Crippled Black Phoenix Gets Bronzed

Coming off their 2015 release, New Dark Age, Crippled Black Phoenix wasted no time putting together what would become their latest, Bronze. While the band follows the droning orchestration of New Dark Age, in Bronze Crippled Black Phoenix uses more structured arrangements and varying atmosphere to create an album that is as all enfolding as their previous releases but also one that nods to the forebears of drone-tinged music (think Deftones, Helmet, etc.).

While the album’s introductory track, “Dead Imperial Bastards,” is a taut collage of ambient textures, Bronze truly begins with the second song, “Deviant Burials.” Rigged to adamantine skeleton of percussion, “Deviant Burials” has riffs that find every single instance of dead space and fills them with their grimey sludge. Unlike most of New Dark Age, “Deviant Burials” utilizes vocals to create another melodic layer to the track. In them are most of the aesthetic ties between Crippled Black Phoenix and Deftones (or even Muse).

Bronze is an album that gets heavier and darker as it progresses. Combining distorted riff worship with bluesy scales and cymbal dusted percussion, Crippled Black Phoenix moves beyond the droning atmospherics that defined their previous releases. If progressiveness still exists in 2016, this band on this album is doing it. Eschewing the common tropes that define prog, Crippled Black Phoenix creates aesthetic and narrative arcs using the bare minimum–a feat that is as fun to deconstruct as it is to hear unfold.

And nowhere is it more fun than on “Champions of Disturbance (Pt. 1 & 2).” The 9 minute center-piece begins with a long and tense build that climaxes into the rhythmic and heavy first verse. Part blues centric riff feast, part rock anthem, part anti-war ballad, “Champions of Disturbance (Pt. 1 & 2)” will, without a doubt, become the template future bands use when wanting to create a long progressive song that is blisteringly energetic.

If the first half of Bronze can be thought of as the more rock centric part of the album, then the second half throws off a more psychedelic folk vibe. While traditional rock elements abound, there definitely seems to be a slow undercurrent of influence from bands like King Crimson or Comus. That said, it is buried and only occasionally jumps to the front of the mix (such as in “Scared and Alone”). The band reaches for new and more disparate influences in Bronze, but Pink Floyd still overshadows much of the band’s output.

The record ends with “We Are The Darkeners”–perhaps one of the heaviest tracks of the record. Droning and highly orchestrated, “We Are The Darkeners” unfurls like an alien spaceship, which, I think, is the perfect way to end a record as fresh as Bronze. The album might be single-handedly reinventing prog rock, putting progressive, forward thinking back into the genre’s tired tropes.

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