OK – now I’m REALLY confused – but of that later!
I must concede to never having listened to CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX before, although I was pretty sure they must have some pedigree, otherwise they would not have been invited to contribute a song to the compilation of AC/DC covers that was issued in conjunction with the Classic Rock magazine a few months ago. (My copy of the CD had lain in the pile labelled ‘must listen to…’ beside the player for weeks!)
Having now listened several times to ‘I, Vigilante,’ the ‘pedigree,’ is quite obvious. It seems also that they have a bit of a reputation for producing goliath type tracks – huge on noise and long in (erm),…. length. The six tracks on this album for instance, run to around forty-eight and a half minutes.
And this is where the initial confusion sets in – the promo sleeve states only five tracks, whereas the Press sheet definitely states there are six. And the CD reader on both my laptop and CD player say here are six tracks. But more of that later!
Opening track ‘Troublemaker’ clocks in at eight and half minutes. Now, if there are two expressions I remember my parents repeating to me in my youth, they were that ‘time flies when you’re enjoying yourself,’ and that ‘time passes faster as you get older.’ So maybe it’s a bit of both, but this does not seem like an ’epic.’ It is, obviously, but the fact that it moves through several different ‘phases’ from start to conclusion almost makes it seem like several different, shorter tracks. Although in saying that, the component parts all seem to fit so effortlessly together.
Starting with a rather chilling spoken (presumably) movie soundtrack that ends with the Latin dictum ‘Lupus Pilum Mutat, Non Mentem’ (meaning ‘the wolf may change its fur, but not its nature’) CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX are presumably informing the listener that although this album may be slightly different from those previous, this is not to say that they are planning on a new direction altogether, or even indeed that the next album will be the same. In fact, there are plans for a more comprehensive, full-length album to be completed by the end of the year.
So from the soundtrack (?) intro, ‘Troublemaker’ expands into a heavy blues mood, with vocals washing over the sometimes haunting, sometimes threatening guitar – until a mood swing, with about three and a half minutes remaining changes the whole complexion of the song with a Kasabian (‘Shoot The Runner’) styled riff. There is some great playing over the top of the riff as the track reaches its zenith some two minutes later, before reverting to heavy blues feel to close.
‘We Forgotten Who We Are’ is a different beast altogether, with the emphasis on the piano leading the track into a fuller, more expansive sound some four minutes into the almost eleven minute effort. Of course, as is their want CBP take this and other songs to great heights before letting them drop and rescue them just before they crash and burn into the depths of your – (insert your preferred means of playing music here.)
In this case, the previous track merges seamlessly with the following ‘Fantastic Justice.’ This one sees the implementation of a horn section to supplement the little piano arpeggios, with some lovely whining, blues inspired guitar going on in the background.
‘Bastogne Blues,’ is the longest track on the album at twelve minutes. Again opening with spoken word – this time a veteran soldier recounting his experiences in the trenches and how his first ‘kill’ has affected him since – this song is a tribute to the WW2 veterans of the Battle Of The Bulge. It’s really quite a haunting track, this one. The guitar has a bit of added reverb, making it sound a little distant and empty, while the rhythm is again blues based. The use of a string section adds to the almost ‘widescreen’ images created by the song as it rises and falls of waves that seem possibly Scottish or Irish folk inspired. Whatever, the listener is left with the mental picture of cold, barren, windswept moors. Or I was, at least. Perhaps though, the repeated ‘hook’ if you can call it that, goes on too long?
‘Of A Lifetime,’ is the final track listed on the CD sleeve. The big blues-rock riffs and searing blues guitar open the track before some lovely, strong and soulful female vocals kick in. Now this is just pure showing off! So far there has been a wide variation of styles on this CD – even if I think most have an underlying Blues ‘influence’ – and now we have a more conventional Blues number! The guitar work is as good as the vocal, as it and the equally excellent drumming reach a crescendo. Possibly (just ‘possibly’ that is) this is my favourite track of the five.
Ah! – but the press sheet and the CD reader say there are six tracks! This is where I lose it. Maybe the band has this thing with the numbers five and six, for their My Space page lists six ‘misconceptions’ in their ‘Top Five Misconceptions’ of the band.
So…. track number six: anyone other than me remember a film from the Sixties called ‘Kelly’s Heroes?’ (Maybe it was very early Seventies – that’s not really the point.) The point is that the song ‘Burning Bridges’ from that film is included as track number six! Rather amazingly (some would say ‘sadly’) I recognised it straight away. However, I’m not sure if this version is by the original artists The Mike Curb Congregation, or CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX.
And whoever’s version it is, why is it on the CD? (Maybe it’s part of a general WW2 tribute, what with the inspiration behind ‘Bastogne Blues?’)
Regardless, this is a gem of an album. Intelligent and thoughtful rock that really does kick ass!
(Released through Invada Records on 6th September)