This fifth album from Brit super group Crippled Black Phoenix (the collective boasts members of Mogwai and Iron Monkey amongst others) is at its core prog-rock, with tracks like A Letter Concerning Dogheads languid and sprawling with a tone ranging from spacey instrumental meanderings to 70s/80s styled rock with crooning.
The album doesn't often hit the spot unfortunately; you may expect on a record with two discs of material that a few moments may feel like they're suffering from quantity not quality syndrome, but unfortunately here the stand-out moments are few and far between, and no matter how superb they are it is still difficult to wade through the dated sounding prog that fills most of the album.
Early on and following the prog heavy vibe of The Heart Of Every Country (which feels very much Pink Floyd inspired) there is the dramatic and theatrical edge of Get Down and Live With It which has a great duel vocal approach backing the chunky riffs and dreamy piano led moments, it shows you just what this talented collective can achieve and stands out a mile. The ambient asides are also worth a listen (In The Yonder Marsh) has dark electro hums over church bells and creates a disjointed and off kilter atmospheric , (What?) charms with a quaint euro-folk feel and (Dig, Bury, Deny) holds the scope of huge American landscapes in its strings and slide guitar, if only these were made into full length tracks.
There are a few, more straightforward, rock songs, albeit with an epic edge, Laying Traps is one such tune, a repetitive drum pattern makes it grooveable but the vocal approach has an oddly 80s new wave feel, making it sound dated, as do the vocal effects on Born In A Hurricane.
Operation Mincemeat is one of the best tunes included; those duel male/female vocals are back and carrying a sweet melody bolstered by strings and echoes, it's lovely, and another standout. We'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive is beautiful; more post-rock in its approach and with skin tingling piano and wailing guitars creating a dreamy mood. The final track is again post-rock in its approach, a soaring epic, building time and time again through crescendos of blissful, carefully constructed noise, here they managed to introduce the prog element at times without making it feel out of touch.
The shifts in tone on the record from prog to post-rock to new wave unfortunately don't cohere and make it feel patchy, never flowing as seamless experience. The second disc holds the majority of the killer moments and while it's great to have these together it makes the two discs feel like two separate albums accidentally packaged together. Disappointing.