On paper, the idea of “blackened dreampop” is an alarming prospect that is sure to raise ire and eyebrows alike, sickening the staunchest of purists along the way. Acts within the post-black metal school of thought have been pulling pages from new wave for years now, but few acts dare to combine the gritty visceral nature of black metal with blatantly accessible (and at times, major key) melodies and lush synthesizers. Enigmatic experimental three-piece An Autumn For Crippled Children have been hinting at and toying with these influences in various degrees for some time along the black metal periphery, finally biting the bullet with 2013’s try not to destroy everything you love (and even more so with its remix EP) by pushing the emphasis in favor of keyboards over guitars.
In a year where Deafheaven were making waves in the mainstream with Sunbather, if not just by the (perceived?) ironic juxtaposition of black metal textures with hot pink gradients and romanticized lyrics, try not to destroy everything you love took the genre even further in the direction of the bizarre with album art emblazoned in bright pink and white lilies and sporting such a flamboyant (if not grandiose) musical foundation. In 2015, An Autumn For Crippled Children have decided to return to the typical monochromatic landscape visuals black metal is known for, but makes up for the trope entirely with material that further embellishes the band in outrageous pop sensibility with The Long Goodbye.
Shrouded in a veil of static and distortion while fronted with indecipherable shrieks, The Long Goodbye is at heart a gorgeous record examining musical ideas from throughout the spectrum of post-rock, black metal, post-punk, and synthpop. The album’s title track gets the blood pumping immediately with uptempo grooves not out of place in a Sonic Youth record, and later, ‘Gleam‘ shamelessly conjures fleeting images of Coldplay all while both embracing and avoiding being totally off-putting; what makes The Long Goodbye work so well is that the band are so committed to the concept and their own weirdness that it just feels natural. Bringing together these seemingly disparate influences while retaining immediacy is no doubt a difficult task, and to do so while making it feel this effortless as a listen? It’s a miracle that music such as this is allowed to exist.
And The Long Goodbye doesn’t stand on virtue of simply being weird; the music itself is phenomenal in its own right from the ground up. The Long Goodbye brings to mind the psychotic wonder of Genghis Tron‘s Board Up The House, which likewise played with the idea of disparate genre fusion in near-reverence while receiving critical adoration. The fuzzy shoegaze sonic backdrop fosters a warm-yet-distant production quality that suits the grandeur well, and creates an emotive intensity that An Autumn For Crippled Children aren’t afraid to cash in on through introspective soundscapes and an at-times impassioned vocal performance (see ‘She’s Drawing Mountains‘ for examples of both). Avant-garde is the lifeblood of An Autumn For Crippled Children, but there’s an unmistakable air of passion and sincerity that keeps The Long Goodbye grounded.
Next to perhaps Panopticon, An Autumn For Crippled Children are potentially the most important creative act currently active on black metal’s cutting edge, even if no one knows it yet. The Long Goodbye is an early contender as a highlight for 2015, even as the act are beginning to streamline their sound. Fingers crossed that the album’s title isn’t some sly and twisted nod as a planned swansong, because this is a niche sound that could see further development through future releases.
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An Autumn For Crippled Children’s The Long Goodbye gets…