When done right, the vocals of any emotion-oriented release should amplify the music’s atmosphere and carry the band’s desired feeling into the listener. The problem with that, however, is that there is no way to do vocals “right”; any given vocal approach will click for some people, and fall flat for others. Autism, a post-metal band from Lithuania, gets around this issue and delivers their burden of harsh reality and pessimism indiscriminately by taking out the vocals altogether. Frequent but generally consistent samples keep their music alive, allowing Autism’s dark and smooth sound to take over but not get stale. All of this and more is exemplified on the Lithuanian outfit’s latest album, Film Noir.
Naturally, the emphasis in Film Noir is on the instrumentals and the overall spirit of the music. For something geared towards negative emotions, this means slower, deeper riffs that stick around long enough for one to be fully affected by their groove. Groove is a big element here; the music itself isn’t grating or inhuman, it’s actually fairly calm, and even predictable. Autism isn’t shy about adopting this clean, modern sound, either, though it’s practically a given for a post-metal band to stray from traditional metal influences. There are actually elements comparable to the -core subgenres (metalcore and deathcore), but Autism sounds more refined and properly implements this style, as opposed to repetitive down-tuned chugging. Not to say that this album doesn’t get repetitive; sometimes the songs trap themselves in one stagnant melody, and the emotional strength of the album is weakened as a result. But the nice, clear production builds a big soundscape regardless, and one that has a falling or sinking effect. It’s as if chord by chord, the music is dragging you down.
Even beyond complaints of repetition, the tracks blend together. This isn’t an inherently bad thing, though: without vocals to mark an obvious conclusion, it’s harder to distinguish between the beginning, middle, and end of any given song. Film Noir feels like one complete package that was divided up into seven tracks after the fact for simplicity. This makes the album much more immersive, as lulls come and go but there’s really a break between songs. The dark and driving emotional tension goes uninterrupted and packs everything coherently, and locks in the listener. This is certainly not the band you’re looking for if you’re craving a casual listen.
The samples chosen to supplement the vocals are all pretty morbid or depressing. Still, nothing comes close to the audio clip chosen for “Brittle Bones”, the heart of Film Noir. “Brittle Bones” utilizes the audio from a particularly disturbing 911 call, in which a distressed little girl calls to report a fight between her parents. The simple fact that all the stress and fear heard in this song is genuine makes the intensity stronger than anything a vocalist could pull off within reason, but it still begs the question: is it okay to exploit real people’s misfortune and tragedy like that? I can’t make that decision for anyone but myself, but regardless of your own conclusion, this sample choice makes the music undeniably haunting and distressing. The calm yet miserable tone of the swinging guitar and plodding drums adds to it all and makes “Brittle Bones” the indisputable standout track. While no sample stands out as much as that, the clips placed throughout really do a lot to strengthen the overall atmosphere.
The emotional weight across the board is pretty much the same: there’s nothing evil or sadistic about the band, they just share their grim outlook on the life that everyone reading this has ended up with. The lack of variety gets tired by the end, and Film Noir‘s impact is watered down. The album remains decently interesting throughout, just a little too long for an instrumental release. The music is practically overwhelming, constantly pressing you down and making you reflect on yourself.
When the titular track, placed at the end of the album, finally wraps up, it just ends without a satisfying conclusion. Like life, I suppose. It says a lot about the album, which tackles the heaviness that is characteristic of metal, but in a thematic sense more than anything. Film Noir is not a fun listen by any means, but it’s a memorable mesh of post metal sound that showcases a surprising amount of maturity for a band named ‘Autism’.
Film Noir is now available through Autism’s Bandcamp page.