Style: Southern Rock
Release Date: 11 Oct 2019
Sites: Facebook | Instagram | Official Website | YouTube
If I've been surprised by the continued rise of stoner rock in countries far away from its roots in California, I'm perhaps even more surprised about how southern rock is spreading across the globe. Autumn Tree aren't from Georgia or Florida; they're from Mannheim, Germany and I've noticed similar bands in nations like Russia, Greece and even Malaysia, places we should struggle to associate with Jack Daniels and the confederate flag.
Autumn Tree are very much a modern southern rock band, by which I mean that there's some Lynyrd Skynyrd and Creedence Clearwater Revival in their sound (check out the slide in the background during Lynda Q), but a lot less than more recent alternative rock bands like Black Stone Cherry, Alter Bridge or even Creed, though this outfit tend to be much heavier than Creed ever got. There's just a hint of country too, but completely from an anti-Nashville mindset. These aren't generic hunks in hats and they're never going to play the Grand Ole Opry.
They're modern and crunchy, with a prominent bass and a lively drummer, and their lead singer, Kai Lutz, clearly spent the nineties listening to grunge albums with the lights off. The quieter the band get, like some early parts of The Distance, the more it sounds like his voice is built of disaffection and near depression borrowed from singers like Chris Cornell. Sometimes, as on Promised Land, Lutz highlights that he listened to Metallica too, because that's a seriously James Hetfield chorus.
I do like Autumn Tree even more when they kick it up a notch and acknowledge that Metallica influence. Barman starts out slower but it ends up ratcheting up the speed and kicking serious ass. Kings of Rumble really threatens for a moment midway through but then slows back down again. And that's not unusual as the band often resist the urge to kick into high gear, staying more at a mid-pace and adding texture with effects pedals, as Velvet Revolver used to do.
I quite like that contrast of up music and down vocals and both do fall prey to the pull of the other on occasion without making it a habit. The question is always going to come down to how strong the hooks are, because these are all songs designed to be radio friendly without ever selling out. Almost all the eleven tracks are three or four minutes long, get down to business in no time flat and solidify their groove just as quickly.
I talk a lot offline about the need for content curators in rock and metal, people who can enable discovery for others in a world where everything's a click or two away but nobody really knows where to look. It's what I try to do at Apocalypse Later, explaining what obscure bands do and attempting with words to describe whether you're likely to be into them. With Autumn Tree, I just need to send you to YouTube, because any one song will tell you whether they're your sort of band or not.
If you dig it, whichever song that happens to be, you're going to dig all of this album and Autumn Tree are going to become favourites in your household. If, however, you don't, nothing else here is going to convert you. It's all about that tone. The vocals and guitars are either going to be exactly right for you or they're going to remind you why you hated the nineties, however much Skynyrd they sneak in. Let me know which.