Leopard Flowers is the musical project of H.G., a multi-instrumentalist who covers everything from bass and drums to recording and mixing. With a name likely inspired from a song of the same name by the controversial and legendary martial/neofolk act Death In June, Leopard Flowers inhabits some similar musical territories, yet are in no way a clone. Leopard Flowers eschews any symbolism or lyrical content associated with Death in June that might be deemed contentious or dubious. Instead, Leopard Flowers creates instrumental acoustic ambient music clearly designed to evoke images of the passing of the seasons, cycles of life, and a face of nature that is clearly indifferent to its human inhabitants.
With colors somber and muted, an unkempt and scraggly field of grass spreads across the cover. A lone and forlorn headstone tilts lazily to one side as it sinks into the earth, seemingly lost to time and the forces of nature that swirl around it. Inscribed upon the cracked stone are the Roman numerals LXXVII, which is the number 77, and a mysterious runic talisman. The rune symbol, I was told by the artist, is a bindrune of sorts, and represents protection.
Contrast this cold and desolate outer scene with the imagery awaiting within: a photograph of water gracefully flowing over stone. Laid across the watery image are runes that roughly translate to the German word “Leben”, which means life or vitality. This contrast of ideas – vitality and death – and how they’re very much one and the same when it comes to nature and life, represent the very essence of Autumn Glades of Everlasting Peace. The music expresses equal parts joy and sorrow and the paradox that the two simultaneously coexist. Indeed, one cannot have the sweetness of a Summer morning (“Awake in the Morning Dew”) if there wasn’t also the storm and frost of a bone-chilling Winter (“Tears on the Snow”).
While Autumn Glades of Everlasting Peace displays an obvious respect and deep reverence for nature and its accompanying cycles, the tonal quality of the album seems to be at odds with nature. With all due respect to the superb sound of this album, which has been exceptionally produced, the album is not enough of a partnership with the nature it purports to draw sustenance from. The songs are too clean and the sounds too synthesized, not nearly as organic and resonant as they should be. The songs beg for a sprinkle of grit or some other hint of imperfection. Because of its man-made cleanliness, the music tends to lull the listener into the false idea that nature can be viewed safely from a distance without getting dirty. The intended effects of the album get minimized and muted, much like the colors of the digipak itself.
The music seems too strongly imposed upon the world it was inspired by, rather than being the other way around. A few well-placed field recordings from the outside world would have allowed greater life to flow through the album. Percussive elements or spoken word / gently sung vocals could have also lent a much needed spark of life to the album.
Let’s take the song “When Trees Fall Asleep” as a case study. It is a well-crafted tune, pleasant in its soothing lullaby-like effect, but it’s difficult to imagine that these synthesized and digital sounds alone are what trees sound like as they doze deep within a forest glade. No, more likely their sound would be darker and stranger to the ears of a human — if a human were to ever hear such a thing (if a tree falls asleep in the woods, does it make a sound?). This song would have benefitted from adding actual field recordings of rustling leaves or rattling, shifting branches that croak in the cool night air, or other such natural aural phenomena.
This criticism is not to imply that Autumn Glades of Everlasting Peace is without merit or success, even when it comes up short on its implied promises. For instance, “A Murmur in Deep Hazy Woods” is one of the most effective moments on the album. The use of previously recognizable instrumentation gets nullified as simple layers of droning sound creates a thick, ominous, deep, misty atmosphere that stands apart from the other songs in a powerful way. The restraint and simplicity of this song works very well. I only wish that Leopard Flowers had chosen to include more immersive material like this throughout the rest of the album.
On a general level, there’s nothing wrong with Autumn Glades of Everlasting Peace. The album is well-played and, as mentioned, exceptionally recorded; the digipak and artwork are interesting, and each song has a moment or two that might shine for the interested listener. However, these factors alone do not combine to make a remarkable album. The music is simply much too safe, sounds too clean, and comes across as if it were afraid to take any real risks or probe the deeper and darker depths – those very depths of life and death it seems intent on representing. The supposed sorrows and triumphs of life it celebrates don’t strike deep enough to land any potent emotional blows. Nature is not so clean and safe. Nature is violent, messy, sad, joyous, and many other things besides.
01) Tears on the Snow
02) Embrace of Leaves and Branches
03) Awake in the Morning Dew
04) Thicket’s Shelter
05) A Murmur Deep in Hazy Woods
06) Sorrow Thorns
07) When Trees Fall Asleep
08) Grieving Heart
09) (Silence) for Evermore