Crippled Black Phoenix, The Fleece, Bristol
It's been a while since I've seen Crippled Black Phoenix, the last time was in Athens Greece last year. So to finally see the band in the UK was a real treat. However the gig clashed with the much more high profile Clutch show in the 02 Academy. I purchased a ticket for both and I'm glad I did as my Clutch ticket ended up going to a more deserving person so it was to the Fleece and a night with emotive progressive music of CBP.
I was late to the party but ultimately so were the bands so I walked in at the end of the second support bands set, they were good a modern mix of Deftones and crunching hardcore, though their name escapes me. Still they received a warm response from the reasonable crowd gathered in one of Bristol's oldest and best venues. So we waited and finally the 'headline' band came to the stage, decked in all black like an underground cell of a resistance movement. I was pleased to see their ranks have yet again become more solid since last time with band leader/guitarist Justin Greaves, maintaining Daniel Änghede (vocals, guitar) Mark Furnevall (keys/synths) Daisy Chapman (keys/piano) Ben Wilsker (drums) as well as the returning Niall Hone (bass) who was absent at the Greek show, as well as finding a permanent lead guitarist in the shape of Jonas Stålhammar. So with a now stable line up the band quickly began their set of 'endtime ballads' with the rumbling rallying cry of Rise Up And Fight! (which to these ears still sound like One Of These Days) From here on in the bands 'wall of sound' style of play took your breath away as the three guitars made a cacophony of noise underpinned by the slabs of rhythmic discord from Wilsker and Hone, while the sound was fleshed out by Chapman and Furnevall. The thumping Black Light Generator came next and got heads moving with Daniel Änghede singing his heart out with his impassioned vocals becoming part of the instrumentation. The theme of rebellion continued on Long Live Independence which is a lighter song with lots of layered synths, all the band supplied the song with vocals making for an apocalyptic choir and Furnevall giving the song some robotic, unfeeling vocoder. The first set piece was The Brain/Ponzan which was written for the bands performance in Poznan Poland, the song is a slow builder with Daisy Chapman adding her beautiful fragile vocals to the first part before it builds and builds into a sweeping ballad with a massive metallic second act that shows off CBP's affiliation to large instrumental sections.
With the set now in full swing Justin welcomed Belinda Kordic to the stage saying she was going to help out with vocals on some of the songs, Kordic and Greaves are in another band called Se Delan together so they have history in writing and performing. She added her haunting vocals the the both parts of their amazing two part song No! which once again has a slow beginning and huge cavernous rallying ending that merged Korvic, Änghede and Chapman's vocals perfectly with the rest of the band defiantly chanting the chorus. Korvic stuck around for the undulating ballad Human Nature Dictates The Downfall Of Humans and the Pink Floyd cover Childhoods End (from Obscured By Clouds) which appears on the CBP/Se Delan split on which they do this song and Echoes (all of it). As Kordic took her leave Greaves introduced the monstrous title track to their new EP New Dark Age. It is a stunner very Floydian in itself and spirals into yet another huge crescendo that knocks you out with it's direct impact. With the epic section out of the way the band moved into the metallic Maniac Beast which sped things up, while the funky percussive Born In A Hurricane sees Daniel take the bass and Justin contribute vocals. The band went back to some fan favourites on tracks from I, Vigilante in the shape of the still so relevant doom laden Troublemaker before sewing the seeds of rebellion on the piano driven Fantastic Justice. Before going really old school on 444 which led into the superb, We Forgotten Who We Are and the climactic Burnt Reynolds where in the Athenian tradition I woah'ed my lungs out for the songs entirety. With that final chord it was over and the cathartic nature of CBP washed over the crowd who rapturously applauded as the band made their exit. Crippled Black Phoenix are always a live must see and tonight was no exception, they crafted their set to peak and trough in all the right places and even though the band are still not as recognised as they should be there was a hardcore fan base that will always support the band, happily I count myself in that number and for me this Bristol (not a home town) show was the band at their best and one that showed more should have been there to see it. 9/10