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EXCLUSIVE FEATURE: Cruce Signatus (Pillaging Villagers) breaks down their debut album

David Frazer from metallers from Milwaukee Looting villagers has released his self-titled debut solo instrumental synthwave album under the name Cruce Signatus! David contacted Ghost Cult today to provide a track-by-track overview of the entire album! To look at!

“Gehenna and Tartareum”

This song, translated as ‘Hell and Damnation’, kicks off the long animation collection for which Cruce Signatus is the soundtrack. In this first chapter, the main character of the story, Pierre Le Batard, an impoverished French knight of the 11th century, whose existence depends on violence, cruelty and vice, but who is also defined by a totalitarian religious dogma, upon return out of battle faces this internal contraction and suffers the judgment of an omnipresent deity and the prospect of surrender to eternal torment. One of my favorite moments in this piece is the climax, from 4:12 to 5:24, which illustrator and animator Vincent Kings captured so well in the video. After begging his God for forgiveness and receiving only judgment for his heinous crimes, as the eyes of the saints and the choirs of heaven stare down on him, Pierre is instead shown a vision of his damnation. As the synths build and the drums pound, the flames rise and Pierre is plunged into the pit of hell. The “Gehenna” theme floats hauntingly over the heavy chorus as demons dance around Pierre’s condemned soul. As the key modulates upward at five o’clock, Pierre is stretched out on a rack, his screams drowned out by the hellish chords as the flesh melts from his skull.

“Lus Gladii”

In this second chapter, translated as ‘Law of the Sword’, Pierre buries the scars of his internal conflict and returns to his manor, where his iron rule over everything under his care is necessary at a time when the strong rule over everything under his care is necessary. The weak. His loneliness, depression and self-loathing deepen as he descends into the depths of depravity and excess; his wanton debauchery distracts him only temporarily from the burden of his conscience and the judgment of his God. One of my favorite parts of this song is the section from 1:36 to 3:06, which is referred to in the screenplay as “The Manor.” When Pierre arrives at his dilapidated estate on horseback, he is immediately harassed by a horde of starving beggars. They crowd around him, with tears in their eyes, begging for alms and pressing him against the stables. Pierre’s eyes flash with anger, he grabs his mailed club and raises it above his head as the beggars, undeterred, rush in and begin to overwhelm him. Members of Pierre’s entourage enter the scene and push through the crowd with weapons drawn, causing Pierre to kick an unarmed beggar to the ground from a low angle, with anger in his eyes, the beaten man’s pulverized face in the far foreground, the facial features that are barely recognizable as human. Still furious, Pierre pushes away from his bannermen and storms towards the gates of the manor. Pierre passes gallows where decomposed bodies sway in the wind and more condemned men are hanged by Pierre’s bannermen, holding signs reading ‘Débiteur’ and ‘Impôts en Souffrance’ – an example to those who deny their lord honors. The damned men ask Pierre for mercy, but with a nod Pierre signals to the executioners. A frontal shot of Pierre as he storms away – the blurred, out-of-focus images of bodies diving through the gallows floor behind him – his face expressionless except for anger. Throughout the story we are conflicted about Pierre and his worthiness for our sympathy and redemption – while in the first issue we feel some sympathy for the broken knight, here we see him in one of his darkest moments and feel hatred for him . It is this duality between good and evil, as embodied by the scene in the cathedral, that drives the story forward.

“Vexillum Crucis”

In this third chapter, translated as ‘The Flag of the Cross’, Pierre is summoned by his feudal lord, whose army descends on Pierre’s meager fief, to take part in the crusade to the Holy Land. Pierre initially refuses to answer the call, but is compelled by loyalty to his lord, the Count, who sees him only as one of many servants. His longing for acceptance, for the unconditional love of a father figure, for a purpose in life, drives him to take up the cross. One of my favorite moments in this song is the section from 6:51 to 8:56, referred to in the screenplay as “Remembering the Oath.” In this section, Pierre flashes back to the day of his knighthood, twenty years later. First vaguely and then more vividly, Pierre imagines the Count standing in a throne room, draped in the furs and furs of animals, decorated with gold and fantastic tapestries, with a black and gold tapestry leading to a stately throne. To his right, as we zoom out, we see the count flanked by young knights – all barely grown, their eyes proud as they stand tall. Incense swirls while a monk to the count’s left sings in Latin – there is an atmosphere of mysterious ritual. The Count is holding a sword, extended towards the camera and down towards the floor. From the Count’s perspective, the camera shifts to show what is at the end of the sword: Pierre, much younger, kneeling, staring at the Count. We feel the connection between the lord and the young vassal as they stare into each other’s eyes. Pierre stands up and embraces his lord, the Count pins a pendant with his coat of arms, the same pendant that Pierre and his men wore when the Count arrived at Pierre’s manor, in the place on his left breast where it remained so many years later , even if only ceremonially. Slowly, young Pierre rises and joins the other knights at the count’s right hand, all of whom greet him loudly and joyfully, like brothers, and pat him on the back. The ‘Count’s Theme’ floats over the layers of synths. A close-up of Pierre’s face, misty eyes – he’s just remembered perhaps the best day of his life, the day that, for better or worse, made him what he is today. Unlike the previous issue, we once again feel sympathy for Pierre – is he a villain or a victim?

