ALBUM REVIEW: An Autumn For Crippled Children – As The Morning Dawns We Close Our Eyes

Release Date: May 21st 2021
Label: Prosthetic Records
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Rating:

The 21st century rise of blackgaze is still a hot topic amongst purists. Combining arguably some of the ugliest aspects of black metal with lush post-rock and shoegaze atmospherics, this bastardisation of disparate genres has birthed a global scene all unto its own.

The Netherlands’ An Autumn For Crippled Children predate the subgenre moniker, or at least its common usage and entry into the metal vocabulary. Their latest effort, ‘As The Morning Dawns We Close Our Eyes’, showcases the elusive group at their most succinct and melodious, with a tight collection of eight soaring pieces, equal parts euphoric and tortured.

With an unmatched consistency over the course of nine full-length projects, as well as a slew of EPs, it’s quite remarkable just how potent and inspired they still manage to sound. Arriving practically one exact year removed from ‘All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet’, there’s a palpable sense of continuation, almost like what you’re hearing is a sequel. Even the immediacy of opener ‘Carefully Breathing’ bursts out of the nothingness with zero build up, as if you stumbled into the track midway.

Sonically straying from the malevolence of their roots, there’s an undeniable sense of hope and an ethereal air to the compositional structure. The lilting mellotron sounding keys permeating throughout ‘Of Your Light’ are simply captivating, while the inhuman vocals are pained, riddled with despair and shrouded in audible fog and mystery.

In fact, the two most direct “kvlt black metal” aspects of the production lie with the approach to vocals and drums, both of which feel so compressed and buried deep within the mix. While this is usual standard genre fare, rather than being engulfed in walls of caustic blasting and tremolo riffage, the smothered percussion and emotive shrieks give way to frosted, blissful soundscapes, more in line with Sigur Rós than Gorgoroth.

Eschewing the more grandiose lengths of their genre forbearers, An Autumn For Crippled Children have always maintained a strong sense of brevity in their work, covering musical ground in a third of the time of several of their contemporaries. With that, ‘As The Morning Dawns…’ is the shortest full-length of their unique, introverted career; tracks here swell, build, and descend with operatic manner, all while staying under five minutes a piece.

The delicate keys that lead saccharine closer ‘Last Night I Believed In You’ towards a harsh, heartfelt crescendo of simultaneously subtle yet bombastic finality, feels like a testament of purpose, power, and longevity, delivered with conflicting beauty and abrasion. It’s a poignant closing note, one of tepid, reluctant despondency, that portrays a group comfortable and confident with their art form, methods and sincerity. Above all else, black metal rarely sounds this hopeful or therapeutic.