An Autumn For Crippled Children
posted on 11/2011 By:
Lost, the 2010 debut from Dutch act An Autumn for Crippled Children, was a pleasant surprise: a moody, expansive, atmospheric and dynamic album that threaded the line safely between depressive black metal, doomy dirges and post-rock tendencies without falling prey to the clichés that so often plague such a combination. Most importantly, it offered both a complex range of emotional overtones with engaging melodies and shifting songs, and I eagerly anticipated whatever this strangely-named troupe of soaring Dutchmen would offer up next.
Unfortunately, second effort Everything falls far short its predecessor, proof that striking while the iron is hot is not always the best idea. To be fair, very little has changed in the band’s sound, other than a de-emphasis on the blackened elements in favor of brighter tones. (The blast beats are less blasts than they are an indie-rock drummer doing a kind of roll, for example.) AAFCC still generally relies on a light-to-dark mixture of soft passages, tremolo riffs, soaring synths, an ultra fuzzy / pinched production and buried harsh vocals to come about their soundscapes, but the problem is that much of Everything is little more than that: a soundscape.
In addition, the album’s back-loaded nature risks losing any grip over the listener before the interesting songs actually show up. The irony of naming a meandering track “Formlessness” is not lost, as this description would fit much of the album’s opening songs. Half-riffs, those aforementioned non-blasts and truncated songwriting greatly harms the album’s ability to engage and open up, surrounding great material (quality tremolo work in “We All Fall”) with largely unrelated and cookie-cutter passages from the band’s repertoire. None of this is offensively bad or unlistenable, but there is zero grip to be had. In addition, the band’s slight shift to more post / indie tendencies in the riffs and rhythms – in combination with less engaging songs – tends to expose just how out-of-place the buried extreme metal vocals are.
The second half of Everything picks up a bit. “Her Dress as a Poem, Her Death as the Night” begins a three-song stretch that sees AAFCC crafting the interesting songs that graced their debut. “Her Dress…” is the best of the three, building slowly to the album’s darkest and most effective moment at about the 3-minute mark before fading out on a redeeming melody of intertwining arpeggio riffs. “I Am the Veil” and “Cold Spring” then follow suit with more in-song progression and memorable melodies than the first several tracks brought combined.
Overall, this isn’t as much a judgment of the execution of Everything as it is a chastisement on the direction that AAFCC has chosen to take. Fans of brighter forms of metal may actually prefer this to Lost, but there is no denying the decreased attention paid to the compositions. On the debut, the mood they offered was more ambiguous and unpredictable, shifting around many corners with music with infectious riff combinations. The simplification of their sound to a predominately uplifting style limits their expression, exposing Everything as a pale imitation of bands that write a similarly ambiguous “bright black” style. (Alcest would be the big one.) AAFCC would be well-advised to give a little more time and thought to album number three, as the brief time between Lost and Everything yielded only middling results.
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