Justin Greaves must be either unlucky or a pain in the ass to work with. The leader of Crippled Black Phoenix has lost the majority of the band twice now. The first time was back in 2014 when members tried to take control of CBP before leaving en-masse to form Vly.
Now in 2020, Daniel Änghede, Jonas Stålhammar, Daisy Chapman and Mark Furnevall have left to form their own band Venus Principle. Each time Greaves stated that it was great to have a new start without all the negativity. And yet the common thread is him. Regardless of whatever drama follows him and CBP, the music cannot be denied. The question is can CBP rise again from the ashes.
And now we have a new album “Ellengæst” which means “mischievous demon.” Autobiographical? Kidding. Musically, it sounds like the more lumbering side of CBP rather than the atmospheric Floydian side. “House Of Fools” and “Lost” both hit hard and show that CBP is back once again and perhaps with more aggression. Since the band have always had male vocals and female vocals (Änghede was the male vocalist), guest vocalists were used on the album. Vincent Cavanagh (Anathema) applies his talents to the opener “House of Fools” and I wish he had been on the whole album.
Belinda Kordic is still very much a member of CBP (of course) and her vocals on “Lost” stand up well to the thundering percussion that Greaves deals out. There are few times that samples work but CBP are a band that use them well especially on the start of “In the Night.” Unfortunately the problem on this track is the spoken guest vocals by Gaahls Wyrd that are basically a hush. It just doesn’t work for me and Änghede is definitely missed. The song soldiers on and it does get bigger as it goes, with a fantastic solo.
“Cry of Love” has guest vocals by Suzie Stapleton and Ryan Patterson. Yes more guests. Musically the song is a galloping romp and kicks ass. Once again, the vocals hold this one back. Patterson just doesn’t have any color to his voice and Stapleton is lost in the mix. It’s a shame. With a strong vocalist, both of these last two tracks would be stellar. On the moody “Everything I Say,” Kordic reminds me a bit of the late Natasha Shneider of Eleven. It’s an imperfect perfect vocal that fits the song well especially when the chorus kicks in.
The epic “The Invisible Past” has (yep you guess it) another guest vocalist, Jonathan Hulten of Tribulation. His voice and style really fit CBP and I’d love to have heard him on more tracks. You know, like those ones in the middle of the album. Musically, the track reminds me of those Floydian type tracks the band are good at, though this song is perhaps even more cinematic sounding. Plus it’s a study in how to use dynamics, as half way in CBP get lift off. Excellent track and the best on the album.
I think “The Invisible Past” would have made a better closing track then the Bauhaus cover “She’s in Parties.” If you like that classic gothic band, you are all set. They’ve never done anything for me and this version of the song doesn’t change that. This cover would fit well on CBP’s “Horrific Honorifics” which was aptly named. What a mess that was. So the album ends on a sour note for me.
The bottom line is that Crippled Black Phoenix just don’t feel like the band they were. Rightly so, since the band has turned over twice now. The first time worked out okay, though I always preferred the band that was on the pre-Season of Mist albums. Unfortunately, without a strong vocalist and what seems like no real direction, “Ellengæst” is decent at best but really a let down. Moreover it seems like Greaves is leading what he calls the strongest incarnation of Crippled Black Phoenix (not even close) to date into what sounds like a third and final act.
- House Of Fools
- In The Night
- Cry Of Love
- Everything I Say
- The Invisible Past
- She’s In Parties
Label: Season of Mist
Release Date: 9 October 2020