Crusades’ Perhaps You Deliver This Judgment With Greater Fear Than I Receive It was a masterpiece, an album so specific and unique in sound– not to mention thematic direction– that it was destined to be something of a cult classic. Crusades is back again, with a lush and expansive sound, and an album that makes their previous masterpiece look like a warm-up. This is a Sickness and Sickness Will End is a triumph of music, lyrics, and arrangement, and proof that good things are worth the wait.
The album’s greatest feat is that it continues Crusades’ growth through change. In some respects, the most remarkable things about This is a Sickness… are in how it differs from its predecessors. Where Perhaps You Deliver... was grandiose (it was, after all, a concept album about anti-Christian martyr Giordano Bruno), it came at the price of being detached. Between songwriter and song there was the burden of history and the suffocating taskmaster that is theme. The new album is still a concept album, but its themes of grief and loss are more universal, and therefore not as strict. It doesn’t have the A-ha! novelty of a long-dead martyr to tout, but it does have emotional resonance. In that, it explores something intrinsic, without abandoning the lens that Crusades uses to explore the world. If we boiled down religion to its essence, wouldn’t it be a means for community building and dealing with grief? Crusades uses their platform to attack an important philosophical question: how does one cope with a godless world in the face of personal loss?
In typical Crusades’ style, this is attacked with enough obliqueness that it never succumbs to heavy-handedness. The songs are poetic and lyrical, and in irony to their ‘satanist pop punk’ slug line, hearken back to a time and place in the written word, where poets were widely read and the Bible was well, the Bible, when it comes to prose. It’s John Donne meets Cormac McCarthy, dressing it’s emotional center in elevated language like, “The course that lay before us: forked and weeping venom/ Looming crescent quite insistent both be explored.” This may sound pretentious to some, and it may also sound insistently obfuscating, but the outcome is something so distinct in its vision and intent, that it becomes singular. There is no one making melodic punk like Crusades.
The arrangements also back this thesis, morphing into an amalgam of dark music. Crust punk, post-punk, metal, hardcore, and of course, pop punk are all key components of Crusades’ sound. This is a Sickness... sounds huge, menacing, and melancholy, driven by ethereal melodies and sharp and intriguing structures. Airy arpeggios and strings replace the genres proverbial chug-a-chugging on tracks such as “1713 (The Scorching Fever).” Riffs are also an important anchor, especially on the aforementioned, which features a thick-sounding progression that wouldn’t be out of place on a Tragedy record.
This is a Sickness and Sickness Will End is a masterpiece of vision, and ultimately, I think one’s enjoyment of it will boil down to how much one enjoys art that is unabashedly conceived. There are band’s that are effortless– in the best possible ways– laying down melodies and lyrics that are immediate and accessible. Crusades is not that band. Instead, they aspire to something that is intangible and innately difficult, and they’re building these works of idiosyncrasy on the shoulders of our most accessible genre. It’s a meeting of worlds that is inspiring and strange, aggressive and proudly difficult. Crusades’ actually says it best, summing themselves up with a refrain from “1940 (Whirr and Chime).” With all the thematics, the arrangements, and language, it all comes down to our most human tell– our need to be heard– and Crusades is doing just that, telling “tales of woe and abstract sympathy,” forging them into something not to be forgotten.