Review Summary: Returning with their third album, Crystal Castles show that they are more consistent than ever. Surpassing both their previous albums they are able to musically express dark themes of oppression through their electronic music.
Most bands or artists have always faced the age old musical question of whether they should continue with their already popular sound which may grow old and tiresome, or instead experiment with something new. that may entertain new audiences at the risk of upsetting their current fan base. When people usually answer this question more often than not it usually results in some sort of listener backlash, however Crystal Castles return with (III) to show that their old sound can still be brought to new heights in an album that strips their original ideas back to basic, and hence brings about a darker eeriness than ever before.
With a sound similar to their last album, Crystal Castles (II), the Canadian indie electronica duo return with 12 new tracks for fans and listeners. Unlike their last two albums, this one projects more consistency with less clutter in the songs, that flow well together and lead into their proceeding track with ease. I always got the idea that the tracks on the first album were more like a collection of songs, and not an album, with most tracks differing entirely in how they sounded and were structured. To me this wasn't necessarily a bad thing at all, most of the songs were cool and showed that the band was really versatile with many different sounds, though the downside was that it was a bit chaotic and wasn't easy to listen to cover to cover. Their second album was more of a step up in terms of being a consistent record all round, the songs were a bit clearer, but still weren't the perfect grouping of tracks. (III) is able to over-take its predecessors by creating an album with tracks that flow so well, with a continuous echo and dissonance in the background, that it is by far their most consistent work to date. Such dissonance in the background and themes of suffering almost make this album out to be a concept record for me personally, like all the songs continue the same dark vibe and ideas.
Most people online and in person seem to dislike how Alice Glass' vocals on this album have too much reverb and are distorted beyond all reasonable boundaries that make them understandable, and act like this is a bad thing, and while yes Crystal Castles have always done this to an extent, Alice's presence isn't quite clear in these songs, but I don't mind this. Ever since Crystal Castles began, Alice Glass has become this indie Goddess type idol that people admire, and yes her image and stage presence are key to the band and it's look, but at times I feel like she makes the duo susceptible to hype and image admiring fans. With her voice being more reverbed, turned down, and having every other effect under the sun done to it, Kath's work on the music and production becomes the focal point of this album, giving the audience something a bit different to Glass' previous ethereal yet aggressive voice.
As said above the album's main theme is suffering and oppression, and with vocals being as unclear as they are, this time around Crystal Castles are able to use the music to project this theme even better than words can. Opening the first song 'Plague' with a dark droning dissonant sound, the entire theme of the album is instantly started, it even feels like the start of a film score, just slowly opening into this dark song that's only audible lyrics are 'I have the Plague'. In terms of contrasting bright and dark, this album is able to juxtapose innocent pastoral life with dark bitter oppression mainly through it's music. With tracks like 'Wrath of God' and 'Child I will Hurt You' using bright sounding synths to produce nursery rhyme sounding melodies, that exist on top of dark harsh undertones, dissonant beats and synths, and distorted vocals, Crystals Castles paint an almost sadistic combination of innocence and suffering, and they pull this off amazingly, which I highly rate.
Bringing down the pace of this album, I feel that the beats aren't as rhythmically interesting as the last albums, and rather simple, this may seem unimaginitive as the album progresses, but I am able to see how this brings out the synth parts much more as the slow tempo allows me to listen to how the music is actually going, while old Castles songs would be so fast and chaotic it didn't really matter, and if you tried to notice anything you usually were just confused. By toning everything down a bit, it seems to me that Crystal Castles music speaks more and is able to make their portrayal of suffering seem in a way calm, and almost beautiful, which is very weird. I personally feel that the songs 'Affection' and 'Telepath' demonstrate these ideas well.
But to say that toning this album would completely destroy how upbeat they have been would be completely wrong. Although this album lacks the fast paced aggression that past songs like 'Doe Deer' and 'Loving and Caring' had, it is still able to give great dance tracks that are still upbeat, yet not as crazy as the aforementioned. Tracks like 'Sad Eyes' are able to create a great lively feeling mood, with it's lit up synth part and smooth vocals, and a great motif continuing throughout the track, and 'Violent Youth' does this similarly by giving a simple driving beat and bass line throughout the song, with some cool discordant synth parts throughout. So through songs like these, (III) is able to illustrate that the group can still be upbeat and not just one long drone for the whole album, though they do this without having to bring about an older Crystal Castles sound.
Overall the album is very consistent and is their best album yet for me, though the downside of being so consistent is that they lose the versatile vibe that they used to have, and at times it seems like a lot of the songs are similar, which is good because it flows well, but is simultaneously bad because you can get bored at certain times throughout listening as well. I enjoy just sitting back and listening to it, it's calming despite it's subject matter and just works really well, while their past work got too chaotic to listen to while chilling out. This album further proves to me how Crystal Castles can still make good music two albums on from their debut, something i didn't see coming, and makes me hopeful for their next release. After finally perfecting this sound I would personally want them to do something completely different on their next album, but who's to say they wont just continue to make the music that they have worked so hard at already? In the end I know this band will always satisfy my musical taste, and always come out with a great sounding record.
- Sad Eyes
- Child I Will Hurt You