Thursday, August 25, 2011

An Autumn For Crippled Children - Everything (2011)

Hailing from the Netherlands, post black metal three piece An Autumn For Crippled Children are ambassadors for the new school. Moving away from traditional black metal, the band are following in the footsteps of some of the more daring new acts, such as Alcest. They have created a fusion of styles, borrowing some of the best aspects of post, progressive and black metal. Somewhere in the chaos, "Everything" finds time to be surreal and ethereal.

From the soft acoustic guitar opening on "Forever Never Fails," you know you are in for something more than a dark, dreary offering. Even as the hammer drops, and the harsh screams of pain enter, there is a background beauty in the dulcet keyboard tones. Much like Alcest, the music forms a progressive post rock style, but with faster black metal drumming. Cutting back and forth between the grating and the peaceful only helps to assert the contrast. The vocals are muffled in the mix, but serve their purpose as communicators of emotion.

As the clean, serene opening of "Formlessness" commences, softly played string manage to hover around the base of each note. With each passing screech, the music builds to greater heights, in a dark triumph of sorts. The bass line commands things, with the light patter of snares and cymbals serving as punctuation. Things cut out, and a delicate melody begins, clearing your mind for one last blitz. "The Absence Of Contrast" is a song that could not be further from the truth. Contrast is what shines brightest here, with an ethereal use of instrumentation, including a piano melody that will tickle your ear drums. The guitar work is simple, yet so effective, underneath a chorus of screams. It's as if they took indie folk styles and mixed them into generous portions of blackened post metal. The result, without a doubt, is glorious. The final minute of this song is a genre bending blend of light and darkness.

That same mix of dark cloud and silver lining is in full bloom on "We All Fall," with alternating passages of acoustics and thrashing distortion. There is so much to take in, with a crushing wall of guitars, bass and drums constantly pouring forth. As guitars climb through the high, clean notes, soft, organ tinged keys shine through and set a decidedly brighter mood than the vocals convey. Those same key tones are used on "Nothing/Everything," a track that could tear the roof off of any small venue in the world. The drumming is stellar, with blasting snares and the roll of thunderous kicks. This track sees a more liberal use of the screaming vocals, but it fits like a glove in the beautiful songwriting. "Her Dress As A Poem, Her Death As The Night" pairs the sublime with the subhuman, descending into harsh screams and growls on top of that almost somber music. The tone is dark, but the execution is near flawless, cutting through guitar chords and darting clean notes.

The slow building of sound on "I Am The Veil" may bring a chill with it. But don't let that haunting opening chase you away from what is, otherwise, a more lighthearted offering. It remains uptempo, with the patter of drums coming fast and forceful. Even through the violence of the screams, the light shines. However, the opening of "Cold Spring" sees some of the heavier instrumental moments, with kick drums firing on all cylinders. The bass carries throughout the track, moving up and down the scales gracefully. Even casual acoustic strumming makes it into the meat of the track. The album comes to a close with "Rain." What can be said about a track that is so fitting, so well constructed. It is as if the song was based on the slow, falling rain. The imagery created by the distortion and percussion is amazing, leaving your body shivering. A brief interlude of bass and light drums will make you feel as though the rain has tapered off into mere drops. But a storm approaches, and guides you to the end.

It would seem that a movement is beginning. Black metal has begun to evolve, change, and find its way down paths never worn before. As progressive and post metal elements further permeate the roots of black metal, someone will need to be a voice for the new school of thought. With "Everything," An Autumn For Crippled Children show that they may not be innovators, but they are in a leadership role. With some sparkling production work, their next album might change music as we know it.


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