Holland’s An Autumn For Crippled Children might have turned more heads because of their bizarre moniker rather than their brand of music. In the classroom of black metal, shock tactics are common, but you just get the feeling these guys didn’t really get a sense of how to create a fearsome BM name when they went to the drawing board. Their initial inspiration for the title came from Ebony Lake – a little-known experimental band from West Yorkshire. Strange, don’t you think?
Well, think what you like. Wherever they get their inspiration from, it’s clearly working. ‘Only The Ocean Knows’ tells us that it’s about time we started looking at AAFCC as a flourishing pupil in the school of music rather than the strange kid in the corner burning ants and pulling legs off spiders.
What An Autumn For Crippled Children have done here is create their most engaging work through a great balance; an album wick with angst but levelled out with equal beauty and euphoria. The three-piece have created a diverse sound but centred it around the consistently tormented vocals of MXM. They never let up and have a lo-fi quality not unlike Blut Aus Nord. But this is not a straight-up BM affair by any means. One of the most distinct audio discrepancies is the percussion on this album. For a band meant to be wading in very new seas of blackened shoegaze, drummer CXC pulls off some unexpected but refreshing off-beats and quirky patterns. ‘The First Snow This Year’ precisely shows what he’s capable of in this case.
There’s a definite lo-fi quality to them still; a melancholic reverb fuzz that keeps you under their spell for the full 39 minutes, but not in a ‘kvlt’ sense thankfully. The keyboard playing has a consistent presence throughout the album and there are even electronica utterances, but it isn’t overly sickly or overpowering. The symphonic sections on title track ‘Only The Ocean Knows’ could be from a record by eccentric English prog act The Enid while the piano playing later on adds the kind of dreamy touch that Jason Stewart added to Hawkwind before his tragic passing in 2008.
Then there are the bass lines on ‘Yes, I know… Love And Death… Always’ and ‘This Garden These Trees’ which drive forward both songs in great strides. It’s almost as if – at times – we’re listening to what an indie rock band would sound like with an injection of depression and a black metal boot up its arse. ‘Uncureable’ defines this with keyboard and guitar picking that would be more at home on a record by early The Killers rather than Carpathian Forest.
Regardless of how you come to define such a record, clearly, a beautiful catharsis is taking place. This is an unexpected kiss of glory from the Dutch act.
Reviewed by Calum Robson.