As the summer draws to a close and the leaves begin to turn, metalheads, goths and people who just like wearing black breathe a collective sigh of relief at the commencing of spooky season. Foggy mornings, hazy sunlight and cold dark nights characterise some of the best scenery with which to appreciate your favourite albums; but not all records are created equal – some just complement the Autumnal vibe better than others. So if you enjoy listening to music that reflects the planet’s position to the sun at this particular time, these five sonic gems are your perfect companions.
Paradise Lost – Draconian Times (1995)
The Yorkshire kings of gloom took the “does-what-it-says-on-the-tin” approach to inventing goth metal with 1991’s brooding Gothic, however they truly hit the nail on the head a few years later with their deeply beloved showpiece, Draconian Times.
Stripping away all but a hint of their death metal roots and pushing the shimmering melody they touched on with Icon right to the fore, the quintet sculpted one of the best heavy records to ever come from British shores. Boasting flawless production, catching Simon Efemey right off the back of The Wildhearts’ debut and recording it in a big old pile somewhere in Milton Keynes, the quintet collided their signature metallic crunch with a sense of autumnal decadence to create a true modern gem.
Gracing magazine covers for the first time armed with all-time anthems like ‘The Last Time’ and ‘Enchantment’ found the quintet a whole new audience outside of their loyal underground following, pushing them closer to metal’s mainstream than ever. That’s not to say they ever stopped wallowing in doom, exemplified by the unbelievable ‘Forever Failure’, but they also found room to inject plenty of fresh ideas, like the 80s death-rock swagger of ‘Hallowed Land’ and the Black Album stomp of ‘Shadowkings’. To top it all off, the cover art and packaging is truly something to behold. As sprawling, rich and psychedelic is the music itself, you’ll find yourself falling under its spell before you’ve even pressed play.
Never content to stay in one place, Paradise Lost quickly moved on to a more synth-orientated direction for 1997’s One Second, but if you’re craving more bleak northern brilliance, be sure to check out their latest release, 2020’s Obsidian.
Best enjoyed with… a glass of red in front of a roaring fire
Panopticon – Autumn Eternal (2015)
Kentucky-based one-man black metal master, Austin Lunn’s Panopticon has grown slowly from an underground oddity to a critically lauded and wildly popular extreme metal prospect, even outside of the scene that birthed it. God only knows how many black metal albums could have been chosen for this list. From Obsequiae to Windir to Bathory, this particular style lends itself better than most to the hazier ends of the calendar, but few records truly capture the smokey beauty of a pine forest on a chill sunrise like Autumn Eternal.
The most common complaint about black metal is that it tends to be pretty one-dimensional and stuck in its ways, but Lunn tips this notion on it’s head once again with an eight track ode to voluntary isolation, self-reliance and the intoxicating mysteries of nature. Blasting through dense layers of emotive tremolo guitars and captivating screams while fusing large helpings of bluegrass and appalachian folk, songs like ‘Oaks Ablaze’, ‘Into the North Woods’ and the unbelievable ‘Pale Ghosts’ join the pantheon of truly inventive modern black metal spilling out of the 2010s. A natural, analogue production job gives off real warmth while avoiding lo-fi territory, perfect for those looking for a gateway into a pretty hostile sound.
Even with the ongoing Corona-apocalypse, complete social distancing never felt this good.
Best enjoyed with… a woodland cabin retreat
Blind Guardian – Imaginations From The Other Side (1995)
Okay, bear with me on this one.
German power metal might not be the first thing that comes to mind when talking about the Autumnal Equinox, but if you know anything about the legendary Blind Guardian then you know their understatedly cinematic approach to their craft serves as the perfect companion to a hypnotic harvest moon. Despite boasting a decade-long tear of genuinely perfect, transportative records, it’s their 1995 magnum-opus Imaginations From The Other Side that truly nails everything that makes this band great.
Heavy metal bombast tempered with atmospheric nuance and emotional storytelling, these nine tracks cover a hell of a lot of ground without devolving into sickly territory, courtesy of their distinctly German, common-sense approach. From the unfuckwithable anthem of a title track to medieval-style ‘Mordred’s Song’ to the pure adrenalin rush of ‘Born In A Mourning Hall’, the whole album drips with ancient spirit, giving you the feeling of standing in an ancient castle at twilight watching dragons circle a vast ravine. Blind Guardian balance astounding songwriting and technical prowess with a mind’s-eye focussed experience, weaving a tale with characters that you truly feel connected to.
Best enjoyed with… a medieval fort and maybe a sword or something
Cradle Of Filth – Dusk and Her Embrace (1996)
Back when symphonic metal was a pretty novel idea and Dani Filth was still Daniel Lloyd-Davey, Suffolk’s Cradle Of Filth channelled tales of local hauntings with irresistible vampiric horror to birth one of the greatest extreme albums ever made. Dripping with ghoulish charm and seductive musical prowess, Dusk and Her Embrace must have sounded like nothing else when it dropped in 1996.
Glowing with twilight over a mysterious graveyard and creaking like the floorboards of an ancient manor, Cradle trademarked a sound so quintessentially British that it single handedly isolated them from the 90s European black metal scene for good. Tracks like ‘Beauty Slept In Sodom’ and ‘Funeral In Carpathia’ have an endearing low-budget charm that somehow makes the subject matter feel even creepier, while ‘Heaven Torn Asunder’ and the title-track thunder along with perverse glee. Dani Filth’s vocals took on a whole new level of poetic reverence, rattling out prose like a corpse-painted member of Bone Thugs, punctuated by his signature dog-whistle shrieks – solidifying themselves as the most insane thing in metal.
It was difficult to pick between the first four records as to which would make this list, but Dusk… is by far the most lusciously dark, eerily perverse and just straight-up autumnal of their career…but what really swung it was the fact that an alternate version of the album came in a bloody COFFIN BOX. Metal.
Best enjoyed with… wearing all-black and standing in a graveyard
Type O Negative – October Rust (1996)
Of course, no article with a flair for the gothic would never be complete without October Rust. Plenty has been written about this record and its enduring legend already, but no album encapsulates what this list is trying to communicate quite like it. Romantic yet self-deprecating, beautifully serene yet crushingly dark, classic leaning yet astoundingly forward thinking – Type O Negative crafted a true work of art…but they definitely wouldn’t agree with me!
Describing this band to the uninitiated is a fruitless task. Type O were a true one-off prospect with a mind-blowing discography that music fans are still trying to wrap their heads around, yet remained truly accessible and flirted with the mainstream to the very end. October Rust saw the band practically leaking confidence, taking the melodic aspects of its precursor, Bloody Kisses, but cranking up the atmosphere further than ever before.
The brittle, crackling production elevates tracks like ‘Green Man’ and the already transcendent ‘In Praise Of Bacchus’ to stratospheric levels of vibe, while the cheeky ‘My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend’ proved to be a huge MTV success despite its risque (for its time) subject matter. However, the real star of the show is Peter Steele’s jaw-dropping vocal on opener ‘Love You To Death’, followed closely by a truly one-of-kind cover of Neil Young’s ‘Cinnamon Girl.’ A Fifteen (well…eleven) track ode to love, loss, sex and death, cloaked completely in an autumnal aura solidified the ‘drab four’ as the true champions of goth rock in the 90s.
Best enjoyed with… a walk through a the park on a foggy morning