By Stuart Stubbs

In making it to a third album, Crystal Castles have proven a lot of people wrong. Fads aren’t meant to last this long, but then most fads don’t come with Crystal Castles’ live show. It’s no secret that it’s the shows that have gotten them here, with albums ‘I’ and ‘II’ merely allowing us to take a slice of the glitch metal chaos home as a reminder of what the hell just happened here.

‘III’ will no doubt play out just as brutally as everything else Ethan Kath and Alice Glass have crumbled theatre walls with before now, simply because they could attempt an xx medley and it would sink a cranium or two, but there’s no denying that this is something new – a Crystal Castles album for the home.

“Oppression is the main theme,” claims Alice, who freely admits that she’s lost what little faith she had in humanity since the release of ‘II’ in 2010. “It feels like the world is a dystopia where victims don’t get justice and corruption prevails.”

It’s a point she seems to drill home once the goblin jibber-jabber and warped speeding vehicles of ‘Keroscene’ cease and make way for an extremely rare moment of absolute clarity. “I’ll protect you from all things I’ve seen,” she assures us, back-lit by some hopeless wasteland, at last crystalline and free. Otherwise, Alice’s vocals appear to be Ethan’s play-thing once again, ‘III’ constantly hacking at her syllables and either reforming them into zombie-like HEALTH remixes (see ‘Affection’), or burying them beneath a steady pulse, a slo-mo, rat-a-tat snare and static-riddled synths. If that sounds like Crystal Castles have turned into White Ring, it’s because they have, and wonderfully so.

Witch House suits Crystal Castles, perhaps because it’s so theatrically oppressive itself – claustrophobic and drastic. At its most overindulgent we get ‘Insulin’ (two minutes of barbed, killer riffs and inaudible lyrics recorded so far in the red that everything cuts out on the offbeat right until the end), but tracks like ‘Plague’, ‘Wrath of God’ and ‘Pale Flesh’ – all controlled and weirdly calming – are what make this an album for your headphones, and perhaps the band’s best yet.

Claims that ‘III’ was made by a self-imposed one-take policy seems almost as unbelievable as the reported “no computers” rule. This is, after all, electronic music at its most synthetic, and how much can an album really be made up of single-take tracks when so much over-dubbing has surely had to occur? But true or not, they’re needless boasts or lies. ‘III’ is neither ‘I’’s collection of wily experiments, nor ‘II’’s lazy thirst for more live bangers; it’s an impressive, oppressive album that marks a new, more considered era for Crystal Castles, the recording artists.

Read all of our new album reviews here, in this month’s Loud And Quiet

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