Crippled Black Phoenix was formed in 2004 when multi-instrumentalist Justin Greaves, associated with such bands like Electric Wizard and Iron Monkey came to idea to play his own music in his band and no difficulties could not affect this decision – no multiple line-up changes or something else. Crippled Black Phoenix have stubbornly created music, releasing seven albums, four EPs and countless bootlegs. And now they release their eighth album, Ellengæst.
A year after Great Escape (2018) was released, vocalist Daniel Anghede, which joined to the band in 2013, leaves it, so today Crippled Black Phoenix is Belinda Kordic (vocals, percussion), Helen Stanley (piano, synths, trumpet), Andy Taylor (guitars) and Justin Greaves, of course. The problem with male vocalist was solved by Justin quite elegant: he invited a lot of guest vocalists and on Ellengæst you can hear the vocals from Vincent Cavanagh (Anathema), Kristian “Gaahl” Espedal (Gaahls Wyrd’s, ex-Gorgoroth), Jonathan Hultén (Tribulation), Ryan Patterson (Coliseum, Fotocrime) and Suzie Stapleton.
“Ellengæst” from Olde English with some Scandinavian connection is “strong spirit”, or another reference is “mischievous demon”. “It comes from the same place, but with different connotations,” says Greaves. “That’s this band in a nutshell. We’ve had to stay strong because of all the BS we’ve encountered, yet we’re still going and subversive. It’s like we’re giving kids candy with razor blades in them.”
“House Of Fools”, which opens the album, starts from sad trumpet and suddenly interrupted by heaviness of the other instruments. However, the heaviness is gone soon, leaving just very somber music with Vincent Cavanagh’s vocals and feminine Belinda Kordic voice: these two vocalists interact really good, contrasting sometimes. But in the middle of the song everything becomes quiet again and you can hear only some tragic piano that continues to create and tragic atmosphere. Later guitars join it, taking the music somewhere to the Doom with their heavy riff. Justin’s songwriting talent is shown here greatly: started in a Dark Rock way, reminding Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the song turns to heavy and mournful Doom later, and it is made really seamlessly. Belinda/Vincent duo continues in the next, catchy “Lost”, where Belinda’s voice gains all attention, actually. The music is dark, but not somber: it sounds rather cold and distant, but this is really mesmerizing and eight minutes of the song (the average length of track in the album) pass really quickly.
The presence of Gaahl in this album was unexpected: he doesn’t collaborate often with the other bands. Nevertheless, in Ellengæst he also shows his other side: Gaahl doesn’t sing but tell the lyrics with clean, deep and low voice, creating some kind of “spoken word” here on the track called “In The Night”. In some moment guitars play tougher, the song becomes heavier but the dismal stays unchanged. The intro in this song is good too: it’s a record of the young girl that wants some attention from her mother and tries to hide how hurt she was – that sounds hopeless. The atmosphere of desperation and hopelessness continues in Bluesy “Everything I Say”, where female vocals and grim piano changed with heavy riffs and drums, which suddenly end with one cymbal ring. The music changes in that way a couple of times, but the song itself is stunning and every change still unexpected. When this musical whirlwind is dying down for the last time, the song slowly turns to a spoken word interlude “(-)”, which tells about the loss of a close one.
The longest song in the album, “The Invisible Part” (11:25) is incredibly atmospheric, extensive soundscape, that draws some fantastic pictures in the mind of the listener. Musically it reminds Pink Floyd a little bit (at times when Roger Water created music and not wrathful letters with demands to cancel some bands’ shows), with saturated music and unbelievable atmosphere. Nevertheless, I can hardly describe this brilliance, so it’s worth to listen to it but not to read about it. Bauhaus cover “She’s In Parties” ends the album; greatly made musically but not so fit to this album atmospherically, as for me.
Ellengæst is tremendously dark and atmospheric album, full of emotional “roller-coasters”: he tells about strong and weak aspects of the people, about the pain of loss and unstrained love; it’s all about feelings, which can do a lot to us. And you know, this album is really heavy, not musically but in its essence.
Ellengæst will be released on October, 9th via Season Of Mist.
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