Review: The Long Goodbye, An Autumn For Crippled Children
Imagine a long, cold, painful night. The wind howls through bony trees, the frigid air gnaws through any clothing you huddle beneath, and shelter is nothing more than a delusion, mocking you just past arm’s reach. Far off lights only illuminate the impossible stretch between you and any sort of relief. It seems impossible, but you hold out the faintest hope that you just may last until dawn. The darkness cuts deep, poisoning every part of your body, and you abandon hope. Just when you are ready to slip away into the great beyond, a frail, purplish wound appears on the horizon.
“The dawn, the blessed dawn,” you croak. Your hope skyrockets, and you are invigorated. However, the more you stare, the more the growing light looks…sick. Rather than a reddish, warm glow, you see a throbbing, feverish burn. Instead of welcomed heat and bright relief, you feel a nauseating chill. It is the dawn, but it is not the hope you’ve been waiting for. A day is breaking that offers no sanctuary; the dawn is infected with a reminder that it will be night again, and nothing more.
An Autumn For Crippled Children is not the long, torturous night. Their brand of deeply depressing, shoe-gazing post-black metal is the false, sickly dawn that was only mockingly hopeful before burdening the heart and soul of the listener. Deep hues of purple, blue, and yellow wash over and mix with waves of reverb, fuzz, and mournful synths. AAFCC has a knack for utilizing and framing major tonalities in a way that strips them of their usual cheerfulness and replaces it with a lonely, hollow sadness. The true-to-form black metal vocals add a layer of anguish to the whole package, twisting and turning in the wash of sound and providing the perfect channel for all the feels you ever felt.
This mysterious Dutch trio has been nothing if not prolific since their 2009 inception, constantly inspiring idiot bloggers to write massively overblown review introductions. While they no longer play live, 2015 will be the fifth straight year of new music, with four out of those five seeing a new full length. The Long Goodbye is due for a February 23rd release via the newly formed Wickerman Recordings. The new album features an excellently paced tradeoff between synth and guitar dominance, with an general step up in the vocal presence when compared to previous releases. The overall balance gives a little more breathing room to the guitars, which in turn gives an extra boost of fuzzy, hazy fullness to the overall sound. We’re not missing the keys by any means, but “The Long Goodbye,” the title track that kicks off the album, is a bold and excellent statement of guitar presence throughout the bulk of the album.
Balance is a key concept throughout The Long Goodbye, providing welcomed opportunities to discover new layers upon repeated listening. “When Night Leaves Again,” one of my immediate favorites, contains some of the busier drumming on the album. Though buried beneath mountains of sonic color, a pursuit of that sound yields the listener interesting tonal shifts that didn’t come across at first, or the bass sitting in a register that was initially disguised. The song reaches a fever pitch at the pounding of eighth notes in the last section, with all elements at maximum capacity while still maintaining equilibrium. Similarly, the bass/synth/guitar counterpoint in the outro of “She’s Drawning Mountains” showcases an excellent balance and weaving of textures, skillfully capping off a song that began with a stripped down, contrasting intro. Oh, and take some time to dive into the buried synth lines in the last minute or so of “Endless Skies.” Balance and layers, man, balance and layers. While the interjections that shook up the pacing of Try Not To Destroy Everything You Love and Only the Ocean Knows aren’t as present, the more purposeful construction beneath the music more than supports an excellent album’s worth of material.
For fans of An Autumn For Crippled Children, The Long Goodbye won’t be a surprising or exciting change of pace, but it will be satisfying. Deep introspection, permeating emotion, and the urge to look at your shoes for a long time are par for the course for AAFCC. For all the bombast of my introduction, it should be noted that this isn’t a game-changing album to take the metal world by storm, overthrow everything you thought you know, or whatever else your average album promo says these days. Wickerman Recordings hit the nail on the head when they described The Long Goodbye, as “another lesson of eerie yet sophisticated art…An Autumn for Crippled Children are about to raise an even more surrounding atmosphere, within their usual vibe.” These guys are dialing in their knack for enveloping the listener on this, another great release from a consistently great band.
Preorder the album here through Wickerman Recordings
Stream “Converging Towards the Light” and “Only Skin” here