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Crippled Black Phoenix - White Light Generator CD (album) cover


Crippled Black Phoenix


Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.75 | 99 ratings

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4 stars Stretched Out

Crippled Black Phoenix are a band who have been circling around my music radar for a good while now, but for one reason or another, I've never been too fussed to get into them. Judging from the rather enormous list of 'related artists' on RYM (including some bands that I really love), this band appears to be something of a 'supergroup', even if it is a group made out of members of smaller groups. Names like Electric Wizard, Pantheist, Esoteric, Mogwai and Portishead certainly are noticeable, especially with many of those bands playing styles of music that are far from the sound of this band. The band's first few albums were developing an interesting mesh of post-rock and folk music, but as the band progressed, those sounds dropped out and were replaced by more progressive rock sounds, until we finally arrive at White Light Generator, more or less a straight prog album.

Now to some, that may sound boring. Yes, the tags of 'post-rock', 'avant-folk' and 'slowcore' on A Love of Shared Disasters do sound shockingly unique, but I feel that Crippled Black Phoenix have never really lost these sounds, they just instead apply them to a more song-based method of songwriting. There are certainly hints of post-rock here on White Light Generator, but it's not the kind of crescendocore garbage that the scene is known for ' it's more that some of these songs hold chord progressions that could easily make up a crescendocore track, but they instead build them into structured songs with vocals and choruses, which I honestly prefer to drawn-out ridiculous compositions. The first part of 'No!' is probably my favourite track here, and you can really hear the post-rock backing in the chord progressions, but the chorus on top is what makes it such a brilliant song, as opposed to a brilliant chord progression.

But on the flip side, the band aren't afraid to let their inner crescendo boners go to waste, with the track 'We Remember You' containing one of the most orgasmically shoegazey post-rock finales, with tremolo-picked guitars and strings and horns all coming together in blissful brilliance. But it's not as if they do this every time ' the ending of this track feels like an enormous crescendo for the entire record, glowing high above everything that has been building up to it. And I think this is where Crippled Black Phoenix win. They are not post-rock, and they are not boring, but they take the isolated musical device that those bands use so liberally, and concentrate it into one movement, heightening its effect greatly.

But it's not as if this album is perfect. Nearly every time I come to this record, I feel as if there is the material here for a masterpiece, but they haven't quite nailed the structuring. For one, the album is definitely too long ' at 70 minutes with only two or three stand out songs, it can become quite tedious, but the songs are also quite consistently 'slightly above average'. Consistency is a good thing, and it sure does have an effect on the 70-minute run time, but none of these tracks, aside from the two I talked about before, and maybe 'Northern Comfort', really stick out. 'Let's Have An Apocalypse Now' has a really nice crowd-chanting vocal in the background; 'Black Light Generator' has a great chorus; 'A Brighter Tomorrow' has some excellent horns that actually remind me the most of The Antlers, but on the whole, none of these tracks stack up to anything massive. It's an enjoyable listen, but I can't help but feel that many of these tracks rest on one very simple or minimal part, and have little to give elsewhere.

Sonically, when this album isn't being post-rock, it reminds me the most of Gazpacho, or maybe a less depressive mid-era Anathema. Some of this material could almost be called indie-prog ' a track like 'Wake Me Up When It's Time To Sleep' reminds me more of Coldplay and Elbow than anyone in the progressive world. The songs are dreamy and often quite tired, but some sweet instrumentation and those low-end vocals keep them from being boring. Although there is next to none of the folky past here, the combination of the deep vocals with some Agalloch- like tones in the guitars (that I'm admittedly not too big on) bring some folky vibes through in tracks like 'You'll Be Murdered'. 'Northern Comfort' is undeniably the strongest of the middle of the album, done by breaking from the dreary and slow moods into a very unique and upbeat bridge with some rather lively drumming and an interesting Arabic (forgive my ignorance if I'm wrong) vocal part coming in the background.

On the whole White Light Generator is still a strong record, even if its lack of being able to create any truly astonishing tracks is a bit frustrating. The use of some unique and eclectic instruments bring new life to the slow and pacing songs, and the post-rock undertones to many of the songs are nice touches, but I still think Crippled Black Phoenix could have a masterpiece in them with a bit of refinement.


Originally written for my facebook page/blog:

Gallifrey | 4/5 |


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