Crystal Castles, one of the big artists in the electronica scene, have been known for their vibrant sounds of 8-bit joy and dark melodic pop, but none of their previous work compare to the grim overtones of ‘(III)’. Crystal Castles’ third album provides uncertainty for the future while keeping the signature pop sounds of their previous effort.
The album opens with the track entitled ’Plague’ with singer Alice Glass’ voice trying to break from the reigns of the synths and percussion sounds overpowering her. With organs accompany the frantic sounds, the apocalyptic tones come to play with something only Orwell could have dreamed of.
The world of isolation and totalitarianism starts to become much more clearer on ‘Insulin‘. ‘Insulin’ provides ear shattering bit rate sounds that seem to tear away Glass’ vocal completely making a gut wrenching awful noise of cluttered keyboards and electronic drums and is a low point of the album.
‘Kerosene’ and ’Wrath of God’ follow suit by providing childlike chatter throughout and thumping bass beats that seem more like a menacing march than a simple dance beat. ‘Wrath of God’ provides some hope with soft piano playing during segments until the synths from ‘Plague’ start to take over once again crowding the voices on the track.
Tracks such as ‘Affection’ and ‘Sad Eyes’ are a return to form from their other works by being more easier on the audience with relaxed melodic beats and providing a break from the grim of the album. ‘Sad Eyes’ itself gives a full 180 from the previous tracks by being up tempo providing much more light hearted beats that would be perfect for the dance floor and is the highlight of the album.
A highlight of the album is the song titled ‘Transgender’. The track has Glass’ still hidden beneath the instrumentals with hints of 80’s synth pop and giving a sense of hope for the end tracks of the album that range from being truly stunning (‘Violent Youth’) to forgettable (‘Mercenary’). Tracks such as ‘Pale Flesh’ and ‘Telepath’ fall into the forgettable side as well.
The album ends with a true gem of hopefulness in a grim reality in the form of ‘Child I Will Hurt You’. With light piano elements throughout and Alice Glass’ voice finally comes to the forefront to give what seems like hope, but is rather dark words saying ‘Hide all that you could have done for the greater good’. The song seems to be the equivalent of what one could hear at the end of their lives provide a chilling unease while listening.
The instrumentations by Ethan Kath are dark and beautiful creating a world that is a gritty and harsh take on the reality of the modern life with heavy reliance on ambient synths and harsh bit noises. The overwhelming feeling of oppression overtaking Glass’ vocals and the rest around her is outstanding and gets one to wonder if this is truly how everything really is. Glass’ lyrics seem to convey that reality is not what it appears to be and seems trapped in the pressure of today.
Crystal Castles’ ’(III)’ is a work of apocalyptic art, destruction and the wonders of grim beauty it creates. ‘(III)’ is a far cry from their previous albums, but in its own right, it is a stellar masterpiece.