Crystal Castles are back and feeling the pre-apocalyptic woes of the year 2012 with their third release, aptly titled (III). Produced entirely by multi-instrumentalist Ethan Kath in the gray abyss of Warsaw, Poland. Sounding more somber than past albums, (III) trades in their in-your-face aggression and punk angst for a more contemplative sound, coming off as if they’re holding their hope for the world by a single thread. “The world is a dystopia where victims don’t get justice and corruption prevails,” states singer Alice Glass. If nothing else, (III) hints that the band is ready to connect with their audience on a deeper, more profound level.
Alice’s voice is as hauntingly beautiful as ever. Although you can never understand most of what she’s saying below the layers of reverb, you can feel her pain throughout the album. The album begins with Plague, a title accurately depicting the world’s demise. Wrath of God continues the theme of oppression as Alice wails over a layer of reverb and ravey synths.
Their lack for convention is as prevalent as ever from the hyper-maximalist Kerosene to the ambitious 808-based pop appeal of Affection. Kath’s attention to detail is worth mentioning as skittering synths of Pale Flesh screech like 8-bit bats in a cave, paired with an over-compressed snare ripe for rattling trunks. One definite standout on the album is Sad Eyes, where Alice flaunts her icy swagger over Kath’s daggering synth lead before Transgender brings you down like a broken-hearted lullaby. Other tracks seem to twist the confines of electronic music, making house and disco a tad more dysfunctional (Violent Youth, Telepath) before ending the effort with the ethereal Child I Will Hurt You.
(III) marks a significant change in Crystal Castles. As Glass and Kath age, they are becoming increasingly aware, less optimistic and more bleak. Instead of a pent-up angst for the world, themselves and their fans, they’re embracing us, holding our hands and walking us through the impending apocalypse. (III) is an icy revelation: we’re all doomed.