CROWHURST Bring the Cycle to a Close with III
In the name of filth, degenerate noise, and unholy chemical imbalance, we commit this body of works to the void.
I’ll say it right up front: III is the definitive Crowhurst album. A strange claim to make, perhaps, given that Crowhurst is not so much a band as a loose collective of musicians orbiting harsh noise provocateur Jay Gambit. And yet on III, all of the experiments the collective have tried finally bear incontrovertible fruit. The album is wildly varied, touching on the post-black melancholia of I and the ugly sludginess of II even while blazing new trails into an alien wilderness. And, I am both surprised and tickled pink to report, III boasts moments of pure extreme metal unheard anywhere else in the Crowhurst oeuvre.
Opening track “I Will Carry You to Hell” is a prime example of the latter, an interstellar explosion of a thing that begins with Gregorian chants and ends with a snarling epitaph. In between, haunted choirs of onlookers sing out their grief as ripping tremolos and pitiless blastbeats bring everything worthy of love to an end. Though nearly three minutes long, the track feels like a fifteen-second freakout, ceasing so abruptly as to leave us scratching our junk and wondering what in sweet Hell just happened.
If “I Will Carry You to Hell” is a precarious high, then following track “Self Portrait with Halo and Snake” is the heart-dropping comedown, a lugubrious descent toward rock bottom. Here, a wearily jangling guitar nods vaguely to The Cure while Gambit forsakes his harsh screams for a disconsolate monochromatic moan. As the mood plummets, the instruments gradually ramp up in volume and intensity. Gambit begins to scream out in agony again, and for a while everything seems to hang suspended, directionless — the tension becomes unbearable, and we pray for the end.
The rock bottom offered by “Self Portrait” was only a mirage, turns out; there is still so much more plummeting to do. “The Drift” pretty much picks up right where “Self Portrait” left off, with lax drumming, guitars drenched in delay, and Gambit crooning demoralizing observations about a life in ruins. You’ve heard a ton of blackgaze bands reach for something similar, but Crowhurst injects this wonderful slog with so much poignancy that you have to wonder why no one has ever tried it this way before. The song peaks with an orgy of hopelessness as a gorgeous whale song cries out over and over, echoing through oceans of nil.
Just when you think you’re in for a whole album of forward-thinking post-blackisms, Crowhurst rudely changes direction. There are many more surprises in store — myriad angles from which to examine a world (or just a person) gone suicidally insane — including a Glenn Danzig impression howling tunelessly over a noise-rock jam session, a blistering gale of organic noise that is essentially the heaviest thing I’ve ever heard, digital noise purgatories, diseased breakbeats, and more.
The crown jewel of III — and maybe of Crowhurst’s career — is “Ghost Tropic”. With this ballad, all of the album’s elements that have proven strongest so far are brought into sharp focus, to truly glorious effect: ponderous clean guitars, unobtrusive drums, and Gambit’s signature “I don’t give a fuck about vocals” clean voice. Midway, the phrase “Debts I’ll never understand” suddenly kicks off a fit of aggressive growls and choppy metallic syncopation, leading smoothly into the kind of (interim) catharsis that can only be delivered by the almighty blastbeat. The percussive pummeling takes us through to a break in the storm made of some oddly shiny chords; they seem to offer a modicum of solace before evaporating into the above-mentioned blistering gale.
So no, III is not a feel-good album for people who wish to feel good. It is almost unreasonably dark and dreary, sometimes harrowed with noise, sometimes stilled by the contemplation of all the pain that the tiniest movement will cause. Truly cinematic in scope, it plays out like a slow, minimal film about those days when you’re so numb it hurts.
It may be the case that not absolutely everything Gambit & Friends try here comes off without a hitch. But when the payoffs are so damned bountiful and huge, who cares? All I’m worried about is whether there will be any more collaborative albums, or whether Gambit will go back to making noise solo for good. Crowhurst‘s star is rising quickly, and they deserve it — because most artists mucking around in the extreme music underground don’t have the stones to even ask if an album like this is possible. Wake up, lay down, fuck off. Bye.
III will be released by Prophecy Productions in all your favorite formats on March 5th, 2019.