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The Moral Crossing

Autobahn

The Moral Crossing

Label: Tough Love

Genre: Dark / Post Punk / Gothic / Neo-Folk

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This time around, AUTOBAHN decided to create their fearsome depth charges by building the tracks as they went along rather than working on completed songs. As a name, AUTOBAHN has been a bit misleading, as they sound quintessentially Leeds, not Munich or Dusseldorf, but Johnson chose the name because he loved the repetition of rhythm. With Hilton – surely one of the best young drummers alive – driving, Johnson requested they all, “imagine they were all different part of a machine: a steam engine, say. Again, it just felt right. And then we put it all together. The lyrics came right at the end.”

Johnson’s lyrics on The Moral Crossing combine to form a whole: the theme of a birth, “but that person had no choice in the decision. And then it’s about the different outcomes that could happen. Which could be glorious or torturous.”

The words and songtitles suggest more torture than glory – for example, “A selfless crucifixion / You’ve nailed in the hard sell” in the manic ‘Obituary’: “Pain out of control” in ‘Torment’: “With your withered hand / Drag me deeper into the fallen ground” in the escalating drama of ‘Fallen’ - a word, alongside “fall”, that crops up in several songs. Though Johnson points out that another line from “Fallen”, “Give a break to that child in the noose” is an example of AUTOBAHN’s, “dark northern humour” (another example was the billboard ad for Dissemble: a hearse, parked outside a funeral parlour, with the band’s name in flowers, next to a group of kids holding balloons…)

And though Johnson admits to sudden negative episodes (documented by ‘Low/High’, another slowburner that eventually bursts into flames), “they don’t last long. Actually, as a band, we’re more optimists. I don’t find talking about this stuff as ‘dark’, but it’s stuff people don’t usually want to talk about - execution, rising from the dead, depression, feeling utterly lost and unsure where to go. To understand the moral crossing, to go one way or the other, and how it can change your life. For me, saying this stuff out loud give the feeling that there’s a future.”

On ‘Low/High’, Johnson sings, “You’re floating higher now / No more discontent” and in the part-spoken word litany that is ‘Creation’, “I want to be there for you / I want to rise on through.” To reinforce the optimistic feeling, gospel singers from the local church sing on both tracks. “I wouldn’t call it ‘holy’ but some of the lyrics they were singing were about going to a higher place, even if the whole lyric might contradict that,” says Johnson.

AUTOBAHN have checked their own moral compass, and chosen the hard way – not just building their own studio, but to keep confronting the dark stuff. But their music is infused with the joy of exorcising the darkness: to be there, and rise on through. There is a future, and AUTOBAHN and The Moral Crossing are very much part of it.

- Martin Aston, August 2017