Royal Autumn are a five-piece band from Ireland. They’ve got a single and an EP in their back catalogue already, and they’ve just released their debut album, Life is Strangely Accidental.
Royal Autumn – Life Is Strangely Accidental (Independent)
Release Date: Out Now
Words: Mark Rotherham
So what do they sound like? The album kicks things off very nicely with the anthem-like Watcha Got, with the opening riff sliding into your ears like molten honey. Then the chorused vocals kick in, utterly catchy and accessible. Neill Marshall’s voice is sweet and clear. Think of a heavier version of Europe, and you’re there. You can imagine any number of big-budget ’80s flicks having this one on their playlist. The whole thing is very nicely produced, and the solo really lures you in. You’ll think it’s a bit thin, and then it kicks you right in the guts. With a drum and bass backing the sweet-voice vocals, this song doesn’t miss a trick. It’s slick and mature, and for the first song on a debut album, that’s impressive.
Next up is Thin And Blonde, starting with a rolling drum intro, then high-pitched synchronised guitars that lead us nicely into this song. This is hard-edged rock that’s very easy on the ear, and while some would say that’s an easy thing to create, those of us who know, know otherwise. Musical graveyards are littered with the tombstones of bands that have tried and failed to combine commercial and accessible with retained integrity. Royal Autumn succeeds. They’ve really worked out the varied tempo in each song. But the bottom line is this, commercial or not, it’s one hundred per cent entertaining, and that’s why we like it.
Take It To The Grave is a slick combination of guitars playing hand in glove with keyboards. This is suave, accessible radio rock that still retains an edge, with sweet harmonies and tight musical arrangements. I have to keep reminding myself that this is Royal Autumn’s debut album because it’s delivered with the panache of ten-year veterans.
The album’s title track starts with a soft keyboard intro followed by guitars. This is a more gentle song, and Neill Marshall absolutely nails the vocals, a song of deep, yearning love, a quest to have the emotion returned. “You’re the only thing that makes me feel alive” is the hook line for this track, and every love-struck hormonal adolescent will think that this song is exactly about them.
Sticking with the same theme is Die For You, with flange guitars leading into this slow, arpeggio song. The lyrics have a very simple, time-worn message that follows the song’s title, but it’s a story that’s told and sung in a bang-up-to-date way. How hard can it be to bring that ’80s, big sound into the twenty-first century, to make it relevant to a young generation right now, when it first appealed to their parents? I don’t know, but Royal Autumn does.
Then the gas pedal gets well and truly floored for Hide The Night. Oh yes, this one’s heavy, with a gorgeous opening riff that wouldn’t be amiss on a Priest or Maiden album. And while, as with all things Royal Autumn, the keyboards aren’t too far away, it is still an absolute fact that this song really, really chugs.
This is the point in the album where the formula gets changed, and Royal Autumn opens up a great big can of badass. Just wait for that twin guitar solo near the end. Fabulous stuff. And do you know what, when it comes to the vocals, it’s not just Justin Hawkins that can hit those high notes.
Then there’s a return to melodic, but going off at a whole new tangent, with I’ve Got A Hold On You. This is a song that strangely reminds me of the Beatles, with its ’60s-type chorus that’s sung, well, as a chorus. It’s another radio-friendly track, vying with quite a few on this album as a song that’s just made to be a single. Crystal clarity on the production, and again, I have to keep reminding myself that this is a debut album. Royal Autumn have clearly done their homework.
Royal Autumn like their slow songs, but maybe that’s because they do them very well. Lifetime has a slow, very slow piano start before the guitars then start layering in. This remains a ballad, though, but with big production, making it sound like Royal Autumn’s take on a Jim Steinman/Meat Loaf soaring theatrical opus.
The pace picks up once again with Bloody Tree, and the grating vocals give this song a much darker feel, letting us know that while Royal Autumn might well have planted their standard firmly in the accessible radio-rock field, they can go off into the forest and start fighting just as easily as the next band. It’s a nice touch of variety, of change, that gives something to everyone on this album.
And talking of change, the album closes with Say Goodbye, and what? Slide guitar and the blues? By Royal Autumn? Well, yeah! And alright, then. But then the vocals kick in, and it’s like a completely different song to the intro. But they make it work, just like they have with the rest of the album by this point. It’s a nice, eclectic slice of different-ness and a great way to end the album.
So there you have it, that’s Royal Autumn’s debut album, Life Is Strangely Accidental. It’s a smooth production, a slick piece that’s largely in the heavier part of accessible radio rock. But don’t be fooled into thinking that’s all this band has to offer. Scratch beneath the surface, and there’s a whole lot more waiting for you to both discover and enjoy.
Life Is Strangely Accidental
- Watcha Got
- Thin And Blond
- Take It To The Grave
- Life Is Strangely Accidental
- Die For You
- Hide the Night
- I’ve Got A Hold On You
- Bloody Tree
- Say Goodbye
Royal Autumn are:
Neill Marshall, vocals, guitar
Adam Smith, guitar, vocals
Alina Normile, keyboards, vocals
Ciarán Hurd, bass, vocals
Roger Moran, drums, vocals