Crippled Black Phoenix – “Bronze” (Season of Mist)
Justin Greaves has come a long way. When I first met him as the drummer for Iron Monkey it was a cold evening outside the Red Eye club in London’s King Cross, shortly after which the band launched into a street fight that left me wondering just what kind of people I gotten myself involved with! Never quite being able to work it out, and against criticism from just about everyone around me, I stayed with Monkey over the next couple of years, until “Our Problem”. As the band tragically collapsed, I moved on and so did Greaves, firstly collaborating with Sunn 0)))’s Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson and Napalm Death vocalist Lee Dorrian under the name Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine, and then undertaking a 3 year tenure in Electric Wizard. While there, multi instrumentalist Greaves began conceptualizing a new band with different sounds, running his ideas by Mogwai’s Dominic Atchison, and the duo co-founded Crippled Black Phoenix, who have since released 5 prior albums. Reflective of Greave’s vision, the sound is kaleidoscope of different styles from dark rock, psychedelia, stoner, ambient, folk and not in the least, prog especially drawing from Pink Floyd. Played by a myriad of over 30 personnel that have been involved in the band at one stage or another, it’s not easy to put your finger on what Crippled Black Phoenix are about – and that’s undoubtedly what Greaves likes in laying musical traps that lovers of the band undoubtedly are attracted to. Beyond that, there’s a definite maturity to the music and while my memorable respect for Greaves won’t allow me to believe it’s pretension, I can definitely see this appealing especially to musicians, artistes and connoisseurs or even the composers themselves of film score soundtracks. Just check out the trippy dark melancholy of ‘We Are The Darkness’ with its flowing guitar melodies contrasting with metallic shoe gaze riffs, ghostly vocals and primordial, thudding drums leading to a spectacular trance effect. With matters thankfully lightening up as if paradoxically on ‘No Fun’ employing samples and wailing guitars piercing through a heavy psych shroud induced by synthesizers, there is still yet more spell bounding hypnosis to be experienced as “Bronze” goes well beyond music into metaphysics. Culminating in the 9 minute ‘Champions Of Disturbance (Pt 1 & 2)’, the first half is pure shoe gaze trance while the latter is more Scandi stoner rock rolling along to a groove made up of far out guitars, funky pianos and hippy harmonies ending in an ELO radio miked vocal send out as the instruments play themselves to burn out. Awesome! Justin Greaves has definitely come a long way in this superior musical experience but (thankfully) there’s still a bit of the Monkey mischief in there too.