The release of their eponymous debut album in 2008 saw Crystal Castles pioneer a unique brand of raw, glitch-electro. Two albums later, the Toronto duo have broadened their musical horizons considerably; Ethan Kath claimed to have disposed of all his old recording equipment to aid this musical revamp. Various influences are evident through the record, yet it still retains the unmistakable Crystal Castles identity. III is their most streamlined and mature effort to date.
The pair’s willingness to evolve is underlined by ‘Sad Eyes’ which contains a polished trance hook that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Tiësto set, were it not for Alice Glass’ woozy lament “you can’t disguise sad eyes”. Elsewhere, Kath’s production excellently compliments the vocals. ‘Insulin’ sees Glass unleash her now trademark Banshee screams, first aired on debut single ‘Alice Practice’, and in turn, Kath’s accompaniment is explosive and harsh, whilst ‘Transgender’ exhibits Glass’ more melodic verse and, sonically, is suitably subtle.
The lyrical themes of III stem from Glass’ anger at societal injustice, but her recent revelation that “A lot of bad things have happened to people close to me … it’s profoundly influenced my writing as I’ve realized there will never be justice for them” prove this to be a more personal matter than it first appears. She often takes the position of an apparent spiritual guardian aiming to fix the problems society could not, “I’ll protect you from all the things I’ve seen” she promises on ‘Kerosene’ in a mournful tone that still retains a strong sense of resolve. Glass is lyrically arresting, and her refusal to do more than one studio take based on her belief that the first is the rawest expression of an idea contributes to the feeling of purposeful urgency flowing through III.
‘Child I Will Hurt You’ sees Crystal Castles achieve a level of emotion they could only formerly reach with a guest spot from Robert Smith. The use of a vocoder, which acted as a barrier to engaging fully with Glass on previous releases, lends an angelic quality to the vocals, whilst the production is similarly elegant, meaning the album closes on an exceptionally beautiful and affecting note.