Review Summary: Crippled Black Phoenix still seem to be searching for an identity on this release which veers from space rock to post-rock and folk-indie but they appear eminently capable of melding all these aspects of their sound into a satisfactory whole.5 of 5 thought this review was well written
Supergroup 'Crippled Black Phoenix', the brainchild of Electric Wizard drummer Justin Greaves, are one of those acts that are rather difficult to classify. Their style has wandered into several different genres throughout their recording career. 'The Resurrectionists/Night Raider' is a two album box set released in 2009 and finds the group venturing from post-rock and alternative to indie-folk and space rock.
Crippled Black Phoenix seemed to be struggling to find an identity on their debut release 'A Love Of Shared Disasters' in 2007. They seem more assured on this double box set but their sound still treads the waters of multiple genres. The first album of the pair 'The Resurrectionists' contains the more straightforward pieces. The ambient murmurings of opener 'Burnt Reynolds' fall away to reveal the laid-back space/psych rock soundscapes of an early Pink Floyd touched up with a post-rock vibe. 'Rise Up and Fight' continues along the path of retro space rockdom with a bassline and echoing guitar riff which conjure up the image of Gilmour and crew cranking out 'One of these Days' in the dust of Pompeii. The bleak 'Whissendine' with its mournful americana tinged atmosphere could almost serve as a modern day spaghetti western soundtrack and the band's latent folk-indie sensibilities come to the fore on '200 Tons of Bad Luck' which wouldn't sound too out of place on a stripped to the core Arcade Fire album. Crippled Black Phoenix would eventually start moving away from their post-rock sensibilities on '(Mankind) The Crafty Ape' but a melancholic, brooding and minimalistic feel is evident throughout much of the material on this album.
The second album in this box set shows the more experimental side of the band's sound. The 18 plus minutes of 'Time Of Ye Life/Born For Nothing/Paranoid Arm Of Narcoleptic Empire' steps back into psychedelia and features an extended space rock inspired jam section. 'Wendigo' is an ethereal instrumental piece which is quite beautiful in its sparseness and conjures up images of sunsets over empty windswept landscapes with tumbleweeds rolling over the scene. The more experimental interludes include the austere 'Bat Stack' full of heavily tremeloed guitars and mournful violin and the quirky 'Along Where The Wind Blows' with it's waltzing beat and forcibly rough edged vocal delivery. 'Onwards Ever Downwards' opens to the sounds of a fairground haunted house but evolves into a gauzy shifting post-rock song. They save the best till last though with the haunting 'I Am Free, Today I Perished'. Ponderous heavily reverbed piano dreamily weaves its way through a slowly building atmosphere of ambient soundscapes and bleak synth melodies.
The two albums contained in this box set are available as separate releases on the bandcamp page of Crippled Black Phoenix. 'The Resurrectionists' probably contains the most immediate sounding material but don't dismiss 'Night Raider' as it contains some extremely beautiful music. The band still seem to be searching for an identity at times but the retro space rock feel does not jar unnecessarily with their more modern post-rock sensibilities. These albums are definitely worth exploring if you are a fan of their later work on 'I, Vigilante' and '(Mankind) The Crafty Ape'.