rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Missed
02. I see you… but never clearly
03. Where pain begins
04. This feels like dying
05. As the void
06. Closure
07. For tomorrow
08. Unable to feel you
09. Culpable
10. Here comes sorrow

Some people will never understand the appeal of miserable music. Those people are idiots. AN AUTUMN FOR CRIPPLED CHILDREN have been chipping away at mortality's façade for over a decade, almost single-handedly giving worth to the phrase "post-black metal" in the process.

Remarkably prolific, they have notched up nine full-length albums previous to this one. Throughout it all, the Dutch trio have remained stoically mysterious, but their music has slowly and steadily become more accessible, albeit with the caveat that vocalist MXM  does frequently sound like a wildcat being electrocuted. All mild amusement aside, the band's last few albums have been particularly strong. Ostensibly the conclusive third in a trilogy that began with 2020's "All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet" and continued with "As The Morning Dawns We Close Our Eyes" the following year, "Closure" aims to elegantly wrap things up, metaphorically or otherwise.

Although still steeped in the smothering shimmer of '90s shoegaze, with occasional nods to THE CURE and other crestfallen greats, AN AUTUMN FOR CRIPPLED CHILDREN are icy and uncompromising. As with many of their best songs, "Missed" is a rush of mournful melody, with only MXM's barbarous howls puncturing the soft-focus squall. Delivered at a soporific pace, "I see you… but never clearly" could easily have borne a bittersweet vocal melody, but this band's abrasive spirit is fundamental to their power. "Where pain begins" is ferocious post-punk, gilded with black metal tones; "This feels like dying" is an avalanche of emotion, underpinned by a tense but triumphant chord sequence and slow-mo BOLT THROWER drums. Each of them clocks in at a crisp four minutes or so, perhaps to protect listeners from being exposed to too much iridescent bleakness, but also because there is plainly great discipline behind the dismay.

From the coruscating riffs and gothic detours of "As the void", and the dreamy, major-chord miasma of the title track, to "Culpable", with its wall of raucous guitars and air of narrative climax, "Closure" gets the balance between the heavy and the blissed-out just right. But the essence of AN AUTUMN FOR CRIPPLED CHILDREN's vision has no time for equilibrium. Instead, as confirmed by frantic album closer "Here Comes Sorrow", this band are raging against the dying of the light, in sorrow and in style.

Author: Dom Lawson
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