31 May 2014

Crippled Black Phoenix and A Liquid Landscape Live at The Robin 2, Bilston 27th May 2014

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A bus, a train and a tram is what it took this here reviewer to arrive at the Robin 2 for the night’s progressively themed antics. While I’ve never considered Crippled Black Phoenix a ‘prog’ band, it is clear that many of the audience do, with a proliferation of Porcupine Tree t-shirts and flyers abound for other prog events. Either way, I’ve followed this unfortunate bird named band since the very beginnings of their musical journey and have caught them live twice previously too. My expectations were high and I was in good spirits, for this, the final date of their not inconsiderable tour.

DSC_0176~2Opening band A Liquid Landscape did little to dent these expectations with a solid set of atmospheric alternative rock. Hailing from the Netherlands, they looked comfortable and relaxed as they delivered their brand of sonics, that to me called to mind bands like The Unwinding Hours, Jeniferever and Her Name is Calla, but none of these comparisons quite nailing it, a sure sign of a band having their own sound. There are pushing their new album “The Largest Fire Known To Man” with this tour and it is clear to see they have been quite efficiently collecting new fans along the way.

DSC_0177~2Crippled Black Phonenix do not keep us waiting too long before starting their set. Crowding the stage, seven musicians take their places before amp stacks, behind the drum kit, electronic piano and microphones. Immediately I and the crowd are transfixed. Other musicians swell their numbers further during the set, but one thing that becomes very quickly apparent is that the band are VERY happy to be here. Whether it is because they ARE very happy people, or because this is the last date of the tour and they are looking forward to a long hot bath I could not tell you, but the on stage banter and exchanges with the audience are charming and funny.

For those who don’t know, Crippled Black Phoenix are led by Justin Greaves, formerly of Iron Monkey and Electric Wizard, and he has been joined by an impressive collection of musicians over the lifetime of CBP. They create ‘endtime ballads’, often achingly beautiful, but still not afraid to unleash heaviness when required (they are amongst the loudest and heaviest bands I have seen live, and that is saying something).

DSC_0184~2Their latest album is “White Light Generator”, another sterling addition to their discography, and the first part of their set borrows from this release quite heavily. Whilst I haven’t familiarised myself with this release quite as much as the predecessors, the live performances drove the newer material home effortlessly and left me craving the album when I got home. The sound is spot on, all instruments given space to breath and the vocals clear as a bell. The set progresses to encompass such classics as “Song for the Loved”, “Jonestown Martin”, “444” and “Bella Ciao” and I can’t get enough. I almost shed a tear during the more fragile gentle moments of piano led crooning and a shiver travelled down my spine during the full on audio assaults complete with superb guitar solos.

I simply urge anyone with a likeness for both the heavy stuff and something a little different to go and see this band live. They are immense and, considering they are from our cold grey shores, they capture the shimmering haze and tumbleweed of ghost towns and lonely dust bowl journeys into sunsets.

Once again, Crippled Black Phoenix show no difficulty rising from the flames to enchant, enthral and utterly destroy.