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.

Prog - - Intro - Words: Dom Law­son Im­ages: Mar­ton Bod­nar

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.

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