Title: As the Dark Against the Halo
Artist: The Crüxshadows
Release date: Out Now
Price: $10.59 / £14.05
Composed by: Rogue
Music and Vocals by: Mike Perez, David Wood, Jen "Pyromantic" Jawidzik, et al.
The Crüxshadows bring their inspirational message of belief to their electronic dance music, only this time the message is more defiant and the music ladened with pop friendly elements.
The Crüxshadows combine elements of synthpop with gothic themes and techniques from industrial rock. Their catalog offers well produced electronic music that layers in other instruments, most often electric guitar and violin. The latter adds a renaissance or Celtic flavor to the music overall. This new release includes some modern pop, hip hop, and dub influences. Quite fittingly, Rogue has the voice of an angel. Like pure ice, it is cool, flawless, and possesses a clarity and purity that moves the soul. In short, it’s otherworldly.
As the Dark against My Halo begins with a declaration, And I Believe, belief being central to the band’s philosophy. It is a short track in which Rogue announces, near the top of his powerful voice, “I hear her voice and I believe.” The woman in question is his lover.
Valkyrie further explores the topic of belief by lifting from previous songs, Birthday, Citadel and Winter Born (This Sacrifice). Birthday challenges the listener to take account of his or her life. Meanwhile, both Citadel and Winter Born (This Sacrifice) promote defense of a system of belief. Each describes a holy war of sorts, the former a defensive battle against an invading army, the latter a soldier putting his life on the line so others can live in freedom. Valkyrie speaks of the existential angst born from cold rationality. In the chorus, Rogue announces his faith, a counterpoint in which the foundational strength of belief secures victory, “God knows / I am fighting still / Each step / Defining who I am.”
A figure from Norse mythology, the Valkyrie watches over the battlefield and determines who shall live, who shall die, and who shall be carried to the afterlife. This track sums up The Crüxshadows’ leitmotifs into one song, namely pagan references, claims of faith and fighting for your beliefs, and criticizing those who live by reason alone. This platform is echoed in Quicksilver and Indivisible, as well as in Sentinel and the closing song, Africanus.
The title track introduces an oscillating bass tone that just shies from dub. Halo is an anthem of defiance. “We won’t sit down / We won’t shut up / We won’t go quietly away.” The dark against the halo signifies doubt and fear. Uncertainly is fleeting as the light of faith burns from within, driving the individual with purpose. Halo brings in another pop music trait, a “whoa-oh-oh” segment that encourages the listener to sing along.
At first Burning takes a left turn from the established path. A darker tone permeates the song, “You don’t have to close your eyes / To see the darkness all around.” Midway through, Rogue flips the script by discovering a beacon, a burning halo, that he recognizes in a downtrodden individual. Musically this track relies on too many atmospheric sound effects. Also the message, normally cogent in Rogue’s lyrics, is somewhat muddy.
Sleepless is a throwback to the band’s early sound. It refers to the noisome thoughts that keep us awake at night. Infinite Tear slows the tempo for a torch song with a heady, stuttered beat. Rogue’s voice really explores the space. Hip hop influences lend additional popular appeal. Porcelain lays down a tribal beat. Rogue’s natural romanticism sells it with sincerity.
The Crüxshadows pitch Science against Faith in Angelus Everlasting, a song that not only points to the laws of thermodynamics yet borrows a metaphor from an earlier song, Love and Hatred, the eternal spark. Could this eternal spark be the human soul that Science cannot define? “You cannot claim godhood / To know the unknown.” Dark Matter uses that theoretical substance to spotlight the flaws of a purely scientific vision of the universe. Were dark matter to exist as we now conceive it, it would prove much larger in size than the universe seems to exhibit. Rogue uses dark matter to refer also to the darkness that fills a soul without faith. The double meaning is clear, “Dead light becoming dark matter in you.”
Matchstick Girl presents a musical interpretation of the Hans Christian Anderson tale of a young girl selling matchsticks. The young girl is so cold she must strike matches just to warm her hands. It proves as depressing as it sounds. The Crüxshadows, as with the original story, suggest that her suffering wins her a place in heaven. This is little consolation to those who may not believe in an afterlife. Even so, it is a well crafted song performed with the emotion it deserves and stands out on the album.
Abundant with references to faith, God, and the angels, The Crüxshadows’ brand of inspirational music rarely comes across as preachy. The non-denominational lyrics as well as occasional pagan reference counterbalance the loftier messages of faith and wholesomeness. While the criticism of Science may come off as a bit naive, the encouraging and hopeful tone of the band more than makes up for it if you are willing to broaden your horizons. While the message is more defiant here than in previous albums, I still suggest you at least give The Crüxshadows a listen. With plenty of pop friendly additions this provides a good a place to start.