If you know anything at all about Alice Glass, former frontwoman of late 00s semi-creepy dream pop outfit Crystal Castles and current electro-goth queen, it might be surprising that her Prey//IV album, released in February and for which she is about to embark on a lengthy US tour, is technically her debut solo LP. With her earlier body of work in Crystal Castles, loads of videos and singles since the duo’s disturbing split and her near constant touring and video schedule, Glass (given name Margaret Osborn) finally had time to put together this devastatingly rich exposé of a multi-track on her own new imprint, Eating Glass Records.
Despite this being her first solo album and all the terrible sexual, emotional and financial abuse she alleges happened to her at the hands of bandmate Ethan Kath in Crystal Castles, Alice Glass is making no attempt to distance herself from her work during that time. The “IV” in Prey//IV is in fact a nod to the way CC numbered their releases and a statement that this is, in fact, her fourth full-length album. While there were squabbles between Glass and Kath (an understatement which will be elucidated upon shortly) about who wrote what on each of Crystal Castles’ albums, Glass maintains she wrote the majority of the lyrics, vocals and melodies on CC’s first three albums. She elucidated on this in an interview with Bandcamp:
It’s my fourth LP. And I was thinking about how even just me saying that would enrage people I’ve never met, and how ridiculous that is. So yeah. It’s a little cheeky. It’s also “pray for Alice Glass.” Pray for me. But having the Roman numerals in there and having “IV” in there is kind of a cheeky fuck-you. Who’s going to tell me what I can name my own record? It’s going to be me. I’ve been in the game for over 10 years, and I’m proud of the actual work that I did. It’s awkward to talk about, let alone celebrate. But I am proud of the work that I’ve done.
So why would Alice Glass owning her own work and naming her album thus enrage so many people? Here’s the bit where we say it’s time – past time – to talk about Alice Glass.
As recently as last month, Alice Glass had to once again take publicly to Instagram to fix misconceptions about her and her time with Crystal Castles. This time it was a mislabeled photo in am urelated Vice article. Glass posted a story with the photo, saying “I was being groomed at the time.” Vice immediately took it down, but the problem remains the same. The confusion, side-taking and downright abuse from fans, former managers and even Kath himself Glass has suffered since leaving CC nearly eight years ago has been relentless. Glass has been just as relentless in defending herself, however, and unflinchingly proactive. Slowly, very slowly, people have found out the truth.
It all kicked off almost three years after Glass officially left Crystal Castles. Prior to 2017, if you were a fan of Crystal Castles at the time of the split, the controversy was hard to ignore. After 2017, if you had any kind of morality whatsoever, it would have been hard to side with Kath, though some fans did. Glass produced emails, text records, et al. publicly on social media (and later as proof in the defamation suit Kath filed against her) after she made the allegations in a lengthy statement on her blog. She also gave numerous interviews and eventually got some of her managers and PR people at the time to back up her claims. They were listed in the texts and emails, after all. The most damning evidence, however, came from Kath himself in his behavior after Glass left.
In late 2017, tickeholders for the Crystal Castles show on October 25 at the North Park Observatory in San Diego and featuring Kath’s hastily-hired and eerily similar-looking replacement Edith Frances were informed that the show was canceled. Very little explanation was given by the venue but it was largely understood that it was due to the ongoing harassment of Glass by Kath. A full three years after Alice Glass had left Crystal Castles, Kath was still having his management book shows that were on or near the dates of Glass’s own tour supporting her self-titled album, often at the same venues. Crystal Castles followed Alice around a full nine tour dates, in fact, until The Observatory put an end to it.
Alice Glass’s show on the 24th was allowed to go on as scheduled. She came out quite late and the set was short, leading some fans to believe she was currently being harassed by Kath or it had just all got too much for her. She nonetheless performed four Crystal Castles songs, which was pretty brave given that Kath was claiming Glass didn’t have rights to any CC work because she didn’t write any of the songs. It was another tactic Kath used to try to counter the allegations and tear Alice down. By this time in 2017 she’d already managed to prove she wrote lyrics and vocal melodies for a number of the songs so she belted those tracks with gusto and still performs them in her sets.
Glass managed to get the defamation lawsuit Kath (given name Claudio Palmieri) filed against her thrown out in early 2018. Meanwhile, Toronto police opened an investigation against Kath for sex crimes which included allegations from several other women claiming grooming them while they were underaged. The rest of the Crystal Castles tour was halted in earnest and Kath’s career effectively ended. Very little survives now in terms of records about Kath, including the results of the Toronto investigation or if he has been trying to make a comeback.
A Tumblr page called Exposing Ethan Kath (not a credible source) which alleged in 2020 that Kath married an Alice Glass cosplayer named Au Vyst (Autumn). A tweet from Glass’s Twitter account which responds to another tweet from Autumn where she alleges similar things happened to her as to Glass shows up in December of that year, saying, “Autumn, I don’t know how to reach you but I’m so sorry you went through this.” That’s the last anyone’s heard about Kath since 2017, excepting when Glass has spoken about him and her experience, most recently when she opened up to NME in an interview about Prey//IV.
Glass’s solo work has been decidedly more punk rock (we’ll call it cyberpunk with a big helping of horror) than anything she did with Crystal Castles, save, perhaps, “Alice Practice.” This is both in style and substance, as her troubles didn’t just start and end with Kath. In the NME article, Glass says Crystal Castles shied away from strong personal or political messages in their lyrics, as it was more about the synth pop aesthetic. Starting with her first solo single “Stillbirth,” however, Glass now wanted to put her truth out there.
