Crippled Black Phoenix - Bronze album review

Harder, more durable… but are Crippled Black Phoenix showing signs of mettle fatigue?

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It might seem like a long time since Crippled Black Phoenix initially entranced us with their inspired post-Floyd stylings. Expose yourself to Bronze and it’ll seem an awful lot longer.

Fundamental building blocks remain, it’s the balance that’s tilted.

Though CBP always had multi-instrumentalist and former Iron Monkey drummer Justin Greaves at its core, the initial feel of the project was of a democratic collective of musicians for whom CBP was a side-project. Consequently CBP’s line-up was never set in stone, members could come and go at their convenience. Gradually though, Greaves’ influence came to the fore. Since the release of White Light Generator, the band’s last and eighth album of spring 2014, matters have escalated. Acrimony between Greaves and former Gilmour-alike guitarist Karl Demata – the usual intra-band shenanigans, rapidly exacerbated by social media – broke out at the end of 2014, motivating Greaves to make sweeping line-up changes last year. So if you’re expecting Bronze to deliver everything you expect from a CBP album, better think again, because things have changed. There’s no need to panic, Greaves hasn’t succumbed to the allure of grime or substituted guitars with bagpipes. The fundamental building blocks remain familiar, it’s just the balance that’s tilted.

Kicking off traditionally, with a snatch of spoken word, Dead Imperial Bastard boasts the archaic futurism of mid-70s Tangs or early 80s Bladerunner, but what once offered the shock-of-the-new now sounds quaint. The audio equivalent of a 1950s tin-plate space rocket. So far, so scene-setting, but what of the meat?

Frustratingly, Deviant Burials begins with more of the same before - a full 90 seconds in - cometh the riff. Daniel Änghede’s vocal (double-tracked, effected, understated) suits its context perfectly. At their best today’s seven-piece CBP offer doomy (without being doom-laden), post-Sabbath mock heroism, plenty of prog twists to capture the interest and you’re left hungry for more at Deviant Burial’s climax. No Fun makes a fair fist of delivering on its title by dragging CBP’s standard doom deeper into murk. As the instrumental dynamism peaks, Änghede becomes more peripheral, his Homme-esque tones sinking yet further into the maelstrom. Once you get the measure of Bronze, returns diminish; by the time you get to Joe Walsh cover Turn To Stone and Scared And Alone, you’re tuning out. The Floydian soaring of old, the dynamics that kept you returning to 200 Tons Of Bad Luck has been replaced with an, admittedly serviceable, brand of prog-doom that may disappoint returning sections of the CPB faithful. So let the buyer beware.

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