BAND OF THE WEEK: Forever Autumn
Sublime dark folk entity present a harsh new EP - includes exclusive interview!
Yeah yeah yeah, there’s a Jeff Wayne song, and there’s that awesome Lake Of Tears album, but never mind all that, the Forever Autumn that matters right now is this rather mysterious entity hailing from the lush countryside of Northeastern US, which is essentially the artistic vehicle of one Autumn Ni Dubhghaill, counting with the assistance of celloist Jon McGrath. Autumn has been around for a while, doing music (and various other forms of art too) almost all on her own, a true DIY ethos that is never the best conduit to massive recognition, but ensures full integrity and honesty. That’s the first thing that strikes you, no matter where you start with Forever Autumn’s body of work - which already amounts to four full-lengths, two EPs and a bunch of old demos -, the sheer passion and truth that pours almost palpably from each dry strum of acoustic guitar, each solemn beat on the bodhrán, and yes, each ominous piece of sound that Autumn emits. On the recently released EP ‘Crowned in Skulls’, she can be welcoming and soothing like the benign spirit of the forest she is, but more often than not she also turns into a howling creature of the night, a cackling fiend, a foreboding unseen and unsettled ghost.
Lest we forget the last time we had heard Autumn had been in the raw black metal-infused previous EP, ‘Hail the Forest Dark’, a three-track sort of exercise of what Ulver’s ‘Nattens Madrigal’ might have sounded if done by a forest witch of the 21st century. She is no stranger to extremity and darkness in her work, and in fact, the title of that second song on the EP, ‘Death Folk’, is pretty much the best description of Forever Autumn’s uniquely harrowing brand of acoustic doom folk. Or as she puts it herself, the EP is an “exploration of shamanism and witchery through Pagan Folk and Acoustic Doom.” It is no wonder that some of the best people that wander through the darker landscapes of music are starting to be attracted to Autumn’s art. One certain Aaron Stainthorpe, for example, vocalist for a little band called My Dying Bride, once again appears as a vocal guest as he has done previously, and is one of the band’s most vocal followers. You might remember when we had the good fortune of sitting down with that fine gentleman for an episode of the podcast, he already picked a Forever Autumn song for his list of Ten Rounds, the fantastic ‘Owl Bones And River Stones’ from the ‘Howls In The Forest At Dusk‘ album.
There is no imaginable reason for anyone to not get into Forever Autumn. No matter what genre of music you’re a bigger fan of, the feelings Autumn evokes are universal, primal even, to all of us. The wild connection with nature, with the animals and trees, with life and death, with day and night, established here through raw music and poetry, and the power of the human voice, are all things we have buried deep within our bones. So go for a walk in the forest, and let the Queen with the crown of skulls guide you.
It is important to highlight that Forever Autumn can be anything it is called to be.
- Autumn Ni Dubhghaill
A lot of people might not realise, but Forever Autumn has been around for quite a while already. What do you remember from those early demo days? How would you say this project of yours has evolved throughout time?
Autumn: Yes, it's true, Forever Autumn haes been around for quite a long tyme. I am not surprised that few remember. The scene haes changed so much over those many years. Back in the olde demo days I waes recording onto a cheap analog four-track near the furnace in my parent's basement, with the microphone taped to a length of wood taped to a chair. It waes all glamour as you can tell, but it waes all that I could afford. The project haes evolved greatly since those early days. Not only haes my recording set-up improved dramatically, but the musique haes moved and changed as well. The sound is more mature, more natural, more preternatural. Instrument selection haes expanded and the songs and subject matter are much more deeply personal than they were in the olde demo days. It haes been a crazy adventure, to say the least, but there are no signs of stopping. Though it haes been, at tymes, a great challenge to keep Forever Autumn afloat, I am thankful that I've not given up.
‘Crowned In Skulls’ is the second EP you’ve put out after your last full-length album, ‘Howls In The Forest At Dusk’. Do you currently feel more comfortable with this kind of smaller release?
Autumn: I think I am done with smaller releases for now. It's tyme to get back to a proper album. ‘Hail the Forest Dark’, as an exploration of Black Metal, waes well suited to an EP. ‘Crowned in Skulls’ could have been longer, but it would have upset the story and upset the flow of the record with songs just stuffed in to fill tyme and that waesn't going to be okay with me. It needed to sing it's medicine in it's own way. ‘Crowned in Skulls’ is a proud representation of Forever Autumn's more complete sound. Now it is tyme to work on a new full-length. In fact, I have already begun.
Both of them are also significantly extreme (‘Hail, the Forest Dark’ in particular!), which is an interesting trajectory. Are you doing the opposite of mellowing out as the years go by?
