The term “cinematic” gets whipped out there a lot when it comes to talking about music, and often times that descriptor actually fits. Music that wells up your feelings inside and make it seem like you’re in the middle of a great or dark adventure is enthralling and some of my favorite stuff to occupy my mind.
UK band Crippled Black Phoenix always has been one that has satisfied that whim when it comes to wanting something to sweep me off into the distance. Their style is huge and epic, yet they have an absolute darkness to them that doesn’t promise you a happy ending every time out. They’re not exactly a metal band, per se, though their style certainly can have a carryover effect the same way as a group such as MONO, and everything they put out is involved and demands the listener’s energy be devoted back to their artwork. If you also happen to get the feeling that the world is crumbling down around you when you immerse yourself in your music, don’t worry. That just means you’re doing it right.
Crippled Black Phoenix have returned with an excellent new EP “New Dark Age” on primarily metal label Season of Mist, and it provides the first real dramatic sparks from the heavy music world in 2016. This project, long led by multi-instrumentalist Justin Greaves, offers this mini-collection (for them; it’s still quite meaty in length) that contains two brand new tracks and an extended, newly reimagined cover of Pink Floyd’s dual-part “Echoes” track that finishes off the classic “Meddle” album. Along with Greaves on this album is a healthy collection of players including Daniel Änghede on vocals and guitar; Mark Furnevall on synthesizer, keyboards, and backing vocals; Daisy Chapman on piano and vocals; Ben Wilsker on drums; Niall Hone on bass; Jonas Stålhammar on guitar; and Belinda Kordic on vocals.
“Spider Island” begins the collection, the shortest of the four songs, so it’s the one that’s the most immediate. The tempo drives slowly as guitars begin to slide, other elements glimmer, and the vocals have a Queens of the Stone Age bend to them as Änghede warns, “You’ve got no friends here, only nightmares.” The back end swelters and drops a heavy shadow, leading into the 14:10 title cut. What sounds like sirens begin to wail, as bluesy guitar work dirties the scene, keys begin to rush, and some of that Floydian paranoia trickles into the lyrics as Änghede insists, “We’re not afraid of your machinery.” The track keeps building thicker levels, as guitars tear out and burn, and the track takes on a spacey essence. Guitars and synth unite as the track breaks open one last time, as the band agitates their blaze and burns everything to the ground.
Then come the dual portions of “Echoes” that begin with clips from an old interview with Pink Floyd, with them sounding goofy, fake full of themselves, and holding court. That leads into the first half of “Part I” that’s pretty faithful to the original and sounds hauntingly like its creators. As the second half rolls around, that’s where the band starts taking Floyd’s vision and begins pushing it into different stratospheres. You might find your head swimming in their playing, as they really let their imaginations soar. The final moments bubble up and into “Part II” that again delves into Floyd quotes and then a mix of straight-up honoring the original and adding new dashes. At one point, the band hits a groove that reminds of modern-day Rush, and they keep the tempo boiling before things start to fade out, making you think everything is coming to a close. But no. The sounds re-emerge and create an entirely different thing, that being a trip into yet another Floyd song “Childhood’s End” from “Obscured by Clouds. It’s a really nice surprise tacked on, and a rousingly played one at that.
I’ve long enjoyed Crippled Black Phoenix’s music and approach to their work, and this EP fits right along albums such as “200 Tons of Bad Luck” and world-toppling “The Resurrectionists & Night Raider” as far as enjoyment factor is concerned. Their new material jars and hopefully indicates where the band is headed next, and their Floyd cover is sprawling but ideal, as it pays half homage and then blows up the rest of the idea in their own way. This is a great smaller release from a band that never fails to captivate with tales they create in their own macabre world.
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