4/5 Stars

 

For many electronic music fans, the genre conjures images of light-hearted and fast-paced fun. Fans of Crystal Castles, however, know better. With songs titled “Wrath of God” and “Plague,” it may be almost too easy to define Crystal Castles simply in terms of their bleak electro-pop creations. Instead of synth-tinged songs about dancing in clubs, their lyrics are much darker. Their third full-length album,(III), again features their  trademark dark sound and pessimistic lyrics. Unlike their previous, rather convoluted efforts, however, on this new album, the bleak feelings of hopelessness hit a powerful high note.
Since they first arrived on the scene, Crystal Castles has been a purveyor of their own brand of electro-pop music with a goth twist. The group first appeared in 2004 in the Canadian underground circuit, where they began to hone their craft of creating music that was completely new and exciting. When their first full-length album dropped in 2008, the perspective they brought to American music was, in a way, revolutionary and compelling. Fast forward to today, and while their style of music has lost some of its freshness and may have many imitators,(III) makes it very clear that Crystal Castles is still a musical force to be reckoned with.
The two members of Crystal Castles impressively spread their wings on this new effort and showcase how much they have grown as musicians in the two years since their last record, (II). While the balance between vocals and electronica can sometimes be hard to find, singer Alice Glass is given her chance to shine on a few tracks, most notably “Affection.” Her voice sounds just as depressing as the lyrics. Her particular style of jumping between aggressive remarks and barely audible whispers works very well and adds extra depth to the already complex track. Producer Ethan Kath, the other half of the duo, has greatly improved since the band’s debut, and the often pixilated tracks like “Kerosene” and “Violent Youth” are an audible testament to the power of a masterfully manipulated synthesizer. This album definitely has the best production of any of their releases thus far.
The songs lyrics are dark and depressing, and the tension created by pairing such sadness with electronic beats can be jarring at times, but on the whole, it works extremely well. Glass’ vocals add a lot of texture to the songs as well as extra emotion to help convey the feelings of hopelessness and desperation weaved into the words she has crafted. The constant beats and wispy backing vocals also darken the mood of the album and contribute to its ultimate success.
(III) is being released at an appropriate time. Looking around at the current state of the world, it doesn’t seem surprising that Glass and Kath have such a pessimistic worldview coming across in their lyrics. This album manages to make feelings of despair and hopelessness an enjoyable musical experience.

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