Every band’s name has its story and when Crippled Black Phoenix chose their name, they had no idea that it would fit them so well in the future. Crippled, without a male lead vocalist and keyboardist, at the beginning of “Ellengaest” tracking, the band still rose from what might have looked like ashes, as a Phoenix. Faced with the loss of two band members, instead of giving up in despair, Justin Greaves decided to take this as an opportunity to try something different. Therefore, he contacted other musicians that gladly accepted to join Ellengaest and, as a result, this album features an impressive list of guests, such as Vincent Cavanagh (Anathema), Gaahl (Gaahls Wyrd) and Jonathan Hulten (Tribulation).
Vincent is given the mission of opening this work with “House of fools”, a track where he fits perfectly. In his own words, “It was a pleasure to work with a band whose music I’ve enjoyed for years,”. This track opens the full-length with a soft and, somehow, post apocalyptical trumpet that is immediately broken by a cacophonic torrent of guitars and drums. It is probably the heaviest moment of the album and it ceases as quick as it started, giving place to a markedly rhythmic melody. “Lost” keeps the same register and, this time, the novelty is the complicity felt between Belinda and Vincent’s voices. Besides that, the melodic piano and post-rock-ish guitars that we are so used to in Crippled Black Phoenix, are clamant and omnipresent.
“In the night” follows with a dark folk vibe, a tragic background and slows the pace of the narrative. This is the moment to dive into Gaahl’s deep hoarse whiskey voice, supported by Belinda and an acoustic guitar that will send shivers down your spine. Even for those that are listening to Crippled Black Phoenix for the first time, after these three tracks, it’s easy to figure why it’s so hard to joggle this band into a specific musical genre.
Suddenly, “Cry of love” takes us to the good old post punk and gothic rock from 80’s. It’s everywhere: in the guitars, the bass and Ryan Patterson’s voice (accompanied by Suzie Stapleton). In the words of Justin Greaves “This is a song about losing a loved family member, but not a human one, it’s about our feline companions”. Sadly, they recently lost three of their cats, namely Tigger, the “old three-legged dude who starred on the cover of Horrific Honorifics”. To achieve these feelings, Guilherme Henriques, the responsible for the recording of the video “made a beautiful and simple narrative which will touch even the coldest heart”.
Ellengaest also features covers of two emblematic songs: “Everything I Say” (Vic Chesnutt) and “She’s in Parties” (Bauhaus), both of them perfectly delivered by Belinda, the chosen voice for the ending of this journey.
But somehow i feel that the real closure of the story featured in this opus is found in “The invisible past” (the penultimate track) and the soft voice of Jonathan Hulten (Tribulation).
This full-length is a wakeup call and one barely needs to read the titles of the songs or the lyrics to know that. As soon as the opening trumpet sounds and announces what is to come, we feel that in our spine. The presence of so many different voices and personas turns Ellengaest into a narrative composed by different stories that, in the end, will inevitably converge into a common finale. Besides that, this is a very successful endeavour that reflects experienced, flexible and open minded musicians eternally in love with their fellow cats.