Crystal Castles Analysis

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Crystal Castles are a goth-rave and electro-thrash duo from Toronto, Ontario made up of Ethan Kath (on synth) and Alice Glass (on vocals). The duo brings a destructive and devouring abyss of pain, regret, nihilism and noise to synth pop music. In this paper, through a focused analysis of its lyrics, its musical elements, as well as its accompanying video, I will argue that Crystal Castles’ 2010 song “Baptism” creates a nuanced musical space in which dark emotions such as revenge are juxtaposed with a bright, digital and danceable beat. Although, Alice Glass’ voice is heavily distorted and almost inaudible, I propose that the band’s decision to distort Alice’s voice aids in evoking a drowning feeling which matches the lyrics’ theme. The drowning out of Alice’s voice through electronic distortion, recalls moments of metaphorical drowning and emotional chaos that so often accompany betrayal, horror, violence and desolation. It becomes somewhat difficult to know exactly what Alice is singing, because her voice is so heavily distorted by a vocoder. However, according to their website (, the lyrics are as follows: [Verse] Hold my head under water. Take a breath for the Father. Learn to love. Lessons repeating. The Chronicles are so misleading. [Chorus] This is your baptism, And you can't forgive them. This is your baptism, And you can't forgive them. When “Baptism’s” lyrics are read on a surface, literal level, they seem to be rejecting forced religious indoctrination and baptism. It is often children who are baptised, and they are rarely given the chance to decide if they want to become part of the Christian Church or not. When the lyrics mention how the person’s head is held under water rather than, lets ... ... middle of paper ... ...truction, and the apocalyptic nature of the music video points to the religious undertones of the song. In conclusion, Crystal Castles’ “Baptism” is memorable for its juxtaposition of darkness and brightness, both in the song itself and in the music video. Alice’s powerful shriek, the throbbing bass, and the repetitive melody and rhythms suggest life; yet, the distortion of her voice and the violent abyss of emotional chaos that the lyrics suggest point to death, dehumanization, drowning and desolation. “Baptism’s” message is a nihilist one that rejects religious principles as well as socially accepted violence and abuse. But, “Baptism’s” message is not simply a rejection; it is a battle cry that unforgivingly calls for revenge. It bridges the gap between goth and danceable, electronic music, creating a space in which danceable music grapples with darker themes.

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