Hardcore Heresy

The Latest from Crusades Pushes the Limits of Punk

The high-brow melodic punk of Crusades takes on an almost black metal atmosphere on their latest record.

The biggest difference between a black metal record and the latest from anthemic anti-Christian punk band Crusades is that only one compels you to sing along.

Perhaps You Deliver This Judgment With Greater Fear Than I Receive it, released last November, is a rallying cry for secular thought and a damnation of Catholic oligarchy—with its lyrics tracing back to the 16th century.

The record revolves around the writing of philosopher Giordano Bruno, who was executed in 1600 for refusing to denounce his theory that the Sun was just another star in an infinite universe. Every song title is a loose translation of Bruno’s Latin texts, and the record’s name was Bruno’s response to his death sentence.

“Bruno’s story actually came to me as a result of a lengthy obsession with Roman Polanski’s film The Ninth Gate and Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s novel The Club Dumas,” says Dave Williams, guitarist and singer of the Ottawa-based four-piece.

The Ninth Gate, based on Pérez-Reverte’s novel, centres around a fictional book by Aristide Torchia derived from a text by Satan himself. Torchia’s character is thought to be based on Bruno.

It’s the philosopher’s solemn, hooded face on the cover of Perhaps You Deliver…, an image taken from his dark, imposing statue in Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori, where he was burned at the stake for heresy.

The atmosphere set by the record is the heaviest thing about it—a combination of the record’s theme, its cold, raw production and Williams’ almost academic approach to composition.

“I’m only really interested in writing single, cohesive pieces, both lyrically and musically,” says Williams, who has a degree in musicology from Carleton University.

“Creating a mood, an atmosphere, it needs room to ebb and flow, to breathe. Until we start writing 20-minute-plus songs, it’ll continue to take a full record to make that happen the way we want it to.”

The record is almost deceptively heavy; it’s easy to get caught in the vocal melody before realizing the underlying intensity—furious, metal leads and crushing, shape-shifting rhythm.

As they hone their sound, it continues to move beyond the more straightforward melodic punk heard on their first LP, 2011’s The Sun is Down and the Night is Riding in, be it the hymn-like vocal phrasing of “The Transport of Intrepid Souls” or the ‘80s metal shining through the second half of “The Art of Memory.”

It’s a product of the band branching out of their collective comfort zone.

“As we’ve grown closer as musicians and friends, we’ve gotten more comfortable with bringing our individual influences to the table and working to incorporate them into our sound,” says Williams, which for him meant pulling more from hardcore and metal.

The album was recorded, mixed and mastered in Ottawa by Mike Bond, who also worked the board for 2012’s Parables EP. There’s nothing pretty about Bond’s production style. It sounds the way punk should—dirty, booming and huge—while crafting an array of metal guitar tones.

“We grew up playing music with Mike, and as such, we share many sonic touchstones that I’ve asked him to strive for,” says Williams. “Whether it’s Cave In-esque tones or Barrit-style cleans, Mike knows exactly what I mean and that goes a long way toward achieving a specific vision.”

Crusades is a band all about composition. They have wives, “real” jobs and Williams is a father, but they’re already planning to work on their follow-up LP this summer, and aim to go on an East Coast U.S. tour in the fall.

They’re also now backed by Gainesville-based No Idea Records—a dream come true for Williams.

“No Idea has been my favourite label for many, many years, and to now call it home is surreal, humbling and crazy,” he says.

The feeling is mutual. No Idea signed Crusades after the label’s publicist, Tony Weinbender, was blown away by their set at The Fest, the annual punk festival in Florida he organizes.

And while this record is an immediately engaging performance of furious punk rock, the intent is far beyond just that.

“The hope is that, by combining an intense atmosphere, a passionate message and memorable songwriting, what’s being shouted back at us will have more behind it than just volume and melody,” says Williams. “It’ll have something that people can connect to, with lyrical and musical complexities that reveal themselves a little more with each listen.

“‘Whoas’ and ‘heys’ have their time and place—but doesn’t everyone prefer to sweatily scream something that just might give them chills as well?”

Crusades + Khan + Hashed Out + Dreamboat) // Jan. 17 // Turbo Haus (1180 St. Antoine St. W.) // 5 p.m. // $10