An Autumn for Crippled Children – As The Morning Dawns We Close Our Eyes Review

What got you into metal? For me, it was blackgaze. I know, I know, it’s hard to believe your pal Doomy wasn’t raised on a diet of Bathory and his enemies’ livers; but as a teenager in the 90’s, I was mostly into indie rock and shoegaze.1 My entry into metal came later on, when bands like Lantlôs, Deafheaven and Alcest combined the dreamy, ethereal tones of My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive with the fury of second-wave black metal. Within this group was the Netherlands’ An Autumn for Crippled Children, who leaned even more heavily into indie territory with their embrace of dream-pop and post rock. I never loved the band, but I was impressed by a few of their albums, especially 2013’s Try Not to Destroy Everything You Love and 2015’s The Long Goodbye. Like an increasingly exasperated El-Cuervo, I felt that their more recent collections leaned too heavily to the post-rock side, sacrificing bite for atmosphere, and losing themselves in the process. Now AAfCC are back with their ninth effort, As The Morning Dawns We Close Our Eyes (ATMDWCOE), one year after All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet. Is this simply more of the same?

AAfCC is a band that tends to subtly refine its sound between albums, rather than radically altering it. ATMDWCOE is no exception, making gentle tweaks to its predecessor, but staying faithful to the overall aesthetic. This means that if the dreamy, melancholic, blackgazey landscapes were never your thing, there’s nothing here that’s going to suddenly turn you into a slobbering fanboy. What the album does do is make a slight turn towards a crunchier, more riff-based style of song-writing. This is by no means an album of ear-worms, but there’s more emphasis on melody than atmosphere, which I believe plays to the band’s strengths. As a result, ATMDWCOE is a much stronger album than its immediate predecessors, and, on its own modest terms, a success.

Previous AAfCC albums have sometimes degenerated into what El-C termed an unappetizing smoothie of different genres. Songs blended together unconvincingly, and in a way that occasionally clashed. The dreamy post-rock occasionally seemed at odds with the wretched vocals and double-bass kicks. ATMDWCOE addresses this by creating 8 distinct songs that lean with far more conviction into their aesthetic. The band does this without sacrificing the melancholy that has underpinned all their work. The cuts that shine are the ones where the band fully commit themselves: “Melancholia” alternates between hard riffs and dreamy shoegaze, “Carefully Breathing” goes all in on the indie aesthetic, “Splendour Unnoticed” is the band embracing synth-pop and post-rock. They all work splendidly and are some of AAfCC’s best material in years.

Unfortunately, the band sometimes slips into old tendencies, with the return of the unappetizing smoothie music that haunted previous releases. Songs like “In Winter” and “Hearts Close” demonstrate what happens when all the influences jumble up without clear direction: the material becomes lackluster and boring. These are AAfCC at their least compelling, and they still occur too frequently for comfort. There is also a sense that, tweaks aside, the band has settled into a groove, and while ATMDWCOE has just enough going for it to stand out, if they continue just making tweaks, the groove could become a rut.

Overall, ATMDWCOE is a definite improvement over its immediate predecessors. By being just a little bit meaner, and by leaning with more conviction into its influences, AAfCC has crafted a thoroughly enjoyable collection of blackgaze tracks. Those who don’t like the band or the subgenre will find nothing here to change their minds. However, if you’re someone who liked AAfCC’s earlier stuff, but got off the train because you got bored, this may persuade you to buy another ticket. If you’re someone who only dabbles in metal, or if you’re new to the metal genre, this is a cool place to find your feet. Now where’s that Lantlôs album they’ve been promising us…?

 


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: anautumnforcrippledchildren.bandcamp.com  |  facebook.com/aafcc2009
Releases Worldwide: May 21st, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. You eat the heart, Doom, not the liver. – Steel
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