Review Summary: An Autumn for Crippled Children have finally begun to really shine and concoct masterful pieces of music.
An Autumn for Crippled Children are a Dutch, atmospheric black-metal band that have had some decent success and mostly positive ratings but, up until the point of this album, have yet to really reach their full potential. With the release of "Only the Ocean Knows" last year, it seems safe to say AAFCC have really started to create high quality music, and produce top-notch, bleak, melodic, depressive metal.
Proggish, distorted, space-y, synth notes followed shortly by an audible, harmonizing bass line, instantly grabs the listener’s attention and begins the album. Following the intro, the familiar-to-the-genre, overly-distorted electric guitar joins in, along with drums, to fully envelop the listener in a euphoric rush of sound. Thus is the opening to the first track: "Past Tense". This track is arguably the best, and is definitely my favorite one on the album. Though that isn’t to say that the rest of the album doesn't hold up, there are definitely some more highlights on this record.
The band’s take on atmospheric black-metal is very interesting, and is a relatively fresh take at that. The band uses synthetic and electronic sounds and effects extensively which, as far the genre of black metal is concerned, is probably the last thing you would expect to hear from a black metal band. Surprisingly though, it actually melds very well and the band manages to balance both influences successfully onto one record. Though there are the aforementioned recognizable influences from both of the respective genres that the band’s influences hail from, there are also some hints of classical instruments here and there that complement the songs, and help to change the pace of the album. Most notably in "In February", the fourth track, with the soft, clean chords and a reverberating violin playing over top the mix in the beginning of the song.
The mood of the album is a constant and the band doesn’t really stray too far from the dark, depressing, melancholy sounds of its other contemporaries in the genre such as: Agalloch, Ash Borer, and Wolves in the Throne Room. The heart-breaking, soaring melodies of "Only the Ocean Knows" carry an emotional weight to them that has a genuine and relatable feel to them. You can hear the pain in the low-mixed vocals that, though aren't that different than what you’d expect from a black-metal band, come in just at the right times and don’t overbear the listener. The album is definitely more of an instrumental effort, and evidence of this can be seen in the level of care and attention that is put into the instrumental side of each song. Every song is perfectly mixed, with every instrument complementing one another and harmonizing with each other. The lead melodies in "Past Tense" and "Uncureable" are so catchy and make such an emotional connection with me personally that I can’t stop repeatedly playing these songs. I've given their past LPs a few listens so far as well, but I personally have to say that this album is a major step forward and, without a doubt, their best record to date.
Only the Ocean Knows is a powerhouse of an album without any real bad tracks on it. There are definite highlights on this album; none of the tracks are really terrible in any way. Though the only minor complaint I could say about this record is that the rest of the tracks can be a little same-sounding and don’t quite blow me away as much as I would like. You could also possibly argue that the length of this album is a bad thing, coming in a little under 40 minutes, but, I suppose that’s more of a matter of opinion. Despite these minor flaws in the album, the third LP by An Autumn for Crippled Children is an amazing, sublime album that definitely sets the standard for this band and raises the bar for any future releases they have planned.