Introducing: Cruce Signatus

Cruce Signatus, the project from Milwaukee, WI, based 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 to a feature-length animated anthology. This is a project which collaborates with independent animators and illustrators to bring the story to life. Cruce Signatus is out on June 7th, 2024. David talks us through everything that you need to know about Cruce Signatus:

What are the origins of Cruce Signatus?

Cruce Signatus originated in early 2022, following the release of the debut album of my thrash/folk project, Pillaging Villagers. After releasing that album, which emphasized rapid, energetic tracks, relied on a fairly standard metal composition formula, and rested on a solid foundation of established metal sub-genres, I felt the urge to do the complete opposite. Rather than striving for immediacy and bludgeoning the listener with speed and power, I wanted to provide space for the listener to absorb the full scope of the composition, while utilizing techniques from symphonic music, such as modulation of ‘keynote’ melodies that recur throughout a piece in different forms.

With Cruce Signatus, in contrast to Pillaging Villagers, I emphasized long-form composition, eschewing traditional song structures and striving for a truly unique sound. I also wanted to experiment with cinematic/programmatic elements – over the course of two years, I developed a feature-length screenplay, for which Cruce Signatus (across four albums) provides the soundtrack. I plan to partner with visual artists and animators to develop videos for each track, the first example of which is featured here.

How would you describe Cruce Signatus?

I have used the term ‘heavy synthwave’ in the past as a shorthand, but I like to think that it is a bit more complex than that. The first thing the listener will notice is the instrumental nature of the music, with synthesizers leading the way, similar to synthwave or darkwave artists such as Gost, Perturbator, Dance with the Dead, and others. The music is constructed in a linear fashion, similar to symphonic/cinematic music, with melodies and rhythms stacking on top of one another, building towards climaxes that feature ‘keynote’ melodies that crop up and evolve throughout the four-album journey. I use synthesizers as a lead instrument for these ‘keynote’ melodies, taking influence from mid-80s heavy rock/AOR artists like Rush, Journey, Europe, and Van Halen. I also mix in metal-based elements throughout the composition to add weight to the keynote melodies and emphasize particular elements in the overarching story.

When I began working on the project, I didn’t even want to write a metal album, but the subject matter kept pulling the heavy material back in. I try to use metal elements sparingly so that their impact is heightened, and I attempt to draw from what metal does best, across multiple sub-genres, to help set the tone for the visual elements. For example, I use doomy, heavy chords straight out of Candlemass to emphasize dark moments in the narrative, pummeling tremolo and rampaging kick drum a la Amon Amarth to highlight action sequences or warfare and driving industrial riffing similar to Rammstein to add power and force to montage sections. In short, the listener should expect a truly unique sound, one that draws from multiple genres from symphonica to electronica to heavy metal to create a continually evolving, story-oriented adventure.

How did you feel performing your first gig as a band, and how was it?!

Cruce Signatus is a studio project only – I am a bit too old for live performances at this point!

What are you working on at the minute that people can check out?

I continue to work on finalizing the other three albums for Cruce Signatus – the music is all written, it is just a matter of waveshaping, sound design and final production at this point. Parts II, III, and IV build even further on the genre-defying sound present in Part I, while incorporating new influences and sounds as the journey of the story’s protagonist continues. Where Part I is universally dark, exploring themes such as sin, damnation, woe, longing, and betrayal, Parts II-IV explore a vast array of themes, including hope, glory, and redemption – these new themes see the music shift in ways that depart entirely from the sound on Part I. There’s nothing available from these additional albums at the moment, but if anyone is interested, check out my Patreon link – patrons will receive exclusive access to new cuts of tracks, videos, and more.

In terms of a similar audience, which band out there at the minute do you feel Cruce Signatus would be best suited to open for?

I would think that underground electronic artists with sounds that challenge the mainstream, such as Master Boot Record/Keygen Church and Author & Punisher would be a good fit. Of course, I would love to open for Asia or Toto at American Family Field or Fiserv Forum – I always imagined the sound of Cruce Signatus being well-suited to the arena setting – the otherworldly nature of the synths blasting through 20-foot speakers and carrying the audience to another space and time as the animated visuals light up the vast space from the Jumbotron.

Excluding yourself, which new band would you like to see break out and become a success?

I listen to a lot of metal artists who get lost in the sea of new releases. L.A.’s Anubis, who sound like an unholy fusion of Painkiller-era Judas Priest and Phantom Antichrist-era Kreator, is one example of a band that does not get nearly the recognition they deserve. Scotland’s Sgaile is another supremely talented artist who deserves more attention – their amalgamation of atmospheric black metal, post-metal, and haunting vocal melodies stand out in the often repetitive metal landscape.

What frustrates you about the music business?

