Music fans know little about An Autumn For Crippled Children (or AAFCC), other than their origins in Friesland, Holland, and their dedication to remaining anonymous. What we do know is this trio are trailblazers for the divisive blackgaze genre that takes the vocals and DIY production of black metal and mixes it with the glory of British alternative music from the late 80s and early 90s.
In theory, this should work. We at Scream Blast Repeat cover the whole spectrum of music from extreme metal through to the esoteric beauty of dark alternative forms. An artist with a foot in both camps will always intrigue us.
Unfortunately, the Dutch three-piece miss the mark on this album with the ten songs morphing into one dream that fizzles out before it can reveal its true meaning. The dream pop on offer is by no means mediocre. Melodies buried beneath layers of distortion and reverb collide with harsh vocals and sometimes produce pieces of magic. The melody of ‘Water’s Edge’ captures the emotions of mending a broken relationship with a former lover, leaving you to imagine the tearful euphoria that follows. ‘None More Pale’ is successful where The Smashing Pumpkins attempted but failed to execute their vision of shoegaze textures with alt-rock dynamics on Machina/ The Machines of God. ‘Paths’ recalls the splendour of The Cure’s 1987 classic, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me with its reverb-saturated strings fed through a guitar amp.
But here lies the problem. AAFCC’s dalliance with The Cure is misguided in its vision and poor in its execution. ‘I Became You’ is like they’ve taken the B-sides from the 1987-1992 era of Robert Smith’s mind and mixed the lo-fi keyboards with the downstrokes of Sonic Youth at their most tame. By track number three you’ll be begging for variation. A syncopated guitar riff or a crunchy rhythm – anything to break the monotony of the three-chord fuzz on offer. Yet we get nothing distinguishable from the first half of the record from track six through to the end. The tempo change at the two-minute mark of the title track and the piano at the beginning of ‘Distance’ are the only things that stand out in the latter half. Other than that, it’s a blur of plodding downstrokes with harsh vocals turned so low in the mix you won’t hear them.
The main problem with this album is not the lack of metal. Although, there is not a trace of our beloved genre in the music other than the vocals. No, the main problem is the lack of imagination that gives this record the feel of a side-project by musicians with interests in other more important bands. It’s not bad, but ten songs of this universe are enough to have you nodding off rather than gazing at your shoes.
There’s plenty of scope for AAFCC to evolve from here, their fifth album, and come back stronger on their next effort, perhaps even with a bit more metal. They have the ideas, and the iconoclasm of a great artist, but the content needs refining.
Release Date: 08/05/2020
Record Label: Prosthetic Records
Standout tracks: Water’s Edge, Paths, None More Pale
Suggested Further Listening: Dinosaur Jr – Bug (1987), The Cure – Join the Dots: B-Sides & Rarities, 1978-2001 (2004), Deafheaven – Sunbather (2003)