REVIEW: CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX – BRONZE (2016)

Justin Graves and his mates strike gold

“Bronze”, exclaims the press release that came with this record. “Consists primarily of copper, but it is the inclusion of other metals and non-metals that gives this alloy its specific characteristics. Ever since mankind discovered the secret of its making thousands of years ago, the golden and shining bronze has changed the course of history, spawned destruction and war, yet also been crafted into desired objects of extreme beauty.”

Which is just about this record in a nutshell to be fair.

Frequently in their decade or so on this planet, since Justin Greaves decided to challenge himself after leaving Iron Monkey, Crippled Black Phoenix have touched incredible heights. Their live shows are the stuff of legend (MV has only seen them once, but it remains one of the gigs of the last five years) and they just keep getting better and better.

“Bronze” is no exception.

Bands talk about being eclectic, about harnessing myriad styles. CBP don’t talk, they act. They are also contrary so and so’s, which is the only way really you can explain the opening foray’s here. “Champions Of Disturbance” hums, pulses and throbs, and is basically what would loosely be termed a prog metal song (you imagine that the band themselves would have no truck with such genre classification, mind you) but its follow up, “Dead Imperial Bastard” is five minutes of ambience.

The outfit (for god’s sake don’t call them “a collective”, they aren’t) are a challenge, but its not deliberately wacky stuff which dares you to hate it, instead, there is a psychedelic feel about “Deviant Burials”, which isn’t too far from modern Opeth, “Goodbye Then” is a meandering ballad, and the first single they choose to usher the album in with “No Fun” is perhaps the biggest about turn of all. It’s the kind of hypnotic stuff that you might have found on the debut Black Rebel Motor Cycle Club record.

There will be those who feel that Crippled Black Phoenix can’t sound like this. This is the band saying: “yeah, we can, we will, and we’ll do what we damn well please.”

No two songs here are alike, “Rotten Memories” with its understated keyboards and bluesy guitar suggests in its chorus that “the truth will become stranger than fiction” and in so doing sums up the record. It’s counterpart “Scarred And Alone” is a genuine ethereal moment, with its slow burning music and female vocals it builds to a crescendo that has more than echo of Dave Gilmour’s guitar about it.

Even though, “Bronze” is never as impenetrable as it might have been, “Turn To Stone” is every inch its most accessible cut, an out and out classic rock song, it is simple and brilliant. “We Are The Darknerers” is epic in feel, coming in as it does on a mighty wall of guitar, it is perhaps the heaviest thing “Bronze” offers, while the closing affair “Winning A Losing Battle” is more than happy to just thumb gleefully through the history of prog – or at least it is until it takes a decidedly unsettling turn as if it can’t resist confounding expectations just once more.

Even by their high standards, this is a brilliant collection of songs, even if it’s not an easy one to get a handle on, probably deliberately. Crippled Black Phoenix may or may not be what you think they are, they say on their Facebook page. I think “Bronze” brilliant. You might not. You’d be wrong.

Rating 9/10