The Rickety Old Shack

An Autumn For Crippled Children — The Long Goodbye

Hailing from the Netherlands, we have one of the more unique takes on the experimental black metal concept in An Autumn For Crippled Children (AAFCC). Unlike the majority of bands citing black metal as their main influence, AAFCC take things in a very different direction — a far less aggressive direction, though one no less heavy. Over the course of four studio albums and two EPs, AAFCC have established their sound and niche, so The Long Goodbye was heavily expected to fall in line with its predecessors. That is to say, if you can envision Kent going through a "kvlt" and post-hardcore phase, you might have a rough idea what to expect.

Each previous release has incorporated subtle additions to the formula, but every track is unmistakably an AAFCC song. The Long Goodbye keeps this trend going, serving up 9 solid tracks — though no real surprises are to be found. The production is the best the band has ever had, coupled with their unique blend of understated, buzzing guitars and synth leads; the drums are, again, reserved but have a punchier tone than other AAFCC records. The band's sound is difficult to describe, as the most 'black metal' thing about their sound is the distorted, wretched / screamed vocals — at first glance, the musical accompaniment sounds completely out of place.

It doesn't take long for an AAFCC song to settle in, and you get a good sense of the desolate, haunted moods they like to set. Tonally, the music is very clean and melodic, with even the distorted guitars blending into the other instrumentation, acting more like a backing synth than traditional lead guitar. The drums hew closer to jazz and pop, with sparing moments of rapid double-kick patterns. The lyrics are extremely difficult to discern — impossible, really — and the vocal approach never varies, but each track remains a distinct entry on the record.

What really ties the tracks on The Long Goodbye together are the moments where more traditional riffs work their way in and out of the amalgam of instrumentation. The piano sections, like the ending of "Converging Towards The Light" are perfectly placed, giving just a little bit of extra emotional weight to some already weighty material. Likewise the sparse electronic sampling and background synths — adding flourishes to the soundscapes in just the right places. AAFCC have a knack for creating depressive, brooding atmospheres in their songs. While there is no crushing wall of noise, 100mph drums, or no-budget recording practices, the vocal style — and emotional palette — of black metal nihilism is quite present.

This is absolutely not the sort of thing that is going to win over any die-hard black metal purists, but that's not a concern worth the mental overhead. For fans of experimental music, with a taste for the extreme, then The Long Goodbye is a great place to start with AAFCC; if you like this record, you will enjoy the rest of their releases — the same applies if you do not like what you hear. As I was getting myself up-to-speed on the black metal scene, I found The Long Goodbye to be a refreshing break between some of the more extreme records to come out this year.

The Long Goodbye is very caustic in parts, especially due to the vocals, but the softer passages and long instrumental breaks keep things interesting. After discussing the album with a friend, we both came to the conclusion that the only problem with it is that "Gleam" wasn't the closing track. Each track flows into the next without a problem, but by the end of "Gleam" the album really feels 'done' at that point. "The Sleep Of Rust" isn't a bad song by any means, but it doesn't feel like an album closer.

Aside from the minor point concerning the track order, The Long Goodbye is an excellent metal album. AAFCC are what I would consider an acquired taste, even for metal fans; I think they're at least worth a look, even if their style doesn't sound appealing in text form. The Long Goodbye gives a very clear indication of what the group has to offer, only this record is better produced and has the group's most proficient material. In terms of music, "heavy" can mean a lot of things; AAFCC make emotionally heavy music, as opposed to the "brutal" sort.

While I would absolutely love to see the group experiment more with their sound, this album is fine even though it does not stray off the beaten path. The Long Goodbye is what I consider AAFCC's best work, though I do believe that without some changes the well might be close to dry. That said, I might have said the same thing after listening to Lost and ...And Only The Ocean Knows — but they keep writing songs and I keep enjoying them...

Summary

A very strong release from an obscure, but consistently hard-working experimental group. An Autumn For Crippled Children impressed me with their last two releases, the Try Not To Destroy Everything You Love album and the beautifully titled Try Not To Love Everything You Destroy EP. Harsh, heavily distorted vocals are expertly contrasted with beautiful, atmospheric melodies — a mixture of electro-pop and post-hardcore, blackened to taste. The Long Goodbye is an exercise in crafting bleak, harsh moods and soundscapes; a great listen, and very likely AAFCC's strongest album to date.

Album Information

Release date: February 23rd, 2015
Record label: Independent / Wicker Man Recordings

Michl — vocals, guitar, keyboards
TD — bass, keyboards
Chr — drums

Track Listing

  1. The Long Goodbye
  2. Converging Towards The Light
  3. A New Form
  4. Only Skin
  5. When Night Leaves Again
  6. She's Drawing Mountains
  7. Endless Skies
  8. Gleam
  9. The Sleep Of Rust

—by Derek

Published: November 30, 2015