“Bellum Dei”

In the fourth chapter, ‘War of God’, Pierre deals with the brutality and cruelty characteristic of the crusading armies as he marches with the column across Europe to Constantinople, 1096. He engages in plunder and murder of fellow Christians, slaughter and mutilation. of enemies, locust-like devastation of the land – all in an attempt to please and attract the attention of his lord and master, the Count. One of my favorite parts of this piece is from 5:15 to 7:18, which is referred to in the screenplay as “Father and Son Reunited.” An alarm sounds. Men rush to arms in response to an attack on the Crusader column. We see Pierre rising from his straw bed on the ground – his beard is long, he has been on the road for months. Fifty meters away he sees horsemen in black carrying away prisoners, shooting arrows at the army and riding away with a cart of supplies. They wear masks over most of their faces, leaving only their eyes visible, and their mares are black. Pierre coolly grabs his weapons, mounts his horse, gestures to his bannermen and gives chase as the raiders flee for the hills, with the men of his entourage hot on their heels. As the snare rolls, they run into the mountains. Pierre sees a defile on the left that he can use to cut off the robbers. He gestures for his men to follow him into the defile and soon they come upon the head of the raiders, perhaps 10 or 15 men, whose horses rear up – they are blocked as the rest of the crusaders catch up and surround them. The robbers’ eyes scan those of their pursuers – the fear in their eyes is clear despite their masks. Crashing cymbals and a syncopated drumbeat kick in as we approach the robbers who are tied by the hands and dragged behind the horses of Pierre and his entourage. They are bloodied and lifeless, crashing into rocks and rocks as they are dragged across the stony ground. They are on their way to the Count’s fantastic carriage. Pierre stops at the carriage and gets off – his entourage praises him and slaps him on the back – it was he who led them in cutting off the robbers. He takes the rope from his saddle and drags the almost lifeless body of one of the robbers with the help of the rope and throws him to the door of the carriage, beaming with pride. The ‘Count’s Theme’ returns, modulated to a different key and time signature; pounding kick drum and tremolo picking drive the moment home as the Count proudly steps out. Pierre has finally managed to attract the attention of his liege lord, who raises his hands in praise. The robber stirs and Pierre kicks him in the stomach. He draws his dagger, kneels and pulls the robber’s head up, exposing his throat, and looks to the Count for approval to kill him. The Count shrugs, as if unimpressed by such a painless death. Seeing the Count’s disappointment, as the barrage of drums continues to increase, Pierre instead begins gouging out the man’s eye with his knife. The man is kicking and screaming, although we can’t see his face under his mask. Blood spurted everywhere. The count smiles. This provokes cheers from his fellow soldiers, who also seize and mutilate their prisoners for the count’s approval. The Count smiles wider and applauds happily as he steps out of his carriage and places his hands on Pierre’s shoulders – still on his knees, just as he had at his knighthood, Pierre’s eyes looking up to meet the Count’s once again. The Count extends his hand, which Pierre grasps with his own bloody hand, trembling with adrenaline, and kisses him. Like a lost child searching for approval, Pierre finds a brief moment of happiness in this eerie scene, which once again evokes the conflicted nature of our antihero.

Cruce Signatus, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin project home to multi-instrumentalist David Frazer (Pillaging Villagers), is preparing to release their instrumental self-titled debut. This is the first of four releases that together produce the soundtrack for an animated anthology. This is a project that works with independent animators and illustrators to bring the story to life. Cruce Signatus will be released on June 7, 2024.

David Frazer notes:
“Drawing influences from a wide variety of sources, from the cinematic compositions of HANS ZIMMER and BASIL POLEDOURIS to the dark, brooding synthwave of GOST and PERTURBATOR, all put through a heavy metal filter, CRUCE SIGNATUS represents a dynamic, ambitious undertaking into new musical realms.”

About Cruce Signatus:

CRUCE SIGNATUS’ self-titled debut is the first of four epic concept albums that provide the musical soundscape for a feature-length, animated anthology series. Working with Heavy Metal Magazine illustrators such as Vincent Kings and Chris Anderson, this series unfolds the story of an impoverished knight’s quest to face his sins as he navigates the monstrous brutality of the First Crusade.

Stream the debut album here:

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