FLIGHT LET THERE BE
With their aptly named ninth album Great Escape, Crippled Black Phoenix are exorcising demons and shaking off the stresses of the past.
The last time that Crippled Black Phoenix released a new album, band founder and chief songwriter Justin Greaves was still reeling. Having weathered the climax of an acrimonious falling out with certain now firmly ex-band members, not to mention an ongoing battle with depression, he was emotionally exhausted and not in the brightest mood. As a result, Bronze was an almost remorselessly angry affair: not exactly an anomaly in the CBP catalogue, but one unusually bereft of light, hope and love. Fast forward to 2018 and Greaves is in a much better frame of mind and the results – the ninth full-length CBP album, Great Escape – are spectacular. As he tells Prog, exorcising those demons was the key to ushering in a confident and cautiously positive new dawn.
“Take all of our other albums out of the equation for a minute, and all the bullshit that went with it, there were various things about Bronze that I either needed to get out of my system, whether musically or creatively or emotionally,” says Greaves. “So it was more of a straightforward album. But if I hadn’t made that album, I don’t think Great Escape would be what it is. Maybe this is a new beginning. I don’t think about this stuff, to be honest, but when you get asked about it and you start reflecting on these things, you start delving a bit deeper into your own psyche and the reasons why you do things, and you think, ‘Yeah, maybe that’s right…’”
While bigger, brighter and more dynamic than its predecessors, Great Escape still dwells in the brooding, wildly atmospheric sonic world that Greaves has nurtured over the last 13 years. The album’s title neatly summarises the emotions expressed through these songs: whether shrugging off the stresses of past battles or imagining a solution to the division and chaos engulfing the planet at the moment, it’s an album that seems to yearn for better times.
“Yeah, I think that’s true. Going into this album, it all came from being in a place where I was so fed up with everything and I just wanted everything to be okay, with no more stress and no more drama, and that’s just on a personal level,” Greaves notes. “Then you look at the outside world and you think, ‘Oh, Christ…’ So when you get a spark of an idea like that, maybe what comes out is more genuine as a result.
“I think the optimism comes from a place of resignation. When you just hold up your hands to everything and say, ‘Oh, sod it!’ that’s when creativity really comes to the surface, I guess.”
No one could credibly accuse CBP of ever having been tethered to one musical style or idea, but it’s undeniable that Great Escape covers a lot more emotional and textural ground that anything they have previously released. As its title suggests, underpinning it all are notions of escape, liberation and release. To You I Give is an epic, stately squall of tender, personal surrender; Madman is a dark, electro-rock study of explosive rage; Nebulas offers succour to the animal liberation movement.
None of it could accurately be described as cheery, and the spectre of mortality looms over parts like a storm cloud, but the overriding sentiment that emerges from the album is one of cautious optimism: that somehow, there is always a road that leads away from humanity’s madness.
“THERE’S ALWAYS AN ELEMENT OF OPTIMISM AND HOPE IN EVERYTHING WE’VE EVER
DONE, BUT NOW IT’S MORE LIKE, ‘THERE’S GOT TO BE ANOTHER WAY,’ YOU KNOW?”
CBP, WITH JUSTIN GREAVES FAR LEFT.