An Autumn for Crippled Children pour grisly emotion into bloody fourth album

AAFCC cover
The saying “a little something for everyone” isn’t always the most glowing way to describe a metal album, because it might indicate the music is all over the place. It also could hint that a band does a bunch of things decently but nothing exceptionally well.

That thinking can be shoved aside when discussing “Try Not to Destroy Everything You Love,” the new album from Dutch band An Autumn for Crippled Children that’s finally seeing the light of day this week. Sadly, we’re in a dead period of new music releases, and much of what is released in December gets written off as being unimportant, but don’t make that mistake with this band. This, their fourth album, continues along the path they’ve blazed since their 2010 debut “Lost” and combines equal elements of post-rock, shoegaze, doom, black metal, and goth just seamlessly. All of these dark elements mix so well, and this band has such a stronghold on what they do, that they truly add something special to all of the subgenres from which they grab influence.

On “Try Not to…” they keep steamrolling ahead into moody, sometimes dreary territory that might make for a good companion on a late night when sorrow is at your door. The three who comprise this band—MXM (vocals, guitars, keyboards), TXT (bass, keyboards), and CXC (drums)—keep things in the shadows for the most part and inject a sense of mystery into their misery. The music can be atmospheric, fully melodic, and brutal at the same time, and MXM’s harsh vocals always sound like he’s doing everything he can to destroy his throat, chest, and diaphragm as he emotes like few other manage to do these days. You feel every one of his words as they struggle and explode from his mouth.

The record begins with “Autumn Again,” a song we can enjoy for its full sentiment at least a few weeks longer. It’s full of synth-driven, New Wave-style glory, grisly vocals, and a black metal assault lurking underneath everything, making it that much more intoxicating. Then it’s on to “The Woods Are on Fire,” a thick, hazy track with vicious screams and chaos that eventually subside for weepy strings and trickling piano that feel like a bloodletting. “Never Complete” is solemn and dark at the start, with the song plodding along, and the thick emotion and murky grit actually feel quite epic at times. Yeah, the vocals are harsh and brutal, while the song continues to swell, and there’s an underlying trauma you can’t avoid. The title track opens feeling like a modern Katatonia song, only with bloodcurdling vocals, and the middle section of the cut bursts with life and bright, searing laser lights, before it returns to hiding again. “Hearts of Light” is wrenching with synth buzz and overflowing emotion, as you’ve surely come to expect from the first half of this record, and it just gushes with blood, passion, and burning.

“Sepia Mountain for Her Lament” is a shorter cut, and one of the strangest on here, with piano-like synth and foggy feelings, before it ignites into a powerful blaze, with MXM howling mightily once again. That leads into “Closer,” a faster song with boiling synth, plenty of melodic texture, and even some gasps of prog rock due to the sprawling basslines. There is a great deal of atmosphere swirling around here, but just when you think you’re going to leave awash in beauty, things turn grisly as the song winds down. “Avoiding Winter” has a poppier feel to it, and while it has its thunderous moments, it’s more reflective and pulsating. It’s quite the change of pace, and a really interesting song. “Starlit Spirits” lets the band put everything it has out there (it’s the closer, unless you get one of the limited copies with a bonus cut), with MXM pouring every ounce of himself into the song, the pace going from delicate to violent (think Japanese hardcore envy here), and glorious melodies rising up and sweeping you away with them. If you’re lucky and got the bonus track “Quiet Evenings,” then you have a dizzying, metallic gem that sets itself apart from the rest of the album and gives you one last shot to your heart as you’re left gasping.

Definitely don’t sleep on this late-year killer “Try Not to Destroy Everything You Love,” yet another powerful statement from An Autumn for Crippled Children, one of the most creatively prolific bands of this decade. They’re a great companion for when you need a fellow bleeding heart next to you and an outlet for your anguish. Plus, you know, they deliver a little piece of something for each listener both musically and emotionally, and that should be enough for any extreme listener to take the plunge into the dark.

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