I think the toughest thing is just being heard. While I definitely benefit from the openness of the music industry and the ease with which an independent artist like myself can be heard by audiences worldwide, that same openness also contributes to a glut of releases that can be tough to sift through even for the most dedicated fans. Every week, there are dozens of releases just in the metal genres, which can make it tough to stand out, and people tend to move on pretty quickly. This is great for the listener – a seemingly endless flow of low/no cost access to increasingly high-quality music – but for artists it can be frustrating to get swept away in that flow. It is a constant reminder to me to stay focused on the art – an artist cannot worry about winning recognition or pandering to the masses.

What are your first musical memories? And what lightbulb moment made you go “I want to do that”?

I have been playing music since I was a kid – I remember my first gig, at my local roller rink, under the moniker The Miscreants, at age 16. Our guitarist dropped out the night before, so we just played our little punk tunes (one of the titles of which was, laughingly, ‘Green Bay Redneck’ – a satirical psychobilly ditty aimed at the predominant culture in my little corner of suburban Northeast Wisconsin) with drums and bass guitar. I am sure it sounded horrendous – I was so nervous that I felt like puking. However, the feeling of being heard, not just musically but also in the sense of my ideas, my thoughts, was exhilarating. For the 20 minutes I was on stage (or in this case, the center of the rink), I had a forum where I could be who I wanted to be, say what I wanted to say. I think I have been pursuing that feeling as an artist ever since.

What was the last gig that you attended as a fan?

Heilung. For those not familiar, it’s basically pagan music, with throat singing, animal skin drums and antlers bashing together as a dozen or so half-nude, mud-smeared dancers gyrate around by the light of torches. Incredibly awesome – unlike anything you will ever see live.

What current social issue are you particularly passionate about?

I think the issue most on my mind right now is the rise of artificial intelligence-generated ‘art.’ I see this as a threat to artists everywhere, not just visual artists and writers, but musicians as well. It disgusts me that for the sake of a few oligarchs, we are plunging headlong into an unregulated confrontation with potentially the most world-altering technology in history and that the first casualties will be artists. More needs to be done to protect mankind’s most valuable resource – its own creativity.

The album that you have in your album collection/Spotify playlist that would surprise most people?

I don’t know if this is surprising – ‘Willy and the Poor Boys’ by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Nothing relaxes me like Creedence – something about it just feels ideally suited to sipping a sidecar on a front porch, watching the sun go down as the fireflies come alive, or driving down a country backroad with a canoe bouncing up and down on your roof rack. I listen to a lot of aggressive music – Creedence feels like the musical equivalent of taco night – comforting, wholesome, and endlessly enjoyable, no matter how many times you experience it.

Everybody is a fan of something, who or what are you a fan of?

Very broad question! I’ll just list a few things I have been into recently: X-Men 97 (a superb fusion of nostalgia, social commentary, and superhero action), Beethoven (especially the 3rd and 5th symphonies), the film ‘From Beyond’ (shocking eroticism combined with Lovecraftian practical effects – a must see), biking by Lake Michigan, jalapeno Krunchers, Mountain Dew Baja Blast and hanging out with my wife and two cats, Cabbage and Riff Raff.

What new music have you been enjoying so far this year?

I have been reveling in nostalgia following the release, within a month of each other, of incredible new releases from Korpiklaani and Tyr – it feels like 2009 all over again! The new fiddler for Korpiklaani and their re-commitment to fast, aggressive and catchy tunes has really made their new album pop and Tyr continues to craft some of the best metal, not just the best Viking-themed metal, out there. I have also really enjoyed new releases from Tarot (Aussie 70s psych revival), The Vision Bleak (gothic ‘horror metal’ with a cinematic/story-telling bent), and Horndal (Swedish pro-labor sludge).

What does 2024 hold for you?

My hope is that folks check out Cruce Signatus, as well as the animated video. From there, my goal is to continue to partner with artists and animators like the incredible Vincent Kings and Chris Anderson (who developed the video for Gehenna et Tartareum and the covers for all four Cruce Signatus albums, respectively) to create videos for all the tracks on Part I, hopefully with some financial support from those who enjoyed the album. Other than that, I have been learning banjo and I will be taking a 100-mile hike through the Scottish Highlands in September – should be a good year!

How active are you on social media and where can people connect with you?

I am fairly active – you can find all my links here. If anyone is interested, I encourage them to connect on Bandcamp or join the Patreon to get the latest updates as well as, in the case of patrons, exclusive and advance access to new releases. Thanks so much for your time – I greatly appreciate the efforts of publications like yours to bring a spotlight to the underground. Thanks again!

Check Also

MASSIVE WAGONS announce new album with new single & video; UK tour in November

Today, Lancaster’s rock ruffians Massive Wagons announce their seventh studio album Earth To Grace, accompanied …

Austin Gold announce new single, video and join The Karma Effect on UK tour

Anthemic hard rock act, AUSTIN GOLD, have released a new video for their latest single …

The Struts announce UK & EU tour with Barns Courtney

Following the band’s sensational performance at Download Festival at the weekend, THE STRUTS will be …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *