Having emerged from the realm of depressive black metal over a decade ago, The Netherlands’ An Autumn for Crippled Children have followed a path toward exploring new gray soundscapes with an expansive sonic shimmer. Their ninth album, As the Morning Dawns We Close Our Eyes, finds them somewhere between returning to the black metal of their earliest recordings and the post-rock shoegazing they ultimately evolved into. Here, black metal is more of a flirtatious influence to the overall picture. The anger and darkness found on this album is left to lurk in the snarl of the vocals buried into layers of distorted synths and guitars. The guitars often meld into the synths, making it sometimes difficult to tell where one begins and the other ends, further made blurrier through the album’s production. Yet the mix is pleasing to the ears, forsaking the common lo-fi buzz of more traditional black metal.
In addition to breaking away from production norms, this album’s strengths lies in the uniqueness of its songs, which by and large sound like few other black metal bands aside from a shared shoegaze influence. The synths overpower the guitars on the second song, “Of Your Light,” but the movement of the song creates a flowing groove. The bass makes its presence known more in the mix than you might expect from typical black metal bands, further setting the group apart.
A uniformity beginning to reveal itself with “In Winter,” though it’s broken up when the guitar rises up in the mix on “Splendor Unnoticed.” The title track finds a darker tension and drapes it over the song, though their trademark shimmer lightens things back up to their status quo before too long. There is a melancholy tone to the guitar melody in “Hearts Closed, and the guitars retain a sharp, metallic tone in spite of the post-rock influences. Yet things brighten up a little more on “Melancholia” before the guitar intensifies again.
There’s a shimmer that comes in many of the same colors on this album that causes uniformity to run through the songs, which is broken up by moments like the piano leading into “Last Night I Believed In You,” causing enough of a shift in the palette to provide the needed dynamic. This in some ways is also a strength, as the group is so confident in the sound they have perfected that it ends up sounding dialed-in every step of the way. Even at their most grandiose, An Autumn for Crippled Children emote both their ugly side and their beauty in an honest fashion.