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First Look - Crippled Black Phoenix Make Triumphant Return

Live Review

Venue: The Dome, Tufnell Park, London

Justin Greaves leads band back to full strength after troubled 12-months...

Guitarist Matt Stevens recently said farewell to his prog troubadour status as a solo acoustic looping act in order to concentrate on his fully electric outfit The Fierce & The Dead.

As they kick off with the title track from their current Magnet EP and the single_ Ark_ it is difficult not to move to the infectious grooves.

Robert Fripp coined the term 'discotronics' for the danceable art rock he engendered in the late 70s. The spirit of Fripp's jagged pop lives on in the spiky twin guitar interplay of Stevens and Steve Cleaton, while bassist Kev Feazey invites us to dance. The aptly named Dancing Robots is a sneak peek at the band's forthcoming third album, and further refines their sophisticated yet accessible formula.

Palm Trees weaves a tapestry of interlocking guitars that is part King Crimson, part Steve Reich while maintaining a very simple direct appeal steeped in a love of experimental pop.

"This one is our hit single," quips Stevens with typical self-deprecation, introducing a ferocious rendition of 666…6, which segues into the noise terrorism of Landcrab. The final wig-out sees the lead guitarist hurling his instrument around in rock star fashion before slamming it to the ground. This band is fierce but very much alive. 

Tonight's headliners defy easy categorisation. Their music variously encompasses prog, post-rock, classic rock, stoner and metal. Such a smorgasbord requires no fewer than seven members, and as they open with Rise Up And Fight their omnipresent Pink Floyd influence shines through.

Justin Greaves' riff pays homage to Roger Waters' delayed bass line from the classic One Of These Days, before the song swells through the addition of two keyboards and triple-threat guitars.

Crippled Black Phoenix sound huge in the live setting, a fact rammed home by the tribal thump of Black Light Generator. Vocalist Daniel Änghede is joined by keyboardist Daisy Chapman to create lush ethereal harmonies that soar above the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the band's instrumentation.

Long Live Independence adds a vocoder to the already dense mix, and its futuristic dystopia recalls Killing Joke at their propulsive machine best. As if the sound in The Dome were not full enough already Belinda Kodic, sometime Phoenix and Greaves' partner in the excellent Se Delan, lends her plaintive vocals to the epic two-part No!.

The ghost of Pink returns for a superb cover of Childhood's End from the oft-overlooked Obscured By Clouds. When refracted through the CBP prism this is heavy, rocks hard and is given new life.

The set comprises an overview of the band's career, taking in older EP tracks as well as more familiar album cuts and nears its end with the hypnotic long-form post-rock of fan favourite Burnt Reynolds. Crippled Black Phoenix do not go out of their way to entertain visually - it's all about their music. And, judging by the reaction they get tonight, that is enough.

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