Autumn: Perhaps I am? I had not thought of that. One of the dilemmas with Forever Autumn is that it's oft too “metal” for the “folk” crowd, but too “folk” for some of the “metal” crowd. Over tyme I had feared that maybe I lost my “metal”. So ‘Hail the Forest Dark’ came along just in tyme to remind me that I am still “metal” through and through. It waes also a great exploration and tribute to some of the influences behind Forever Autumn. From that moment on, I decided that Forever Autumn needed to incorporate a more overt metal influence than some of the previous material whilst remaining true to the acoustic werke I have built. ‘Crowned in Skulls’ waes born. It is also important to highlight that Forever Autumn can be anything it is called to be.
How would you describe ‘Crowned in Skulls’ yourself?
Autumn: I would describe ‘Crowned in Skulls’ as a triumphant return to Forever Autumn. It is a fully realised Forever Autumn and a testament to decades of hard work. ‘Crowned in Skulls’ is healing medicine and hopefully it can reach all the people that would most benefit from its message. ‘Crowned in Skulls’ casts off the bindings of the past but draws influence from those experiences. ‘Crowned in Skulls’ is the deer prints on the forest floor. It's the hawk in the tree, the circling vulture and the cold mountain water. It is the whisper of the trees, the rising moon, and the stuff of dreams.
‘Crowned in Skulls’ is the deer prints on the forest floor. It's the hawk in the tree, the circling vulture and the cold mountain water. It is the whisper of the trees, the rising moon, and the stuff of dreams.
- Autumn Ni Dubhghaill
Many people might have discovered Forever Autumn by the participation of a certain Mr. Stainthorpe, as he now seems a regular guest vocal presence in your releases. How was this relationship established at first?
Autumn: Yes it waes fun to work with Aaron. We have become good friends over the years. In 2016, I waes involved with a tribute album to My Dying Bride through Doom-metal.com. During that period I got in touch with Aaron. We enjoy each other's werke and became good friends. He waes willing to help out with ‘Hail the Forest Dark’ and we had a great tyme working together. When writing ‘Crowned in Skulls’, particularly ‘the Forest and the Nyght’, it just called for Aaron to anchor down some of my screams. We had wanted to work on something a little more traditional Forever Autumn and so we did. Luckily, he agreed to be on another song. We keep in regular contact and I visit whenever in the area.
Music isn’t your only artistic activity – would you like to tell us a bit more about your other pursuits, and how they might, eventually, be connected to your music?
Autumn: This is true. I am an artist as well, working in a variety of media. Since the onset of the pandemic, I have been working on my Werkes on Slate and have shown some of them in the UK and US. It's a growing series, part modern, part ancient, where varieties of usually found natural materials are joined with the slate to create these expressions and explorations of ancient medicine. Much of it is already connected with my musique. I use my own photographs for my album covers. I still use film and develop it myself. I did a series of outdoor sculptural installations for a while and there is just too much to write about my artistic werke. Long ago, and it remains true to this day, I used to say that my art is what my musique looks like and my musique is what my art sounds like. I have dabbled in sound art too, with a piece exhibiting in a festival in Greece. However I struggle to pull all of this together into a website. I can tie bones and stack stones, but the computer still eludes me.
Your conceptual and lyrical inspiration seems to take a lot from nature, folklore, mythology and old traditions – how connected are you to the land that surrounds you, and how exactly do you prepare that aspect of an album or EP? Do you do research, do you wait for something to come to you, how is that process?
Autumn: I would like to say that I am very connected to the land around me. Western Massachusetts is a beautiful place. I used to wander these forests more often but evidence of tamperyng humans and their presence in the wilderlands haes been chasing me out. I still wander about unshod, soaking up the energy of the land, finding bones and sticks and feathers and such, gyfts and prizes to take back and integrate into art. I don't know that I actively prepare that aspect of an album. It seems to just come to me. I do read a lot. I love my sagas, myths, folktales and dusty antiquity. I go for the original source material rather than someone's take on it. I do a lot of important Spirit werke too and that is very important to my greater werke. Inspirit can come at odd tymes but one haes to be ready to work with it.
The atmosphere of your live shows seems incredible. What is usually the mood, and how do you feel the connection with the audience, when you play live?
Autumn: Thank you. Yes, I would like to think so. Something that haes been evident since some of my earliest performances is that usually one or more people will just sit on the floor and let themselves be taken away by the musique. Of course, some people just talk at the bar or go out for convenient cigarette breaks during my set, but I know this isn't for ev'ryone. A Forever Autumn show is, in itself, an experience. If one is willing to let my werke in, they will learn more about themselves on a deep level.
What plans do you have now for Forever Autumn? Is there anything in particular you’d like to achieve?
Autumn: Now that ‘Crowned in Skulls’ haes been released, I do have some plans; I'd like to get more people to hear the record, maybe even sell a few in there. I would like to book some shows. That is an eternal challenge for Forever Autumn. Finally, I have new songs in the making and need to get started on the next album. Things are starting to move. I need to be ready to move with it.
Find Forever Autumn on Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram and Spotify
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