Crippled Black Phoenix - Ellengæst review


52 users:
Band: Crippled Black Phoenix
Album: Ellengæst
Release date: October 2020

01. House Of Fools
02. Lost
03. In The Night
04. Cry Of Love
05. Everything I Say
06. (-)
07. The Invisible Past
08. She's In Parties [Bauhaus cover]

Band members are expendable. Music will always find a way.

This is the third incarnation of Crippled Black Phoenix, after no fewer than five members left to form Venus Principle (including drummer Ben Wilsker, who was present for the recordings of Ellengæst but he is not mentioned anywhere in the press releases as being part of the core of the band). Given the fact that band leader Justin Greaves is the one always staying behind to state that it was all for the best and that everything will be so much more positive in the future, the drama is obviously real. And we do love the drama here at Metal Storm but the music will always be more important.

And the music is sooo good. This is why we hold Crippled Black Phoenix in such high regard, even though they don't necessarily fit under the metal umbrella.

Not that it is easy to just label them using only one genre. The collective nature of the band as well as their immersive music has always reminded me of another stellar and grossly underappreciated band from the Island (there is only one island as far as good music is concerned); Archive. Or Antimatter (yes, from the same island). On Ellengæst there is progressive rock and post-rock and doom rock and post-punk and even gothic rock. They call themselves 'dark rock' or 'macabre rock' and, although this is a somewhat restrictive term for the richness of their sound, it does describe the general feel of their music. For this particular album Crippled Black Phoenix seem to have become a collective again, since Greaves decided to replace former lead male singer Daniel Änghede not with one person but with a number of high profile guests. And, despite the presence of different male vocalists, the album is more cohesive than one might expect.

Ellengæst is an olde English word with Scandinavian connection and translates as 'strong spirit' and/or as 'mischievous demon'. This duality is present on both the cover art, which is dark and awesome, as well as on the music. The Pink Floyd references are fewer compared to Great Escape, and Crippled Black Phoenix have invested heavily on the mood and the sounds of bands like Katatonia and Anathema of their non-metal years, as well as The Mission and Siouxsie And The Banshees. The Anathema bells ring naturally since Vincent Cavanagh's voice is pairing with Belinda Kordic's on the two first tracks of the album. "House Of Fools" is the heaviest song on show even though it has a beautifully soft and melancholic piano part in the middle. "Lost" has a very gothic rock / post punk vibe (and a video which makes me root for COVID-19 because we - humans - all deserve to fucking die), especially in the chorus and this is also the motif of "Cry Of Love", which is equally fascinating but unlucky to feature the weakest-sounding guest vocalists (and the mix doesn't help these vocalists either).

As far as guest appearances go, I was pleasantly surprised with Gaahl (Gaahls Wyrd, ex-Gorgoroth) performing in spoken word and giving "In The Night" a very mystagogic atmosphere, and I was swept away by Tribulation's Jonathan Hultén who lends his voice on The "Invisible Past", the most grandiose, cinematic and evocative song of Ellengæst. As I said earlier, the different male vocalists do not harm the record's flow or consistency; instead, they make it sound more interesting and varied. That said, my favourite cut, "Everything I Say", has no guest appearance and it is drenched in a doomy, gloomy and haunting ambience, relying on Kordic's bewitching performance. As perfect as this song is, I found myself wondering how it would have sounded if it was a duet of Belinda with someone like Nick Cave or Sivert Høyem, because it could have easily been either a Bad Seeds or a Madrugada track.

To put it gently, Crippled Black Phoenix are not renowned for wrapping up albums and individual songs hastily. While Ellengæst does not suffer from any serious bloating, tracks like "Lost" and "The Invisible Past" do feel like they last longer than they should despite their irresistible qualities. The latter would also have been the normal choice to finish the album with but instead, Crippled Black Phoenix decided to use the cover of the Bauhaus classic "She's In Parties" not as a bonus track but as the album closer. Although it slightly feels out of place next to the rest of the material, it is an excellent take of a legendary track, driven by Kordic's seductive voice and reaffirming the strong gothic / post-punk element of Ellengæst.

I have said more than enough. Crippled Black Phoenix's latest release is one of this year's highlights in rock music. While other bands would have dissolved after so many musicians departing over the years, Greaves has managed to keep it together releasing one great album after another.

"It's like a dream from which we never will wake
A flowing stream, we're swept along its wake"


Written on 21.11.2020 by Only way to feel the noise is when it's good and loud!


Comments: 1   Visited by: 25 users
22.11.2020 - 06:15
After a number of listens I'm still unsure of how I feel about it, some of it sounds a little monotonous which I find to be a little jarring. But it is a strong rock album as mentioned in the very enjoyable review.

Hits total: 671 | This month: 671