Crippled Black Phoenix (CBP) return with their new album Banefyre. From their early days of Pink Floyd-influenced music they have forged and crafted their own unique sound, which is difficult to put into a category as they have defined one of their own. They have also been an active voice for the voiceless in the world; animals, the Planet and now on this release the unequal and the different within our societies. Overall their mission has been to “shed light on the human condition and the inequalities that befall humankind and its creatures”, with Justin Greaves and long-time vocalist and lyricist Belinda Kordic often proffering that “these beings cannot fend for themselves”.
Justin has written and assembled thirteen songs for this release, which was tracked at Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire, with the vocals cut at Monolith Studio and Kapsylen Studio in Stockholm, Sweden. Mixing was by Kurt Ballou in GodCity Studios in Salem, Massachusetts and this was a pivotal choice to determine the overall sound they were after. The striking artwork by Lucy Marshall was specially commissioned and is unique to this album, demonstrating CBP’s love for animals while twisting the narrative around, and it fires up the imagination. Of the album’s thirteen tracks, four are over ten-minutes, the longest reaching just over fifteen.
The central core theme of Banefyre is the persecution of people deemed “different” by society, the title coming from an old English translation that represented the bonfires that engulfed witches and politicians between the 15th and 18th Centuries.
Proceedings open with Intro/Incantation for the Different, with spoken word and music that invokes the coming feel and tone for the album. The words were written and orated by Chicago based witch, artist, author and occultist Shane Bugbee, who Greaves felt “brought us some positive dark energy”. This moves into Wyches and Basterdz, which deals with the Salem Witch Trials. Here Belinda Kordic’s vocals convey so much feeling, relating the tale of “Little Liza” and her persecution for being different, the music giving the right balance of melancholy and menace in one of the album highlights.
Up next, Ghostland is a haunting, almost mesmerising song where the music is built around a repetitive chant (in Swedish I believe). Holding your attention is what CBP do well, be it through lyrics or the music, and this is demonstrated again on I’m OK, Just Not Alright, which starts with the sound of a fairground carousel and someone crying. The music has a slow and almost sombre feel to start, matching the emotion of the introduction, before gradually building through perfect timing and pacing to a climatic end.
The longest track is The Scene is a False Prophet. This has a slow, minimalistic presentation to start with piano and drum accompanying the vocals, the focus then changing around the six-minute mark with an effects interlude. At eight-and-a-half minutes, guitar enters and the band take the song forward with more force from a pulsating rhythm section, with some great guitar work toward the end. The two halves of the song are very different in approach, and this link or break is reminiscent to me of Pink Floyd’s Echoes, but this is clearly a CBP song, pulling together all that they do so well.
This is an album that needs time investing in its listening, which is a good thing as you will become immersed in the music and lyrics. You can tell by the music, lyrics and delivery that the subject matter means a lot to them, played with passion and boundless energy. They highlight the injustices without forcing their ideas, and in fact it is delivered in such a way that you can make your own informed decision on the subject, all the while enjoying the excellent music.
01. Intro/Incantation for the Different (2:49)
02. Wyches and Basterdz (4:57)
03. Ghostland (5:43)
04. The Reckoning (6:49)
05. Bonefire (4:36)
06. Rose of Jericho (13:47)
07. Blackout77 (7:37)
08. Down the Rabbit Hole (10:32)
09. Everything is Beautiful But Us (4:36)
10. The Pilgrim (6:19)
11. I’m OK, Just Not Alright (10:05)
12. The Scene is a False Prophet (15:13)
13. No Regrets (4:30)
Total Time – 97:32
Justin Greaves – Guitars, Drums, Bass, Samples, Saw
Belinda Kordic – Vocals, Percussion
Helen Stanley – Grand Piano, Synthesisers, Monochord, Trumpet
Andy Taylor – Guitar, Baritone Guitar, 12-string Guitar
Joel Segerstedt – Vocals, Guitar
Record Label: Season of Mist
Formats: CD, Triple Vinyl, Download
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 9th September 2022