Crusades roped me into a first listen on the sweet promise of a handful of coy descriptions. No Idea Records. Satanist. Pop punk. This honeypot of words make up the elevator pitch of Crusades’ sophomore outing Perhaps You Deliver This Judgment With Greater Fear Than I Receive It, and they are as apt as they are intriguing. And accordingly, the album is a great one, one of those few records that can straddle two very different listener reactions simultaneously: the ‘instant classic’ and the ‘grower.’
Sonically, as my collection of reviewer slug line sensationalism suggests, Crusades play the sort of aggressively melodic punk rock that Gainesville, Florida has been breeding for years. Think Against Me!, The Tim Version, or if you want to leave the Sunshine State, Dillinger Four, shined through the prism of dark ethereal tones and heightened musicianship. There’s a sense of ambition at work with Perhaps You Deliver This Judgment With Greater Fear Than I Receive It, one generally not associated with its base sound. Cryptic, minimalist lyrics flesh out a concept album following Italian Renaissance ‘antichristian martyr’ Giordano Bruno. It’s heavy stuff for music centered around four chords and a catchy tune.
After the spoken word intro of “Exordium,” “The Torchbearer” kicks the door down with barked vocals exclaiming: “Armspan wide and tendrils tried, yet none could strangle tyranny of will.” The aggressive verse, which retains a lot of melody despite its hardcore delivery is matched with a soaring, anthemic chorus. In fact, it becomes clear quickly that the chorus is something Crusades has a preternatural knack for. The simple refrain from “The Sign of the Times” (“the mallet and the wedge between discernment and belief”) is nigh impossible to exorcise from my musical memory at this point and I’m better for it. Perhaps You Deliver… is filled with biting lyricism, unafraid of walking the line between abstract and confrontational, but it’s their incredible knack for melody that makes it stick.
Crusades muddy easy genre classifications by moving beyond simple pop punk fundamentals. Crusades have songwriting in spades, but their delivery pushes it even further. Musically, they move into interesting territory frequently and admirably. The monster riff of “The Incantations” is a good example of Crusades breaking the pop punk mold in more obvious ways, but they do it more subtly throughout the album. Perhaps You Deliver… is an angrier and more meditative beast than its contemporaries, but then there’s times like when that staccato guitar riff takes over in all its chugging glory on “The Transport of Intrepid Souls” that it enters a whole new plane.
Punk rock is at its best when its unafraid. There’s a bravery inherent in the music, whether it be gut-wrenching introspection, loud and righteous confrontation, or the play-what-you-want, how-you-want ethos that keeps new bands popping up and sounds expanding. Crusades has that sense of animalistic individuality that made me love punk in the first place. Perhaps You Deliver… is defiantly dark, anthemic, and adept both musically and lyrically– but most of all it feels like the product of true freethinkers.