Since the beginning of the Crywolf project, the music has always expressed elements of introspection and self-discovery. Through the artist’s own battles with mental health, the experiences and lessons learned throughout their journey have been exhibited front and center throughout the music. On top of being an extremely talented musician in his own right, the background also gives the music an exceedingly visceral and familiar feeling.
That motif is nowhere more salient than his latest album, exuvium [OBLIVION Pt. II], created following a period of intense turmoil. The pain and grief in the music is nearly tangible, the powerful melodies and lyrics seething through the speakers with intense fury.
When Crywolf released Cataclasm in 2015, we included it in our list of Top Albums of the year and called it an “album for the post-EDM era.” Not counting the 7-track Skeletons project released in 2017, the two-part OBLIVION series has been his first return to the album format in almost half a decade. A lot can change in the world between then and now, most of which we probably don’t need to remind you of.
But that time was also a period of intense personal growth and self-discovery for Crywolf himself.
Following the release of the album, we spoke with him about the album, the influences within, and what the future of the Crywolf project looks like. Listen to the album below and continue scrolling for our interview.
So what was the difference in your mentality between Widow, pre-pandemic and Exuvium coming out? You know, after this global trauma had been experienced for a year and a half.
I actually wrote most of Exuvium before the pandemic. I wrote it when I was living in Bali. I moved back from Bali about a month before the pandemic started. So most of these tracks were written there. And so I wouldn’t say that the pandemic played a huge role in the substance of the album or the themes or anything like that. But I do find the juxtaposition of the two albums really interesting. Because basically the whole Oblivion series covers what was essentially my dark night of the soul or my, you know, like quarter life crisis. I think a lot of people go through that near the end of their twenties.
Where they’re sort of like questioning all the structures that they formed over the course of the early parts of their twenties and everything’s kind of starting to lose its luster, and they have to make a lot of changes in terms of how they planned their life. Career wise, friendship wise, lifestyle wise things like that.
This all sounds very familiar.
Yeah, yeah. How old are you now?
Okay? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. When I started going through it, it felt like my life was ending. And then I finally started talking to people in their thirties and everyone was like, “Wait. How old are you?” And I was like, 27. They’re like, “Oh, my god. Of course you are. That’s exactly what you should be doing at this age.” And I’m like, I feel like my life is over! It didn’t make it any better, but I just really started to question a lot of the things that I was doing with Crywolf. My life just got so unsatisfying and that sort of set off this cascade, it really triggered my preexisting bipolar disorder. And like my depressive and anxiety symptoms got so crippling for, like fucking three years. And I wrote Widow sort of right during the beginning of all of that, and then I wrote Exuvium right at the end of it. So Widow is really dark, but it’s dark in sort of this, like helpless, tragic way. Sort of just being thrown around by the void and, you know, swept up in nihilism and the meaninglessness of it all.
And then Exuvium, I think is sort of the perfect counterpart to it and finishing part for that series because it has the same sort of themes, the same sort of imagery, but it has a very different tone by which it approaches it. It’s kind of approaching it all with much more power. It’s like facing that sort of creative destruction that needed to happen. But instead of that creative destruction being a tragedy like it was in Widow, instead, it’s like the ultimate strength, the thing that’s fueling you.
One of the things I noticed is there is a much more salient Latin and religious influence in Exuvium. When I was at your early-listening showcase, it was almost like I was listening to a sermon at certain points. Where did where did that come from? Is there Is there any sort of imagery or metaphor to be gleaned from that sort of wild departure in theme.
Yeah, I mean, over the course of this entire process, I really started diving into the works of Carl Jung, the psychologist who coined the whole idea of the collective unconscious, shadow work, archetypes. And specifically with archetypes, essentially the idea that we have these kind of complex energies inside of us, for lack of a better term, not like actual energy, but just sort of these patterns of mental behavior and that it’s easiest for us to understand those things if we externalize them. Because a lot of times they almost feel like something separate from us, like falling in love or getting so angry that you do something. If you really think about it, it feels like something else is controlling you, like you’re not making the decisions that you would normally make, you’re kind of being influenced by something.
As human beings, it’s a lot easier to say, “Oh, I’m under the influence of Cupid or Aphrodite,” and it’s like, “Oh, well, that makes sense. That’s why you’re being that way right now.” Or, you know, channeling Ares the god of war, and then, “Oh, that makes sense. That’s why you’re so violent right now.”
So, you know, to me a lot of these religious figures are sort of these archetypal role. They play these archetypal roles for us. Typically, I would stay away from any sort of like religious or esoteric imagery with my stuff, because I have been scarred by the church and generally stay away from religion. But to me they are sort of these powerful symbols, especially in terms of like the destructive archetypes.
The second track on the album is called “Abbadon,” who is one of the demons of the Apocalypse. And there are lots of references to, like you observed, there’s a lot of references to that sort of thing on the album. But I think it would be misguided for anyone to interpret that as an actual reference to the religious beliefs of any of those. It’s much more like this is an easy way to refer to a certain type of energy that is so ineffable. It would take so long to describe something fully. But yet you can refer to a character and that character embodies sort of the essence of what all that has to do with everything.
