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Album review: Crippled Black Phoenix – Ellengæst

While previous Crippled Black Phoenix releases still had a dark feel to them, they were much more instrumental and ambient. Ellengæst leans right into the goth side of things and features more singing.

It’s Halloween season and Crippled Black Phoenix have released their latest album Ellengæst just in time. It’s moody, dark and everything you have come to expect from the progressive, thought-provoking, and shape-shifting musical collective. There have been years of drama, line-up changes and the band finding themselves without a male lead vocalist on the first day of tracking, but despite this, they forged ahead to make an incarnation of the band that founder Justin Greaves feels is their strongest yet.

Instead of letting the departure of the previous lead vocalist spell the end of the album, Greaves assembled a cast of prominent guest vocalists. These include Anathema’s Vincent Cavanagh, Gaahls Wyrd’s Kristian “Gaahl” Espedal, Coliseum/Fotocrime/one-time Crippled Black Phoenix touring bassist Ryan Patterson, UK solo artist Suzie Stapleton and Tribulation’s Jonathan Hultén.  The album starts with haunting trumpet refrains from Helen Stanley before quickly bursting into a jarring war of instrumentals on “House Of Fools”. This song features the sultry, Nick Cave-esque vocals of Cavanagh and trademark wailing back-up vocals from Belinda Kordic. It’s an incredible way to start the album and sets the listener up for how epic the rest will be.

Next is the single “Lost”, which is one of the highlights. It starts in a creepy fashion and Kordic and Cavanagh swap vocals, with Kordic leading. This song talks about how humans are the virus on the planet, and the film clip is a challenging but essential watch that shows starving children, the recent protests against police brutality, animal cruelty, and the Coronavirus crisis. “Lost” delivers an incredibly important message but in a ‘catchy’ way with driving drums, great bass and guitars, and Kordic’s haunting vocals. 

Espendal takes the lead vocally on “In The Night” and goes a different route, doing most of it in sultry spoken-word. This song is sexy and slows the album down but also has warm guitars and a fantastic Pink Floyd-feeling guitar solo. The album then takes another turn to 1980s spangled goth with another excellent highlight “Cry Of Love”, featuring Patterson leading the vocals and Stapleton backing. This song is your classic eighties feeling goth song; the kind that conjures images of smoky rooms and red wine.

Another highlight on this album is the eleven-minute epic, “The Invisible Past”, which has a much more positive feel than the other songs. This song has calming lead vocals from Hultén and is so beautiful and soaring. While previous releases of Crippled Black Pheonix’s still had a dark feel to them, they’ve been much more instrumental and ambient. Ellengæst leans right into the goth side of things and features more singing. “The Invisible Past” is the closest to previous releases on this album. 

Finishing out the album is a fantastic cover of the Bauhaus classic, “She’s In Parties”. Paying homage to the original, the bass is excellent, and the band speed the song up a little and make it feel more connected and slinky. This song is an entertaining way to close out the album.

In true Crippled Black Phoenix style, most of the songs on this album are over the five-minute mark, making it an almost hour-long epic. But that’s okay because every minute of it great, especially for lovers of dark and moody music.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

FFO: Bauhaus, Sleepmakeswaves, Junius

Ellengæst is out now via Season of Mist

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