) something that could be interpreted as being terribly offensive, and so I’d like to be clear right now that I mean it only to be insulting to The Autumn Offering (who shall now be known on this site as “The Awful Offering”) with regards to their forthcoming release, Fear Will Cast No Shadow, and in no way, shape or form do I mean to be disrespectful to homosexuals as a group (besides, if Erik Engstrom is to be believed, I’m gay anyway, so…).

Okay. So. Here goes. To paraphrase the great Patton Oswalt:


Now, let’s clarify three things about my personal music tastes before I continue:

  1. I think very highly of the American New Wave of Heavy Metal as a group, and even though “metalcore,” the tag used incorrectly as often as it is used correctly to label some American New Wavers, is certainly a trend, as far as trends go, I think it’s a pretty decent one.
  2. To than end, I am a sucker for flashy guitar solos and even the most generic of breakdowns.
  3. Hair metal was my gateway drug into the world of the heavy heavy shit, and I am educated enough about the topic to be able to a) speak intelligently (or as intelligently as one can about such a topic) about Motley Crue’s New Tattoo, b) discuss the merits and demerits of Richie Kotzen and Blues Saraceno as replacement guitarists for Poison’s C.C. DeVille, c) own a copy of L.A. Guns’ American Hardcore, the Godawful album they did right after Phil Lewis left the band, and d) secretly pine at night not for a copy of Chinese Democracy, but for the first new Cinderella album in thirteen years (okay, I made that last one up, but still, what’s taking Tom Keifer so friggin’ long?).

All of this is just a really, really long-winded way of saying that I have nothing per se against cheesy, melodious, over produced pop metal or metalcore. So, theoretically, Fear Will Cast No Shadow should be right up my alley.

Unfortunately, the album just blows.

There is some cool guitar work on here, courtesy Tommy Church and Matt Johnson; none of the solos lept out at me, but there’s a couple of breakdowns, on songs like “The Castaway,” that I actually think are really, really cool.

Unfortunately, there’s also a LOT of clean singing that is best described as being in the style of, say, Duran Duran. I know that some of you reading this will think “Well, fuck this dude, he likes Cannibal Corpse and Pig Destroyer and obviously has a problem with clean vocals,” but that’s b.s.; I just don’t like this style of clean vocals. For one thing, Matt McChesney’s pipes just sound awful – incredibly whiney and just plain fucking annoying. And they’re overproduced to a fault; never mind the fact that I doubt McChesney can hit these notes in concert, but it sounds like they brought in one of the Backstreet Boys to sing all the choruses. Clean vocals have been a big part of metal for years, and there are literally dozens of ways to pull them off without sounding like some reject from TRL; unfortunately, McChesney and normally dependable producer Jason Suecof haven’t found any of those ways. The clean vocals on this album make my ears hurt, and not in a good way.

And while I hate to hypothesize as to artistic intent in a review – yes, process is interesting from a fan boy point of view, but in the end, product is all that really matters – I can’t help but feel that this album is totally insincere. The shift in tone feels considerably more violent than the one between Avenged Sevenfold’s last couple of albums or even the recent popification of Atreyu – and to what end? On their last disc, Embrace the Gutter, McChesney’s pipes were growly while still displaying a distinct ability to sing – think early Hetfield and you’ll have some sense of what I’m getting at. But that kind of scream-sing is absent here – McChesney is either screaming his guts out (which he is, admittedly, pretty good at), or, more often, doing the aforementioned irritating Lance Bass thing. Add to that the overuse of synthetic sounding, 80s pop-style vocal harmonies, and well, all the cool breakdowns in the world don’t matter.

It’s still too soon to call this the worst album of the year – I still haven’t heard the new Demon Hunter, after all, and I think there’s a promo copy of Wes Borland’s band sitting around here somewhere that I never listened to – but it’s certainly one of the most disappointing and annoying. It comes out on October 30; if for some reason you feel you absolutely must own a copy, I’d recommend saving your cash and just downloading it illegally.

(one out of five horns)


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