Absolutely, and the word Exuvium itself, I just Googled it to be sure, means “something that is cast off, such as the exoskeleton of an animal.” So is the is the album about sort of shedding that past self and coming out something new, something glorious and beautiful?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think the whole theme of OBLIVION is sort of confronting the void and the meaninglessness, essentially trying to make sense of it in some sort of way. Everything that I write, it’s always sort of a process of discovery for me. Usually I’m writing and I’m just channeling whatever’s inside and then afterwards I’m looking at it and I’m like, “Oh, my God, this is not only describing exactly what’s going on inside of me,” but a lot of times it’s sort of like predicting the future. I’ll write an album and then I won’t really fully understand that album until six months after I release it, because it’s talking about things that I have yet to go through. When I was writing Exuvium I was still in the middle of this crazy period. I remember when I wrote that song, which ended up being the title for the album, I didn’t actually know what Exuvium meant but I was just going with these lyrics, and I just put that word in there. Then I looked it up later, and I was like, “Oh, sick.”
Yeah, it worked out.
Maybe it was just like, you know, buried somewhere deep inside of me, and I didn’t really have conscious knowledge of it. But yeah, it’s definitely like that ending point where you shed that final layer and sort of emerge from the from the like, dark, spasmodic, painful womb of that particular type of change.
A wordsmith indeed. [laughs] So you mentioned you know that this album was finished before the pandemic. Was the pandemic part of the reason why it wasn’t released until now? Or like you said, did it take more time for you to fully understand what the album meant to you, and you needed to sit with it for a little bit until you released it out into the world?
I would love to blame it on the pandemic. That would definitely be definitely be a much easier excuse, but in reality, honestly, I was just fucking having a mental breakdown for like two years. I had this period in Bali where I was feeling better, and I wrote a bunch of this stuff and then, a couple months later, just was going through it again. So there was like a whole year there where I just could not bring myself to work at all. And I was in despair all the time. And then and then I actually ended up taking a year long sabbatical after that. So, the album was written in Bali, and then this year I’ve finally really felt like reapproaching Crywolf. There is actually a period there where I was considering not doing Crywolf anymore, because it just developed to the point where it was creating so much anguish in my life. But then this year, I like really rediscovered my relationship with music and decided to reapproach this album and knock it out, so most of the actual finishing work has been done this year, whereas all the writing was done in Bali, all the composition and stuff.
You mentioned the possibility of the Crywolf project itself not existing after this. You were able to overcome the mental anguish and the issues and you came back, finished this album up, released it. So what’s the plan now that it’s released? Have you reignited your passion enough that you know there’s going to be more music? Are you planning on maybe touring this album and then hanging up the towel? What’s sort of the long term plan now is as far ahead as you can tell.
My relationship with Crywolf was complicated, but also my relationship with just being a musician was complicated because one of the things that I was having a crisis about was the fact that I had, without really realizing it, dedicated like 12 years of my life into this one industry. And you know, I love music. I will always create art. Growing up it was a big part of who I was, but it wasn’t all of who I was. I wasn’t one of those people who grew up being like, “I will be a musician or I’ll die.” You know, like this is the only thing I want to do? There’s lots of stuff that I want to do.
But my relationship with music itself, I feel like was completely rejuvenated. I’m so into making more music, and I’ve already been writing a bunch of new stuff. My relationship with Crywolf is pretty good. I sort of made an agreement with myself that I would finish this album, and then I would do one more tour. And then if I still wanted to quit after that, then I would quit. Whether that looks like starting a new project, whether that looks like taking some time off to pursue other things, and then maybe reapproaching music later, I’m not sure. But I would say with this album’s reception and everything that’s gone into the album release and how much I’ve really enjoyed that again the way that I used to, I think I’m pretty sure that I will continue doing Crywolf. We’re planning this tour for April/May and that’s going to be really fun. Just because this album is so cinematic and so like epic, and, making the whole visual journey for that and building that whole tour out is going to be really fun.
Plus, it’s just fun that like… You know, with Widow? It took it took people like two years to really get Widow. Um and I get–
Your music is a little, I would say, intellectual.
Yeah, I mean, especially that one because it was it was so– It just was not something that was made for people to like. I mean, I remember recording Widow and I would like I would do five vocal takes and I would choose the worst one possible. I wanted it to be bad because that was honest at the time, like I was a fucking mess, and I didn’t want to make music that sounded polished. I didn’t want to make music that was catchy or that drew people in. It was supposed to be ugly. And so it took people really long time to understand Widow. Whereas with Exuvium there are already so many people that are like, “This is my favorite album you’ve ever done.” So touring with an album like that is way more fun than touring with an album that people still have yet to really understand.
You know, there’s five months in between releasing it and playing it out, and with an album like this, as soon as I’m on tour, there’s gonna be tons of people like screaming the lyrics to every song. Whereas Widow I was not quite as excited to tour with a bunch.
But now I’m just imagining the crowd like yelling out in Latin, just like–
I hope so. If they know all the Latin that would be so sick.
I don’t know whether I would like feel like intense like community and, like togetherness, or just straight up fear at that moment,
I hope sort of both. That would be a great combination of feelings.
Absolutely, I’m looking forward to that, especially since you know you said it was April/May, right around my birthday. So hopefully I get to have some spiritual awakening when I turn 32, because god knows that age really isn’t good for much else. But yeah, I really appreciate you speaking with me. I’m gonna take a listen to the album a few more times because it is quite a dense but I’ll definitely catch you on tour next year.