Live Reviews

Crippled Black Phoenix w/ MØL & Impure Wilhelmina – Manchester Rebellion: Live Review

Crippled Black Phoenix take the stage in Manchester on the release day of their new record: Banefyre. MØL & Impure Wilhelmina offer support.

Crippled Black Phoenix have walked their own path for nearly two decades. In support of their latest LP, Banefyre, the veteran prog rock / dark rock / psychedelic collective wowed the crowd in Manchester.

Opening up the show were Genevan post metal hard rock quartet and Season Of Mist label mates of Crippled Black Phoenix, Impure Wilhelmina. The band also slots into the veteran category. Seven albums (the latest of which is Antidote), several EP’s and singles and plenty of tours since their inception in the 1990s shows as the band ably rumbled the foundations of the intimate Rebellion venue.

Since this writer’s last excursion to Manchester Rebellion (which was definitely pre-pandemic), the venue has improved immensely. The PA sounds better and it was clear during Impure Wilhelmina’s set. Chugging bass and pounding drums propelling dissonant riffs helped warm up the crowd in pristine fashion. Thanks were offered from the stage as their short set concluded.

Impure Wilhelmina

From the more traditional rock rhythms of Impure Wilhelmina, MØL raised the pace and the tempo with their crushing blend of black metal and shoegaze. An almighty scream of, ‘MANCHESTERRRR!’ is bellowed from the lungs of Kim Song Sternkopf as the band begin a set that will fly by in a heartbeat.

In support of their 2021 release, Diorama, MØL proved exactly why they are so highly thought of. The Danish four-piece moves seamlessly between beauty, anger, despair and plenty of emotions on the continuum. With strobes set to overdrive and an immediate rapport with the crowd established, the band set about their business.

It’s been a while,” exclaims Sternkopf as the band are offered a huge response out of the blocks. Whilst the black metal tag looms large amongst furious riffs and blistering blast beats, MØL give so much colour in their songs. For a start, there are Hawaiian shirts on the backs of guitarists Nicolai Hansen and Frederik Lippert; as well as the neon glow of pink guitar on stage right. Aesthetic aside, the melody and timbre of the way MØL perform is like listening to a technicolour dream.

Sternkopf hangs over the crowd grabbing hands from the front row and delivering emotive screams. “There is no language barrier in screaming,” he quips as the set heads towards the end. With pockets in the crowd available, the mercurial singer jumps into the crowd to the delight of the fans. As he clambers back on stage, there is a sense of overwhelming emanating from the band at the reception from the crowd. Every member of the audience shows their support as the band depart.


And so…to the main event.

Crippled Black Phoenix take the stage to the twisted sounds of Incantation For The Different; the opening to their latest opus, Banefyre. For the different is about right; Crippled Black Phoenix has always been for the outsider. Justin Greaves and his band members cut shadowy figures amongst the foggy backdrop. “I feel like I’m in a John Carpenter film,” remarks Greaves at one point, such was the eerie amount of dry ice.

Opening with 444, the band are onstage for close to two hours, taking in many stops in their lauded back catalogue. Naturally, all ears on the new material. Wyches & Basterdz is an early highlight. A sparse guitar melody explodes into a monolithic wall of doomy-style guitars and drums as vocalist, Belinda Kordic, adds her distinct, macabre vocals to the mix. Throw in the saxophone as well and you have a truly unique mix of music.

During the opening couple of numbers, Crippled Black Phoenix suffer with technical issues onstage. A brief halt is called as the band try to correct their problems. Greaves tries to fill on the mic but by his own admission he is “shit at it!” The crowd are more than accommodating; Greaves reckons that it is going to be ‘one of those nights.’ There is a little trepidation in the air as the band visibly work through their sound issues. Out front, the sound is huge and the band really do sound sublime.

Bonefire and Blackout77 from Banefyre both sound splendid; the latter is a real turn-up – it is a little more poppy if you will. The Reckoning is also aired from Banefyre with an urgent pace. The latest album from the band is a towering album of incredible music that begs your attention. Everything Is Beautiful But Us is also aired and received brilliantly.

Although the band really struggled through the early songs, with the crowd perhaps a little distant, the one-two of Cry Of Love and Lost from 2020’s Elleng​æ​st really sees the band hit their stride. It is a real moment that cements the crowd/band connection and the audience really kicks into gear. ‘I see you and the damage done…’ sings Kordic as the opening drums of Lost pulse amongst the dense green lights. A building wall of sound ensues and the haunting vocals and music sends a chill. ”We are lost as humans,’ is the lyric that seems to unite the crowd, belting it back along with the band; in the venue there is real lift-off.

Cry Of Love has a drum line that is not to far from Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill; a suitably on-brand reference for 2022. Elsewhere, the is a feeling of light in amongst the music. On 2020’s Elleng​æ​st, the band employed several friends to sing. One of those people was Vinny Cavanagh of the dearly missed Anathema. In listening to Cry Of Love, you can hear the ghost of Anathema. Heartfelt lyrics, bright, rousing melodies and uplifting music.

Crippled Black Phoenix

With the band in full flow now, and the earlier problems, at least to this eye, behind them…the band blaze a trail. The Great Escape is truly mesmerising. Mournful drums, and guitars that tug at the heartstrings, open the song before a middle section that evokes the spirit of those c.1970/71 Pink Floyd moments of Meddle and Obscured By Clouds. It is merged with a part of Song For The Loved which makes for a brilliant medley of music that is sublimely ethereal and topped off with brilliant guitar solos.

Another cut from the same album is Rise Up And Fight. “There’s gonna be a circle pit now, right?‘” asks Greaves as he passes a wooden flagpole to the audience. It is passed around and waved by anyone that gets a chance. It is hard to put into words the atmosphere that is in the room at this point. The whole timeline of the concert is a masterclass in overcoming those bugs and delivering for your fans. Crippled Black Phoenix are anything but crippled here; they are blooming.

You Take The Devil Out Of Me and We Forgotten Who We Are close out the main set. With time against them, the band skip walking off and on for rock and roll aesthetics and finish with Burnt Reynolds. Emphatic is an understatement for what occurs. Greaves joins the audience for the final strains of the exultant ‘woah’ chorus, guitar in hand. A thumbs-up signal to the stage sees the band hit a thrashy pace which erupts in Greaves (still playing) and the audience moshing together. As Greaves gets back onstage, he is wide-eyed and smiling from ear to ear.

Banefyre is a wonderful record and Crippled Black Phoenix are a band to be treasured. In Manchester…on this evening…it was…as predicted…’one of those nights!’

Crippled Black Phoenix: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

MØL: Bandcamp / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

Impure Wilhelmina: Website / Facebook / Instagram / Bandcamp

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