Plans Warm-Up Gig for Muslim Representatives at the United Nations
WASHINGTON - Pope Benedict XVI announced today that he is reforming the classic supergroup the Crusaders and will embark on a new tour and the first new work of the group in centuries.
“It is time for The Church to return to its roots in bringing souls to Christ,” said the Pope. He said that the group would make its first performance in more than 700 years later this week in front of representatives from Islamic countries at the United Nations
Critics immediately saw this as a shrewd move by a Catholic Church desperate for a hit. “They haven’t had much success since the release of ‘Vernacular Spectacular (Guitar Mass Blues)’ off Vatican II,” said noted music critic Anthony DeCurtis and author of Knights in White Satin: The Story of the Crusades. “It’s not surprising to see them try to capitalize on their biggest hits.”
Others greeted the announcement with blood-thirsty glee. “My prayers have finally been answered,” said William Donohue, president of the Catholic League. “I’ve been saving my cross shield and long sword for this day.”
The Pope, however, cautioned that this would be a different kind of Crusade.
“When you’re young, you’re full of the Holy Spirit and vinegar, and shedding blood for Christ seems so appealing,” wrote the pontiff on his MySpace page. “But we’ve learned a lot in the last ten centuries. This new crusade will capture the sound and energy of the original, but incorporate a lot of electronic and virtual elements. We want to spill the blood of your mind and soul more than your body.”
Considered by many to be the greatest religious-based warfare ever recorded, Crusades I set a new standard for bringing God into battle. While the Crusaders borrowed heavily from earlier influences such as Greeks, Romans, pre-Christian barbarians, and even the Jews and Muslims whom they fought, they fused these holy war influences with the seemingly non-violent message of Christ, making something uniquely their own.
“Crusades I took the world by storm,” said Rolling Stone editor David Fricke. “But beneath its everyman popularity was a real complex, even contradictory sound, meshing ‘turn the other cheek’ with ‘hit that cheek with a mace.’”
Crusades I spawned two major hits. “The Siege of Antioch” was a dark, violent work that captured the fervor and fury of the Crusaders. But it was the epic “The Siege of Jerusalem” that established Crusades I as the holy war of its generation.
Medieval critics showered Crusades I with universal acclaim. Ye Olde Musical Express called it “a tour de forces.” Der Aller Musikführer said that you could “practically feel the hot, salty spray of non-Christian blood on your ears.”
“Essential,” wrote Roger Bacon in his review in Spinne. “From Copenhagen to Constantinople, you can’t go anywhere without feeling the influence of Crusades I.”
With Crusades II, the group released an ambitious double crusade. The first half revisited the area well overrun in “The Siege of Jerusalem,” causing many critics to say they had heard this all before. But the Portuguese-influenced second half produced the smash hit, “Stairway to Libson (No More Moors)” and catapulted the Crusaders to even greater popularity.
Success, however, also brought problems. As the Crusaders approached their third work, they encountered artistic differences. “There was a lot of arguing over slaughter,” said former Village Voice music critic and author of Christgau on the Crusades Robert Christgau. “Some members felt that had taken the blood-soaked religious war as far as they could, while others wanted to go for an even heavier, brutal approach.”
These disagreements were compounded by a problem that everyone knew about but chose to ignore: rampant plundering. Indeed, the pursuit of easy loot became as much of a focus of subsequent Crusades as a passion for militarized Christianity.
Just as the work on Crusades III began, tragedy struck. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I—known as “the cute one”—died when he fell from the cupola of the Vatican after proclaiming he was “a golden god.” His death exacerbated tensions between Phillip II—the French one—and Richard III, known as “the lionhearted one.” Critics panned Phillip’s decision to record his contributions in his traditional, aloof “Francophone” sound. Meanwhile, the Lionheart received the lion’s share of the acclaim, so much so that Crusades III became known informally as The Lionheart Album. But while Richard had success with “The Battle of Arsuf” and would become the face of the Crusaders, neither he nor any other Christian warriors would never approach the success of “The Siege of Jerusalem” again.
Indulgence and irrelevance
The frictions that surfaced during Crusades III would boil over during Crusades IV. Originally intending to get back to their Middle Eastern roots, the Crusaders instead declared themselves “bigger than Byzantium” before sacking Constantinople. This led to a schism with their Eastern Orthodox fans and, unbeknownst at the time, to the ultimate decline of the Crusades.
Five other Crusades followed, each less commercially successful than the last. A hodge-podge of side Crusades projects further diluted the appeal of the crusades, including their attempt to break into the tween market with the widely panned Children’s Crusade. Finally, after Crusades IX failed to chart, the Crusaders broke up.
Reformation and ressurection
The Church attempted to capitalize on the legacy of the Crusades with similar calls for conversion and obedience, but heavy use of gold, lands, noble titles, and indulgences made The Church’s message increasingly irrelevant and isolated them from their followers. Whatever chance they had to recapture the fire Crusades I fizzled when Christians everywhere turned to the new, personal, stripped-down sound of Martin Luther.
“‘96 Theses’ changed everything,” said Greil Marcus, author of (We’re So) Pretty Sacred: The Fifty Greatest Religious Conflicts. “It used to be that you couldn’t launch a Christian religious war without the Pope’s blessing. But now anyone could start a violent, bloody struggle in the name of Christ. It was very liberating.”
Soon, religious wars broke out all over Europe as Christians rushed to start their own personal crusades. This fervor eventually led to the Thirty Years War, which proved more violent and bloody than the Crusades ever dreamed. And a hardcore, local crusade scene flourished worldwide, most notably with the witch trials of Salem, Massachusetts.
Eventually, The Church realized it had to get clean and get focused if it wanted to recapture its position as the spiritual leader of Christianity. After entering a reformation clinic, The Church returned with the new, kinder, adult contemporary vibe of Vatican I and Vatican II, the sound it followed through the reign of Pope John Paul II.
Which is why Pope Benedict’s call for a new Crusade has surprised many. “I didn’t think they had it in them,” says Penelope Spheris, director of The Decline of Western Civilization: The Crusade Years. “I mean, who wants to see a middle-aged Crusader, in tight chainmail, trying to sack cities like he’s 20 years old again?”
But others feel that Pope Benedict is just the man to restart the Crusades. “After all,” says Robert Christgau, “who better to get the Church back to its fighting spirit than a German pope?”