Eternal by An Autumn For Crippled Children (Wicker Man Recordings)
An Autumn for Crippled Children are a trio from the Netherlands that blend ghostly screamed vocals with lush piano, strings and guitars and often frenetic drums. Some call it post-metal, some call it blackgaze. Initially I felt that the vocals had no place in the mix with music that is this beautiful and evocative and moving, but I think in a contradictory way those vocals must fit. Otherwise, that wouldn’t be the band. That’s the true beauty of AAFCC: their willingness to blur the ugly and the beautiful. So AAFCC is the goose, not the duck, and should be seen as its own entity.
On Eternal, their sixth album, AAFCC continue to evolve their sound while mostly keeping within a basic template of energetic bass and drums, fragile keyboards, screams and guitars that vibrate and soothe in equal measure.
Eternal opens with Matters of the Heart, immediately catching your attention with chorused guitars, manic percussion and bass and melodic synths that only elevate the epic mood. The hard-won positivity felt in this one song is breathtaking. Cloud Mood follows, a slower, majestic song that recalls The Cure’s dark pop, yet AAFCC put their own mark on the musical world with a brilliant keyboard melody that the guitar fuzz, screams and bass swirl around like a family standing over a dying loved one. Swallowed by Night’s Despair ramps up the anxiety with breakneck drums and bass rumble and a sadly lovely piano lead, the guitars adding splashes of color and texture, the trio building to a cathartic finale that will make your eyes misty.
Days of Sleep stands out because of its stately pace, synths and screams and guitars wash together, a melodic guitar rises up in the mix, joined by piano, and the melodies swirl around in a dance of the damned.
You Have Been In The Shadows For So Long breaks you out of your dream state, invigorating your soul with a fast tempo and up front synths, slowing down to a contemplative mood then rising up again with buzzing guitars and rapturous playing.
Farewell is one of the most clear-headed and bright tracks on Eternal, showing what the band can do with open spaces. They still layer on the guitars and synths in places yet the effect is soothing more than anxiety-causing. Farewell segues into On Fire, which begins with a positively wonderful piano melody that introduces the quickly strummed guitars of MCHL, and his screams fit well in the pleasant miasma of CHR’s unhinged drum playing and TD’s bass progressions.
Eternal Youth closes the album with spacey synths and buried bass thumping, leading to a scratchy guitar lead and uplifting atmosphere, the bass ascending in the mix, AAFCC again bringing uplift, the song intensifying to a bracing finish.
On Eternal, An Autumn For Crippled Children present their catchiest, most accessible album yet, while still staying true to themselves. Music this wondrous needs to be heard.
(by Bret Miller)