A review of Crystal Lake’s latest two singles, ‘Watch Me Burn’ and ‘Disobey’

In covering Crystal Lake on KYS for over five years now, I’ve loved so much of what they’ve done in that time. Namely, the more melodic content found on ‘True North‘ (2016), that, for some bizarre reason, the band and fans act like doesn’t exist. That LP has some of my favourite Crystal Lake tunes: the touching, thoughtful closer ‘Waves,’ the catchy melodic-hardcore/pop-punk of ‘Metro,’ the hooky punk rock in ‘Black and Blue,’ and the slower, soulful rock sound to ‘Breathe Deep.’ (Also cannot forget the fuck-off, neck-snapping heaviness of ‘Omega‘.) Beyond that particular album, some of my most cherished tracks from the Japanese band are more melodic-leaning cuts like ‘Devilcry‘ or ‘Mercury.’

With all of that context in mind, you’d think I’d really enjoy ‘Watch Me Burn.’ Right? Well, no. This is one of the few Crystal Lake tracks I cannot stand, sitting at the bottom of their barrel alongside ‘Hatred‘ and ‘Six Feet Under.’ Why? Because nothing about the rushed nature of ‘Watch Me Burn‘ feels earned.

The best analogy I can use is that it seems like they wanted to reach the finish line, the top of the mountain, ASAP. So we get these sudden, shoe-horned in sing-along vocals crammed in early on, right after a throwaway synth line that doesn’t add anything. The heavier pit section heard later on is somewhat out of place – feeling too little, too late – with the angry spoken-word that builds up said heavy part (something that Ryo Kinoshita loves doing in their songs) doesn’t instill me with any kind of hype for what follows nor any motivation in what the lyrics are sharing about sacrifice. While the production is as crisp as expected, with every vocal and instrument clearly identifiable, that chorus doesn’t grab me in the slightest, with it trying so goddamn hard to be “evocative” and “meaningful.”

But hey, at least the music video is well-shot and pretty.

Disobey‘ is the intentional polar opposite to ‘Watch Me Burn.’ It’s like the band’s answer to older, mental songs like ‘Aeon‘ or ‘Omega‘ – eschewing their melodic ideals to repeatedly punch you in the face. This is about pure heaviness, nothing else. This dual-single release reminds me of the release for ‘Apollo‘: you had ‘Apollo‘ – a really solid yet very straight-forward metalcore track for Crystal Lake, paired with ‘Machina,’ which was far heavier and more experimental. In fact, I’d kill to hear a whole album, or even just an EP, of songs like ‘Machina‘ and ‘Disobey,’ where we could hear Crystal Lake cutting loose, getting darker, heavier, and weirder with their songwriting.

Anyway, ‘Disobey‘ is an extremely shallow commentary about social unrest, resistance of authority, and biting the hand that feeds. It’s a sporadic hardcore track, one that changes rhythms and tempos frequently, like a chaotic core protest. In the second half, we hear this murky sound collage coupled with hectic blackened screams from Ryo over low BPM breakdowns and stupidly detuned guitars from Yudai Miyamoto. (Guitars that are an indecipherable binary code of one’s and zero’s.) The galloping, eruptive energy of the piece – ignited by the some seriously intensive double-kick work – is a highlight. As are the cool vocoder layers under Ryo, those weird distorted chants heard in the breakdown, and how he’s trying some different things with his delivery, tone and dynamics.

While this definitely wouldn’t be my first pick in terms of Crystal Lake’s heavier material to listen to for my own leisure, let alone to show someone else who hadn’t heard of them before, it ain’t half bad.

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