If I could take a pill and erase all my memories, I would. I didn’t think I would be here – I thought I’d be dead for sure. I was very suicidal as a teenager and young person… There’s so much suffering in the world, and I bring [up my difficult experiences] now because, in a weird way, every time I open up about this, somebody writes me or sends a really nice message where they can relate to what I’m saying.
There was more to come, as Glass proved she released her single and video for “Without Love,” the pre-Alice Glass EP teaser in 2017, just after she released her statement about Kath. It was her first track directly about her experience with Kath and his stalking and slander. The lyrics are not subtle: “can I suffer? I won’t make a sound; how are you gonng lie about me now?; I see you watching me from underground…” et cetera. The track more than made her point, and the video was a stunning picture of hope and the pain of healing. Anyone who had doubts about Glass’s musical prowess and ability to conjure her own powerful aesthetic would have easily been silenced with this piece.
From Alice Glass, a remix album featuring such prominent artists as Ghostemane, Zola Jesus, Chelsea Wolfe and Dreamcrusher and including “Stillbirth” was released in 2018 as well as a rash of videos. The videos for EP singles “Forgiveness” and “Mine” show a carefully curated and beautifully executed goth aesthetic while the signular single “Cease and Desist” is tour footage and static while the song’s lyrics loudly declare Glass’s newfound strength and determination to fight and beat Kath and his ill-conceived defamation case, one way or another.
Glass also appeared on a number of film collab projects post-Alice Glass, including being a guest vocalist on Dreamcrusher’s 2020 Grudge 2 EP and writing a song called “I Trusted You” for the Adult Swim x Fever Dreams compilation album with producer of Cyberpunk 2077, Rockstar Games and noise band Health fame Jupiter Keyes in 2018. Then came the drag videos.
Yes, you read that right: Alice Glass’s iconic ability to serve such flawless face and develop such stark aesthetics comes in a large part from her involvement in the drag scenes in both LA and Toronto. These are not, however, your typical drag performers you’ll catch at a drag brunch or even on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Not so incedentally, however, the video for “Mine” features Drag Race seaon seven winner Violet Chachki as the antagonist who poisons Glass in this blackened Victorian film confection. The drag videos to which we’re referring were a series of eight performance videos from some extreme drag artists, covering a broad spectrum of Glass’s discography at the time. The most popular was a live club performance video by another Drag Race alum, Abhora, to the drum & bass Ghostemane remix of “Natural Selection,” but all of them are cutting edge, stark and push the limits of what most people think of drag.
Every track Glass recorded from 2018 to now appears on Prey//IV, so there were loads of teasers. Glass actually was one of the first to do this format, where singles are released from an album as they and their videos are completed rather than waiting for the whole album to drop. It’s a format very conducive to artists who have a strong aetshetic like Glass, not to mention great for YouTube. The videos for “I Trusted You,” “Sleep It Off,” “Nightmares,” “Suffer and Swallow,” “Baby Teeth,” “Fair Game” and “Love Is Violence” were all released in succession before the album came out in February of this year. The last video for “Everybody Else” debuted at the same time as the album. That’s a full eight videos from a 13-track LP. Aesthetic is clearly still important to Glass, and we’re all better people for it.
Another reason Prey//IV released so far after its first videos/singles was likely her legal battle with Loma Vista Recordings, who despite showing little interest in the album, didn’t want to release her. This fight was of course tied up in the issues with Kath, but once the smoke cleared, Glass was able to self-fund Prey//IV and started up her own imprint, Eating Glass Records, in the meantime. Two birds, right? Either way, strategy or no, the album is an unqualified success, hitting huge numbers on both Spotify and YouTube, though its Bandcamp page it still a little chaotic. What else would you expect from Alice Glass?
Musical style-wise, Prey//IV is also chaotic, but in the best possible way. “I Trusted You” producer Jupiter Keys led production on a number of tracks, which range from the pretty yet eerie ultra pop to the heavy industrial of the title track. Loads of experimental stuff is wedged in just in case it wasn’t stark enough with track titles like the glitchy, trappy creepfest that is “Pinned Beneath Limbs” or the emotive future bass/drum & bass mashup of “Suffer and Swallow.” Glass’s angelic yet versatile vocals go with just about any music style, so it’s no surprise that there are so many. The multiple moods also add to the journey Glass herself went on, both in creating the album and in living the ten-odd years of abuse that inspired it.
Prey//IV is an excellent listen whether or not you know the whole story with Glass and Kath. It’s universally relatable, whether you’ve gone through something similar or just know the feelings she’s talking about. It’s also danceable and fun, and the videos for the singles thus far bring each track to life in a different way. However her audience chooses to enjoy the album, Alice Glass has more than proved with Prey//IV that she’s every bit the artist Kath tried to say she wasn’t.
There was a video clip produced in 2008 for the Crystal Castles song “Magic Spells” where there’s a person sleeping outdoors by a wall and then another person comes into frame and drops a cinderblock on their head. There’s a lot left to the imagination and a lot of ways it’s been interpreted but now, 14 years later, it’s a stark reflection of what may have really been going on behind the scenes in the band, both literally and figuratively. The story ends quite differently than the video, however, in that after numerous heavy objects being dropped on her or in her path, one day Glass no longer simply went back to sleep. She spit out the blood, stood up and fought for herself and her art. Prey//IV is that purged toxic blood, and now with her Trauma Bond Tour starting this week, she’s become the hunter. As Glass herself has said, “the past still haunts me, so I’ll haunt it back.”