‘They have the ideas, and the iconoclasm of a great artist, but the content needs refining,’ is what we said about An Autumn for Crippled Children’s (AAFCC) album from last year, before awarding All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet a five out of ten rating. It was a reluctant verdict, not least because we liked their willingness to mix The Cure, Sonic Youth and Deafheaven into one coherent sound. Now they’re back with a new record exactly one year to this day, and it seems like the Dutch trio completed their inquest and are ready to return much stronger.
As the Morning Dawns… is a definite improvement on its 2020 predecessor. The drums are faster, the keyboard notes reverberated with more gusto and the guitars layered with greater imagination. Now you can feel the pinch of winter against your cheeks and the stream of a tear freeze against your face. AAFCC are all about overwhelming emotions that need an outlet for release. Nothing is in moderation, nor do they show restraint. Opener, ‘Carefully Breathing’, is Hüsker Dü playing black metal with the same attitude the Minnesotans displayed towards hardcore – restless, iconoclastic, always sabotaging any effort to craft a simple pop song with self-doubt and raw emotion. Unlike the last album, AAFCC utilise more conventional metal techniques on the excellent ‘In Winter’, which draws inspiration from the twin guitar approach of mid-90s Paradise Lost. This reaches a zenith on ‘Hearts Closed’ in just three minutes and thirty seconds of brave smiles and inner grief. The drums and guitars fight the melancholy with a forlorn gallop of irresponsible romance. It’s the romance that cannot last, not with such aching turmoil and uncertainty for the future.
The music of AAFCC is never at that liberating point of abandoning all care. Listen to ‘Melancholia’. Those major chord arpeggios ring out like post-suicide survivors regretting the folly of their last few years. On a musical level, it confuses as much as it diffuses the misery. Floating lollipop colours and purple bubbles are the opposite to the sombre grey landscapes and cold throb of black metal. Many of you will find this irreconcilable, and with good reason. Yet you should not give up on AAFCC. Those of you that always wondered what The Cure would sound like with a grungy-alt rock makeover will find much to enjoy here. Stick those headphones on and listen. Yes, listen to the rich layers and imaginative ways they fuse distorted guitars with keyboard textures and post-punk drum patterns. With better vocals, this would be up there with Lycia.
Of course, we couldn’t finish this review without mentioning the vocals. These are indistinguishable dry-throat screams, like Mel Mongeon of Fuck the Facts, only with less volume. No one doubts the sincerity or purpose of these primitive outbursts, but they spoil the good work of the songs on too many occasions. With no variation and no willingness to emancipate beyond the one-take vitriolic raging, AAFCC miss the chance to reach the level of a Katatonia or Anathema. Luscious melodies like these deserve a better voice. One can only imagine how superior this music would be with somebody like Tony Halliday (Curve) or Carline Van Roos (Aythis/Lethian Dreams) behind the microphone. The black metal screams are a novelty they ought to abandon if they’re not going to improve them in future.
Repeat listens to As the Morning Dawns We Close Our Eyes present a paradox. You’ll enjoy the audio production and sophisticated minimalism of the instruments but will grow to dislike the voice. Nevertheless, there’s something you can’t shake off, and this forces you to go back for more. AAFCC remain an enigma.
Release Date: 21/05/2021
Record Label: Prosthetic Records
Standout tracks: Carefully Breathing, In Winter, Hearts Closed
Suggested Further Listening: Carefully Breathing, In Winter, Hearts Closed