Crystal Castles new album (iii), doesn’t cause the trouble that (i, 2008) did and it also does not hit the sonic high that (ii, 2010) achieved just a few years later. The progression made is clearly visible though, no matter how difficult it is describing their albums in a progressive manner. Opener “Plague” loops through with intenseness and eases that is very comforting. “Wrath of God” operates in much the same manner, running in and out of the driving beats. Meanwhile, “Transgender” wobbles with Ethan Kath’s distinct deep bass, and the only vocals that are easily accessible are Alice Glass shouting “I can never be pure again”. Glass has said that this is a very personal album addressing all the wrongs in the world and how this dystopia has only worsened since their first release. I am not sure that this much caring could have been found on the first Crystal Castles album, as even though it still stands as a touchstone, it was ice cold.
There are three tracks on the album that speak for where Crystal Castles have been, where they are and what they can do in the future. “Affection” stutters through a beat that could easily and seriously be written by Crystal Castles for Justin Timberlake in his FutreSex/LoveSounds phase. “Sad Eyes” is a huge beat driven track that could out-battle most EDM artists, and “Child I Will Hurt You” is as unexpected as anything they have ever done, a lullaby that puts all the bad behind us and makes us hold on to hope for another day. Much has been made about a purely digital band dropping all the digital elements, only to record this album to tape using vintage synths. Commendable as that is, they still retain their own uniqueness that sounds only like them. This album is harder to instantly enjoy, and detractors are going to be up in arms about Alice Glass’ vocal styling’s on this album, but instead of surrendering to the chopped up and abstract vocals, they need to be embraced. Her vocals aren’t as much words as they are another instrument and this isn’t so much a collection as it is a trailblazing band making another complete album.