With (III), Crystal Castles entirely abandon the quirky, screechy, bleepy approach that characterized their debut, instead opting to push the darker, softer sound introduced on the second half of their sophomore album.
With a couple of exceptions like 'Plague' and 'Wrath of God', Alice Glass' delivery utilizes the gentler registers of her voice throughout. But even when she reverts to her typical wails it sounds muffled and distant due to an overabundance of reverb, which drags her down in the mix and reduces her distinctive voice to just another vague, inextricable drone. Every track is produced this way; as if you're hearing it through a wall. This is completely deliberate of course, and will sit well with those who preferred their second record over the first. However, I feel that it sucks the life out of what is, sadly, already a relatively lifeless effort. I get that the duo wanted this record to sound oppressive, subdued, apocalyptic - like simulated drowning. I get it; I just don't like it all that much.
Ethan Kath's switch from digital to analogue synths is notable, but its effect would be more tangible if the melodies were as consistently memorable as prior efforts and the synth lines less reliant on the monotony of trance. Although I love the haunting 'Transgender', the choppy nightmare of 'Insulin', the possessed despair of 'Plague' and the wonder of 'Child I Will Hurt You', there's nothing else here that matches the unabashed catchiness of 'Alice Practice' and 'Baptism', the chiptune super fun of 'Good Time', the noise-punk ferocity of 'Doe Deer', the eccentric chaos of 'Xxzxcuzx Me', the shimmering beauty of 'Celestica' or the hypnotic pull of 'Magic Spells'.
Granted, (III) includes some great songs and is not a bad album overall -- it just falls into dreary and repetitive territory too often. Hopefully their next record will play it less safe and less serious.