Band: Crippled Black Phoenix
Label: Season Of Mist
Genre: Post Rock
Release Date: September 9th, 2022
For Fans Of: Solstafir, Gazpacho, Mogwai
Banefyre, the new release from prog/post rock group Crippled Black Phoenix, begins in an odd manner. Opening track “Intro/Incantation For The Different” starts with what is supposed to be chanting, but instead sounds like how you respond when a dentist named Joe asks you how your first year at college went. From there the opening shifts to spoken word segments that sometimes work, but more often they border on unintentionally funny. See the weird emphasis in the sentence “Born with a silver spoon…up your ASS!” for an example. Eventually the proper songs start playing and I can forget everything that’s happened so far. Sort of.
The second track on the album and the unfortunately named “Wyches And Basterdz” (more on these song names later) enthralled me from first listen. Crippled Black Phoenix cast a spell and cause their listener to wander about in a trance as the music hypnotically pulses through space. Banefyre sounds like the soundtrack of a dream. The songs have repetition and tied-together themes that sometimes remain buried under layers of vocals and instruments. Banefyre presents itself murky upon first listen, and remains intentionally murky after a dozen listens.
Banefyre is over ninety minutes long. That is excessive quantities of music. I’ve wavered on how I think of the length of this album. On first listen, I barely noticed as the sounds of Crippled Black Phoenix threw me back and forth between enchanting hymn-like music and jarring missteps that made me question my sanity. After that, the length felt excessive and tiring. Finally, the indulgence and stretched-out nature of Banefyre made sense as a part of what the band was going for. While I do think this record is too long, I’m not sure it would have worked as a shorter experience. I don’t know exactly how Crippled Black Phoenix created a record that is simultaneously way too long and barely long enough, but they somehow managed.
Crippled Black Phoenix’s vocals are beautiful and varied. The record’s atmosphere and songwriting remind me of a combination of Gazpacho and Oceanic-era Isis. The performances on Banefyre, outside of where the band intentionally stubs their collective toe on a table leg, are impeccable. The band matches the mood of their writing at all times, whether through moments of swelling sorrow or simple and questioning anger. They do a lot with a little.
Unfortunately, Crippled Black Phoenix dare to ask the question that few other bands will even think of: How bad can the song titles of an album be before they begin to negatively impact the quality of the music? After “Wyches And Basterdz,” You have other wonderful song titles such as “Bonefire,” “Blackout77,” and lower-back-tattoo-worthy names such as “No Regrets” and “The Scene Is A False Prophet.” These don’t match the tone of the music at all, and they actively derailed my listening experience whenever I remember that they exist. The music is serious stuff with huge and dark themes, but the band name, album name, and song titles all make me think that this band is trying to hide their emotional strength from the unworthy. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but if you have the best book ever written with a cover consisting of a spray-painted dick and nothing else, that will shade how you read the damn book.
Too many moments on Banefyre, like the beginning of “The Reckoning,” not only don’t need to happen, but are actively distracting. Part of how Banefyre works is its absurd excessiveness, but that ends up being a crown of thorns. So much of this album feels like biding time. When the payoff works, that’s fine, but for tracks like the intro, I felt like I was stuck in a bad Dr. Suess book that wouldn’t end.
I don’t know if Crippled Black Phoenix have made a great album. I’m not even convinced that they made a good album, although I enjoyed Banefyre enough to rate it well. I do know that they made a supremely interesting album, and took many creative risks in doing so. I recommend that anyone with even a passing interest in post-rock pay attention to Banefyre. You may hate it, but it will fascinate you and demand your attention.
- Intro / Incantation For The Different
- Wyches And Basterdz
- The Reckoning
- Rose Of Jericho
- Down The Rabbit Hole
- Everything Is Beautiful But Us
- The Pilgrim
- I’m OK, Just Not Alright
- The Scene Is A False Prophet
- No Regrets
Total Playing Time: 1:37:32