CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX – 200 Tons of Bad Luck (2009)

Crippled Black Phoenix - 200 Tons of Bad Luck For a band that contains members of Mogwai and Electric Wizard, Crippled Black Phoenix don’t exactly sound like what you might expect them to; of course, what would you expect them to sound like? Dynamic explosions soaked in bong haze? Well, as awesome as that would be, it is not what’s in store for us on 200 Tons of Bad Luck, an album that that effortlessly manages to conjure up feelings up sadness and awe, often times in tandem with one another. Emotional resonance aside, however, the album exhibits a surprising amount of musical diversity, much more so than its predecessor, 2007’s A Love of Shared Disasters (an album that I enjoyed, although I will admit that its apocalyptic fervor was a little too reminiscent of Six Organs of Admittance at times).

The most astounding song on the album (and its obvious centerpiece), is the 18+ minute Time of Ye Life/Born For Nothing/Paranoid Arm of Narcoleptic Empire, a triple movement behemoth that begins as a forlorn elegy calling to mind Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s BBF3, and ends as a bluesy pysch rock jam that would make Hawkwind blush with envy. This one song, in a way, serves as the perfect microcosm for the entire album: the band take songs that could be (in the hands of lesser musicians) rather simplistic dirges, and turn them on their side so that, in a weird way, they seem almost pleasant. It takes some serious doing to refine the sounds of impending desolation as much as Crippled Black Phoenix have done here, and that’s what makes 200 Tons of Bad Luck such an engaging listen.

So now that my approval of the album has been stated, I’m left with the rather difficult task of trying to figure out how in the hell I’m supposed to recommend this album to someone (as an album that is this full of blissful contradictions is bound to have a somewhat limited appeal). The best I can come up with is just to take a good long look at the band’s name: if the words “Crippled Black Phoenix” look intriguing to you, I’d wager money that the album will deliver on any and all expectations you might cull from the band’s moniker.

NOTE: Although “200 Tons of Bad Luck” is the band’s official sophomore album, there’s also a 2 disc album entitled “The Resurrectionists/Night Raider” that was released at roughly the same time – this set (which features a different cover and packagaing) contains all of the songs on “200 Tons of Bad Luck”, plus a bunch of bonus songs. At present, a physical release of “The Resurrectionists/Night Raider” is not available in the US (it can be imported from Invada Records in the UK), but it can be purchased digitally from amazon and presumably, other retailers as well. I bring this up because it was a bit confusing for me to come across mention of these two seeming new releases on the web, and I wanted to spare anyone the confusion as to what (if any) differences there were between the two.
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