Enigmatic Dutch post-black metal band An Autumn For Crippled Children have been pushing black metal’s long-standing flirtation with new wave, shoe gaze, and dreampop to its logical conclusions for over a decade now, garnering a dedicated underground following in niche circles. I’ve advocated on behalf of the band for their piece of the pie in their recognition as forebears to the genre’s exploration of these blurring genre margins, taking things further and getting there faster than the more household names like Deafheaven and Alcest. Broader audiences simply haven’t taken notice, likely due to the fact that the band is anonymous and has never intended on playing live, making them a hard sell to would-be labels seeking to advertise and move units.
But eight albums deep into their discography, the band have found a new home with Prosthetic Records, and are positioned to expand whatever audience is out there for a band that pairs fuzzy synthpop melodies with tortured howls, shoegaze riffs, and elastic fake drums. The group’s new effort All Fell Silent, Everything Came Quiet is fitting for a label debut and a potential introduction to a new audience, as it sees the band fall comfortably into their core sound with a more polished and clear production, even if sparse on exploring new spaces.
If the band ever had a defining breakout record under their belts, it would certainly be 2013’s try not to destroy everything you love. That record established AAFCC’s musical aesthetic to come; depressive and atmospheric black metal decorated in pastel and filtered through goth, shoegaze, and synthpop with a wall-of-sound production that really sold the emotional weight of the nostalgic and romantic compositions. At the time, the record felt avant garde compared to their post-black contemporaries because it pushed the genre-bending to new extremes; they had crafted an extravagant and intensely melodic black metal record that sounded like nothing else out there.
Since destroy, the group have toyed with some composition tricks and moving the genre slider in different directions to differentiate their sound between albums, like leaning into post-rock for more somber and introspective atmospheric work on The Long Goodbye in 2015 to counterbalance the explosive reverie they’ve championed in the past. Post-punk has gained ground as the basis for which AAFCC can build their ethereal soundscapes, particularly through much of All Fell Silent where it makes up much of the skeletal structure.
“Water’s Edge” in particular is an early standout track that sports some uptempo punk underneath the otherwise weirdo-blackened window-dressing. The melancholic “Craving Silence” borrows from goth rock in its choice of progression and melody. The synthesized ornate string tones garnishing “Silver” is also a welcomed flourish to sell the emotional weight of the song and the greater eccentricity of the band.
These genres — black metal, post-punk, goth, new wave, shoegaze, dreampop, what have you — have always sort of worked together in some way or another, and anyone who has heard of the post-black metal scene in the previous decade will tell you that it’s not as disparate a blending of genres as it sounds, but its the unlikely way that these influences were pulled together that makes AAFCC so delightfully weird and engaging. It may come down to sheer aesthetics and choices of production, but at this point, AAFCC has a particular sound, and it’s distilled on All Fell Silent.
One might want the band to push things further into new directions on all sides rather than to settle in, particularly given their air of experimentation. All Fell Silent is AAFCC getting comfortable, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly on an eighth album; there’s value in these songs, and with a broad set of sonic tools at their disposal, this anonymous trio of musicians still have things to say. The sound certainly hasn’t worn out its charm yet, and these fuzzy and energetic blackgaze anthems will likely entice new and old listeners alike for their Prosthetic Records debut.
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An Autumn For Crippled Children’s All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet is out May 1st via Prosthetic Records. Pre-orders are available at this location.