2011's The Sun is Down and the Night is Riding In was such a perfect rush of visceral pop-punk satisfaction that Crusades must have gone back to the drawing board for this new record and said, "Well, we can't do that again." Not to say that they couldn't write those same songs a second time, because they surely could have, but any worthwhile band would see their record be so well-received and then use that as inspiration to flex their creative muscles and go down a different path. If anyone doesn't want to be along for the ride, Crusades could probably care less.
Guitarist/vocalist Dave Williams recently acknowledged in an interview that they were hit with the "pretentious" tag when they announced the concept of their new record, Perhaps You Deliver This Judgment with Greater Fear than I Receive It. It is based on the life of 16th century Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake by the Catholic Church for his heresy, which he never recanted. Yes, it's unusual for a band on No Idea Records to approach their lyrics like a university professor, but when you remember that in their short existence Crusades have done nothing but detail the evils and pitfalls of religion, the Bruno concept only makes sense.
Crusades have retained their lyrical targets, but the music is noticeably changed. Much of The Sun is Down dealt in urgent 2-minute bursts of straightforward pop-punk, with very little sentiment or friendly chord changes, and a murky production with buried vocals that made them sound like a black metal band not playing black metal. The production on Perhaps You Deliver This Judgment lifts off a bit of that murk and allows the vocals and the playing to come through much more clearly. This time, you actually have a chance of understanding half of their lyrics. The band still have a hard time fitting such big ideas with big words into the space allowed for vocal patterns, which makes a few melodies a bit clunky. But when the lyrics are so insightful, the subjects so bold in their total disregard for pop-punk convention, it feels fickle to complain.
The songwriting has also taken a big step forward. Williams admitted that they were actively trying to write a "grower" of a record, effectively reviewing the record himself, because that's exactly what this is, at least in comparison to their past work. The tempos are slower and the hooks are not as immediate. But just because a hook doesn't slam you in the face at first doesn't mean it isn't there, and as many of these songs reveal themselves upon repeated listening, there is value in contemplation and care. Some of these songs push the four-minute mark, sometimes by simply taking their time and extending a final section with one lyric being sung over and over again. "The Signs of the Times" features bassist/vocalist Skottie Lobotomy repeating the line, "The mallet and the wedge between discernment and belief," and with every repetition, as Williams and guitarist/vocalist Emmanuel Sayer add their backing vocals, and the playing picks up in intensity, the melody just gets catchier and catchier. But the record is not all just strumming the same chords for four minutes, as Crusades have also added new tricks to their structural skills, showing their Iron Maiden-inspired chops in the blistering middle of "The Transport of Intrepid Souls." And "Exitus" comes as the perfect closer, in both atmosphere and emotional catharsis, as well as an even more patient knack for when to hold back and when to hit hard.
Perhaps You Deliver This Judgment is not a perfect record, but I only feel that way because I know the band are still progressing, and we're getting to watch that progress. They are all such talented players and have such a firm conviction in what they want to say that if they keep making records, they will expand what they do to levels that we might not be ready to handle. They already defy true definition, because it feels wrong to call this pop-punk when we give that same label to say, the Dopamines. But it certainly isn't metal, nor is it hardcore. Maybe Crusades are just an evil band. That's it. They're evil, and evil shows itself in many ways. Crusades will discover even better ideas for harnessing that evil into music that moves the body back and forth, while moving the brain forward.