I first came across Crippled Black Phoenix when I bought their The Resurrectionist / Night Raider (2009) box set and was taken by their darker Pink Floyd tinged rock leanings. Over their subsequent releases CBP have developed their own unique brand of “post rock”; with their band troubles, which are well documented, behind them the last three releases, including this one, show a purposeful direction.
Crippled Black Phoenix have always been a band that have confounded critics and reviewers alike, who try to pin down their style, terms such as stoner rock, freak rock and psychedelic doom have often been used, indeed the press information from their record company Season of Mist list their style as “macabre rock”. I believe they have developed a style of their own using their musical influences, the most obvious of which being Pink Floyd, to create a “sombre melancholy” with a dark streak to their music, countered by moments of beautiful melody. Dark rock forms the basis of this release, with the additional influences of metal, progressive, gothic and even hints of pop.
Recently, mastermind Justin Greaves has gone public about his personal fight against severe depression, and for this I applaud his decision. For Justin not letting the “black dog” devour you has become a big message within his songs, the lyrical themes partly revolving around “battling inner demons and resisting oppression” and this is all tied into the musical darkness. That said I feel there is a lot of hope expressed at times in the music, which is varied, sometimes complex but with moments of subtlety.
The opening track, Dead Imperial Bastard, begins proceedings with a spoken word introduction accompanied by an insistent drum pattern supported by swirling keyboards which set to expand the sound to an almost cinematic feel. There’s an undercurrent of menace, the end section having echoes of a Floydian feel to it. Goodbye Then has a gentle atmospheric start, when the drums enter they have a sound reminiscent to Black Sabbath’s Planet Caravan, which goes to create an almost yearning and beautifully melodic song. Deviant Burials begins with more spoken word before we get a keyboard introduction with an almost Hawkwind style to it, giving way to some heavy riffing interspersed with psychedelic keys.
Belinda Kordic adds her wonderful vocal style to Scared and Alone, giving an emotional feel to the subject matter, with references to the “black dog”, and there are subtle changes in the music which continue to develop the song. There is an air of sadness tinged with menace, there’s great use of trumpet but it never overtaking proceedings. There’s a great guitar solo before the song slowly builds in intensity to the end. The trumpet makes a more forceful contribution to the final track, We Are The Darkness, a powerful rock song with the trumpet adding texture to the overall sound.
Crippled Black Phoenix are no strangers to doing selective cover versions, and here we are treated to a fine cover of Joe Walsh’s Turn to Stone. Given the CBP treatment it fits well within the album and features guest vocals from Arvid Jonsson from Greenleaf via a studio session in Stockholm.
No Fun is the track that can be streamed before release. It contains a riff that has been on demo since 2004, but here it has been given purpose, along with vocals that maybe show an early Hawkwind influence. Then again that could just be my ageing ears, either way another good track.
This is an excellent album that demonstrates CBP’s continuing development. The influences have been used to texture the music rather than dominate it and although the subject matter and the dark menace within the music could give the impression that Bronze might be a difficult listen, this is not the case. Yes, Crippled Black Phoenix move within a musical darkness, but there are moments of hope, beauty and melody to counter the harder rock moments. This is an album that I would recommend; being a fan could make me biased, but I believe there is a lot here to enjoy and it certainly grows in stature with repeated plays. If you are a fan you probably have this on order, if not this is a band worth investigating, the Crippled Black Phoenix universe is an interesting one.
Bronze was recorded at Chapel Studio and was mixed with Karl Daniel Liden. It will be available on Digipak CD, Deluxe Digipak CD with slipcase and bonus tracks and Gatefold double vinyl in various colours.
01. Dead Imperial Bastard (5:00)
02. Deviant Burials (6:45)
03. No Fun (4:54)
04. Rotten Memories (3:11)
05. Champions of Disturbance Pt 1 & Pt2 (9:02)
06. Goodbye Then (5:23)
07. Turn to Stone (7:05)
08. Scared and Alone (8:59)
09. Winning a Losing Battle (9:15)
10. We Are The Darkeners (7:54)
Total time – 67:26
Justin Greaves – Guitar, Backing Vocals, Saw, Samples, Bass, Drums
Mark Furnevall – Synthesiser, Keyboard, Organ, Sound Manipulation
Daniel Anghede – Vocals
Daisy Chapman – Piano
Ben Wilsker – Drums
Jonas Stalhammer – Guitar, Hammond, Synth
Belinda Kordic – Vocals, Banshee, Lead Vocals on Scared Alone
Tom Greenway – Bass
Chrissie Caulfield – Violin, Harp, Fog Horn
Arthur Young – Piano
Arvid Jonsson – Vocals on Turn to Stone
Robert Holm – Trumpets
Record Label: Seasons of Mist
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 4th November 2016