|Although belonging to the same genre as Draconian, Russian Aut Mori are not aiming for the same classic, wintry ferocity.|
|You'd almost have to believe that if the word 'Autumn' was to be withdrawn, a whole section of the Russian Doom scene would be put out of business. Since it hasn't, though, you might also be forgiven for thinking 'here we go again': a booklet filled with moody black-and-white band photos and dense Cyrillic script; the cover a single, curled leaf caught in the gossamer of a broken spiderweb. Their name is Latin, presumably taken from the fatalistic half of aut vincere aut mori (either to conquer, or to die). It's not an especially subtle hint that the ubiquitous seasonal reference is going to embrace those lonely, rainswept tragedies beloved of the Melodic Gothic/Doom fraternity.
Well, so be it. Whether that comes across as an honest display of heart being worn on sleeve or a painfully laboured cliché will largely depend on your predisposition towards the legacy of early Draconian, whom the promotional blurb cites the band as being 'in the vein of'. And, perhaps, a certain degree of curiosity, given that it has been released through the BadMoodMan subdivision of Solitude Productions - which suggests that it doesn't precisely fit in with the Gothic/Death/Funeral Doom albums usually handled by the mother label.
One thing you can be fairly sure of, being from Solitude, is that the packaging, presentation and technical side of the release will be up to their usual high standards. Even if the booklet content may not be to your taste (or comprehension, in my case), there's plenty of it, accompanying a pleasingly clear and well-produced CD. Top marks for that, at any rate. And, with plenty of help from Google Translate, it is possible to figure out that the five-piece band comprises male vocalist, two guitarists, keyboards and bass, with a guest female vocalist and, continuing the Draconian connection, Jerry Torstensson providing drums and Olof Göthlin (who featured on 'A Rose For The Apocalypse') contributing violin.
So, is this shaping up to be nothing more than a clone band and a glorified tribute album? On balance, and despite the undeniably strong influences: no, not really. It's a rather more stately and subdued affair than any of the Swedish band's offerings - even the mellowest 'Where Lovers Mourn' - without either the aggressive edge or the soaring peaks. A more autumnal approach, if you like: definitely from the same stable, but not aiming for the same classic, wintry ferocity.
It isn't without merits of its own, at any rate. The band have pedigree, with three of them being ex-members of the similarly-Gothic Auto-Da-Fe. They know how to handle their instruments: the intertwined guitar riffs swap pleasing melodies and textures with the keyboard and violin. The drums are, not unexpectedly, full of depth and vigour, and even the bass gets a fairly frequent look-in to proceedings. The vocals, entirely in Russian, trade off in pleasant beauty-and-the-beast fashion, or slide into background chorus and spoken-word pieces, with a seamless alacrity. There is, at times, something elusive missing here, though: it sounds as if the female vocal parts were written for a slightly different voice (and perhaps they were, given that the band originally had both a female singer and a drummer of their own), one that more completely matched the mood and pace of the music. They're not bad, but there are moments when they just don't feel like a perfect fit, particularly during parts of 'Прощай' and 'Жди'.
Where the formula does work really well, mainly during the latter half of the album (particularly 'Мой Вечный Дождь', 'Элегия Безмятежности' and 'На Сцене Осень'), it produces a slightly mournful cascade of melodies and symphonic elements, anchored on low, tuneful rasps rather than outright growls, which ebb and flow in quite captivating fashion. Where it doesn't, the results are still technically adept but a little lacking in variation or character, reminiscent of a somewhat stifled version of Frailty. On balance, it's probably on BadMoodMan because it's borderline primarily Melodic, rather than Death, Doom.
Overall, it's a difficult one to judge. Personally, I like it, despite those odd weaker moments, enough to have bought a copy. It seems quite genuine, makes an effort to distance itself somewhat from the archetypal blueprint and, in doing so, achieves some eminently listenable results. At the same time, though, it couldn't be described as either utterly groundbreaking, or truly, consistently, great. A promising start, though: with a net 'recommended' rather than 'essential'.
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1. Первая Слеза Осени (First Tears Of Autumn)
2. Моя Песня - Тишина (My Song - Silence)
3. Небо (Sky)
4. Прощай (Adieu)
5. Мой Вечный Дождь (My Eternal Rain)
6. Жди (Wait)
7. Элегия Безмятежности (Elegy Serenity)
8. На Сцене Осень (On Stage Fall)
Duration : Approx. 45 minutes
Visit the Aut Mori bandpage.