Crippled Black Phoenix are an intriguing blend. There’s something a little bit dEUS about opener ‘House of Fools’, though it’s darker, like that magical Daughn Gibson track, ‘Lookin’ Back on ‘99’: it’s a little bit goth, but more interesting than that. Weirdly, they’re British, but don’t sound it at all.
Unexpected departures required guest vocalists, so Anathema’s Vincent Cavanagh, Gaahls Wyrd’s Kristian “Gaahl” Espedal, Coliseum’s Ryan Patterson, up-and-coming UK solo artist Suzie Stapleton and Tribulation’s Jonathan Hultén are all on board.
The result is cohesive enough. ‘Lost’ gothifies their credentials further – I’m almost sure I’ve heard it before, like it’s the cover of some 80s hit by Bauhaus or their ilk. It’s dreamy and broad in its appeal, underpinned by relentless rhythms, hearkening to the crossover charm of Mansun’s ‘Wide Open Space’.
‘In the Night’ is melancholic, with half-whispered vocals like someone from a Scandinavian metal band covering Tom Waits. Gaahl is, indeed, from a Norwegian black metal band, though his fondness for Tom Waits is unknown. Barely-there female backing vocals flit in and out. ‘Cry of Love’ is more emphatically attention-grabbing, with guest appearances by Ryan Patterson (Fotocrime) and Suzie Stapleton. The ode to a fallen pet is the kind of bounding indie-goth anthem that New Model Army or The Mission would have landed in their prime. It’s succeeded by a Vic Chesnutt cover, ‘Everything I Say’ (vocals: Belinda Kordic), all ponderous gloom and pregnant pauses, building to a monstrous wall of distortion.
‘[-]’ is a two-minute filler track, spoken film samples over mournful pad sounds: the kind of track that vanished from albums when PRS got grumpy about that sort of thing. It’s therefore frustrating when ‘The Invisible Past’ takes so long to take off. At over eleven minutes, it drifts in quietly, plucked guitar strings and mumbled vocals, taking two-and-a-half minutes to start to make its point. It’s the kind of languid slow-build lighters-in-the-air epic that Pink Floyd delighted in, though this lacks Floyd’s mastery or mystery. Jonathan Hultén (Tribulation) guests here, soaring above the guitar fuzz and plinky piano.
Much better is ‘She’s in Parties’, a sure-fire club classic for when we’re allowed outside again. That one really is by Bauhaus, and it’s stylishly done, Souxsie-ish vocals (by Belinda Kordic) and darkly textured guitars: a fitting finale to a darkly textured album.
Release Date: 09/10/2020
Record Label: Season of Mist
Standout tracks: Lost, Cry of Love, She’s in Parties
Suggested Further Listening: dEUS – Keep You Close (2011), Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead (1979), The Mission – God’s Own Medicine (1986)