Review Summary: The band aims high and create one of their most accomplished affairs so far...
Crippled Black Phoenix are a band that intrigued me for some years now, but I was never sure where to start listening to them. I was somewhat convinced I would enjoy them, yet listening to random songs didn’t help me that much. Luckily for me, they played a gig in my town a couple of months ago. Naturally, I grabbed Great Escape
and caught my attention immediately. The lovely blend of classic rock, psychedelia, alternative, post rock, some electronic elements and ambient flows very smooth throughout the 73 minutes. A number of people criticized the lack of heavy parts and I can understand why (now, after listening to most of their music). This is arguably one of their most subdued works so far, however, the engulfing, temperamental atmosphere it creates matters most.
There is a Pink Floyd vibe haunting Great Escape
, augmented by contemporary post rock embellishments. The dreamy nature of the songs often shifts between mournful and hopeful, plus vocalist Daniel Änghede uses a Gilmour echoing croon. ‘To You I Give’ & the massive title track suite share heavily processed guitars, bass lines often pushed in front, as well as several piano leads or synthesizers layered throughout. The former is the most gorgeous moment on the record, sharing a lovely, catchy chorus and multiple build-ups. Lyrically, it sets the tone and backdrop whose finality is found on closing tracks, ‘Great Escape pt. I & II’. The anxiety and stress presented can be seen as both environmentally or personal. There is a downward spiral our planet or this certain someone slips into, so some kind of solace is ultimately needed. It’s like a rebirth through dying or in Earth’s case an extinction caused by ourselves in order to restart anew. These lofty plots I interpreted are rightfully backed by some truly cinematic songs. Belinda Kordic’s pristine vocals on part 1 are definitely nostalgic and beautifully contrast Daniel’s on part 2. The bittersweet ballad about finding this desired place where you can be yourself without anyone/anything interfering (or a religious alternative – heaven) delicately gives way to the second half’s steady groove. Sonically, it’s like a sweet relief before leaving your troubled past (or body) behind. The charming artwork alludes to the whole “lift up to the heavens” theme, nevertheless, there’s enough room for interpretation too. In the booklet, on the last page there is a man ascending in similar fashion to the horse on the front cover, so you can view it as a Arthur C. Clarke’s Starchild scenario too (farfetched, but why not). Returning to the music, as the main beat is buried by a holistic synth pad, a slow crescendo follows where you can hear main man Justin Greaves & Co. kick into a ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’-meets-Dark Side of the Moon
progression, complete with a prolonged, majestic solo. The level of details is admirable and this LP should be taken by the band as a starting point for upcoming projects.
Nonetheless, the above mentioned tracks aren’t the only ones worth mentioning. The centerpiece turns out to be another brilliant highlight. ‘Times, They Are A’Raging’ follows more or less the same recipe, growing from a sparse drum beat, trumpet, piano and bass rhythm section, topped by Daniel’s calm voice softly singing along. The political undertone is omnipresent and it should be since things have become quite tensed around the world. People can be influenced by their favorite artists’ messages, so seeing more signaling important issues can start a slow process of getting the right information to the masses. Halfway through, the guys burst into a heavy segment which is one of the best moments on the LP. The sharp guitars and uplifting vocals have a slight Eastern influence (punctuated by the guitar solo), creating a mesmerizing vibe that I wish it lasted longer. They change the tone and plunge into a low key coda faster than needed. Meanwhile, ‘Rain Black, Reign Heavy’ focuses on anxiety/depression as faint melodies play in the background, until distorted guitars interrupt them. The main release follows on the instrumental, ‘Slow Motion Breakdown’, starting from the same notes, only boasting some actual riffs for those who have been patiently waiting. ‘Las Diabolicas’ continues with noisy effects, vocoded vocals, alongside tom-heavy drumming. Aside from the main epics, this comes off as a succinct ditty, but it packs a punch in the context of the LP.
Ultimately, Great Escape
is probably one of the more challenging records Crippled Black Phoenix have recorded so far. Despite this, it is a big step forward for the band, because they created one cohesive, 73-minute odyssey that uses a wide array of influences to create something of their own. Bronze
hinted towards this direction, but the leap taken here is significant. There are a couple of parts where I feel they could’ve pushed more, for example on the rather cocky ‘Madman’. The track is interesting, sequencers are let loose, plus the cold, heartless vocals are a nice break from the overall vibe. Even so, there isn’t any twist or something harder to complement the main beats. ‘Nebulas’ has this upbeat, post punk motif working really well. Each member does his own thing, then all unite midway, however, I believe they should’ve pushed more with the eerie vocals and maintain the atmosphere longer. I don’t want to give the impression these cuts are bad, I just wanted the band to insist more on their impact. That being said, I urge anyone to spin this album a few times, especially before doing your yearly top. If you have the chance to see them live (a European tour was announced for Spring, including Roadburn Festival), go, because it will be a really pleasant experience.