AUTUMN SILENCE – ECHOES IN THE GARDEN (Divebomb Records)

2017, compilation of previously released material

Review by Omni: Originally formed as Prophecy in 1987, Autumn Silence was a New Jersey-based band that played heavy metal influenced by progressive rock. With a lineup consisting of vocalist Mike Gorham, guitarist Rich Logan, bassist Chris Eike, keyboardist Kevin Kerry Boyce and drummer James Alexander, the band recorded a demo entitled Winter’s Calling in 1991. By 1994, Alexander had left the band and Matt Thompson took over on drums for the recording of an EP entitled Echoes in the Garden. This compilation brings both of those releases together, along with songs recorded by an earlier incarnation of the band called Midnight Divine, rehearsal tracks from the same period as the Winter’s Calling demo and a few other leftovers.

The first three songs on this compilation are from Winter’s Calling. Gorham’s vocals are immediately reminiscent of Crimson Glory’s Midnight and the music has more than a passing resemblance to that band’s music as well, albeit it intertwined with influences from 1970s progressive rock music. These songs strike a fine balance between catchy melodies, heavy sound and excellent musicianship. In particular, Logan’s guitar work stands out as fantastic and underrated. The keyboards on these songs provide some chillingly beautiful atmospheric moments, but the guitars are at the forefront. “Pain Fills My Eyes” is perhaps the strongest song from this demo and one of the most memorable on this compilation.

The aptly named instrumental track “Ludicrous Speed” was recorded in 1992 and it works well as a segue between the band’s earlier demo recordings and the Echoes in the Garden EP songs. These later songs are much more dominated by progressive rock influences, with a heavy dose of bands such as Yes and Genesis shaping the band’s sound during this period. Gorham’s vocal performances remain a highlight, and he adopts a much more mature and varied style that suits the much dreamier compositions of this period. There are still moments where the band’s metallic side shines through, but the keyboards and peaceful melodies are the defining aspect here. In particular, “So This Is Home”is an organic and cohesive prog ballad which demonstrates that the band has become much more confident and original in their songwriting. While it was unexpected, this change of direction seems sensible and never comes across as forced or trendy.

The remainder of the disc is made up of two songs recorded while the band was known as Midnight Divine, two live rehearsal demos and an alternate version of the title track to Echoes in the Garden. While these inclusions are seemingly less essential than the earlier tracks, they are still relevant to the band’s history. Midnight Divine’s style is fairly similar to the earliest songs under the Autumn Silence name, but vocalist John Leese appears on these songs. He is a capable singer, but Gorham is noticeably superior to him and better suited to the band’s style. The rehearsal songs are enjoyable. They have a spontaneous feeling to them and provide a glimpse of what Autumn Silence might sound like in a live setting. They lack some of the layers of the band’s studio material, but the band still manages to hold up well during these rehearsal numbers. The alternate version of “Echoes in the Garden” is interesting, but the original EP version is definitely a stronger piece.

This compilation is going to appeal to fans of Crimson Glory, Heir Apparent and other U.S. power metal acts with strong vocalists and progressive influences. While everything else on this disc is enjoyable, the Echoes in the Garden EP is worth the price of admission on its own. These songs show a young band making a bold stylistic shift that is decidedly unique and exciting. It’s a shame that there isn’t more material from the band because they were definitely on to something. https://www.facebook.com/autumnsilencemusic/  Order at: https://tribunalrecords.bandcamp.com/album/echoes-in-the-garden

My rating: 85/100 (Good in its own genre, recommended for those hooked on it)

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