Here are a Couple More Albums I’d be Reviewing if I Hadn’t Bought Them

I’m about 30 reviews in the hole as of today, and by that I mean I’ve got 27 band names on my “Reviews To-Do” list. Not complaining. I’m glad that bands get in touch, want their stuff written up, etc. It just takes time. And, as I know I’ve said before, if there are that many albums people sent in backlogged, it’s not really fair for me to review stuff I’ve bought just because I like it. I’m sure I could get away with it and no one would know or care, but I’d feel like a dick.

So here we are. When last we met under these terms, I was raving about the genius of the latest Wovenhand and Master Musicians of Bukkake. Still killer records, both of which are on my ongoing best-of-2010 consideration list (I like making lists). Newly joining said list are two recently-purchased works by British dark/alt folk troupe Crippled Black Phoenix and French one-man post-black metal outfit Alcest. Let’s take a look:

I didn’t even know Crippled Black Phoenix had a new full-length coming out until I saw I, Vigilante had been released. Their prior 200 Tons of Bad Luck was one of my favorites of last year, so there was no way I was going to miss the follow-up. I placed my order even as I was still making my way through the album stream on Bandcamp, and was excited to find even more than the listed five tracks when the physical CD showed up in the mail.

Those familiar with Crippled Black Phoenix‘s sound won’t be surprised by the turns they take here (the ending cover aside), but they do what they do so well, and it’s all so miserably English, that I swear every time I put I, Vigilante on the sky gets cloudy. Their songwriting has developed and they tone down some of the oddball elements that showed up on the double-CD set The Resurrectionists/Night Raider from which 200 Tons of Bad Luck was culled, focusing instead on songcraft and tight but still natural-sounding performances. The only trouble with Crippled Black Phoenix is I’m not finished absorbing an album before they put out the next one. As much as I’ve already enjoyed it, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of I, Vigilante.

Alcest played New York this year and I missed them through my own negligence, laziness and scheduling deficiencies, so I wanted to make sure I picked up Écailles de Lune when I could. I finally found the album in Kim’s Video and Music on 1st Ave. in NYC, full price, new, for $17 and bought it. It’s more than I’d prefer to pay, but screw it, the other Kim’s went out of business and I was feeling saucy. I popped in the disc the next morning and was surprised to find that sole Alcest member Neige had been joined by a drummer, named Winterhalter, and was exploring a little more of a traditional black metal side as well as the excellent sense of melodic ambience he showed on 2007’s beautiful Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde.

By that I mean there’s some screamed vocals thrown into the mix. “Percées De Lumière” is probably the most abrasive thing I’ve yet heard from Alcest, but as excited as I was by that, even more thrilling was hearing that rather than use heaviness as a crutch, Neige‘s range of melody had grown as well. “Solar Song” is so encompassing when played at the (in)appropriate volume that I want to nap with it. It’s amazing to me how something so musically and emotionally weighted can also be so pretty.

Neither of these bands is going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but each has a lot to offer sonically to those with adventurous ears, and although I’m basically swamped, I thought I’d take a second to pass the recommendations on to anyone who might be interested.

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