The second album from Alaska's 36 CRAZYFISTS starts out strong, with three solid, catchy, and surprisingly powerful tunes in a row. Opener "At The End Of August" is somewhat more in the vein of previous material, yet crackles with power, while the crisp, frantic "Heart And The Shape" sets the table for "Bloodwork", which is probably one of the most memorable emo-metal tunes to come down the pike in a while. Get past those three songs, however, and the relatively short album becomes increasingly repetitive and generic. A couple more classy tunes shine through, but half of "A Snow-Capped Romance" ends up as indistinguishable from most other discs of its ilk.
The chief problem here, as with many "heartcore" (or whatever you want to call them) bands, is what's up front. Brock Lindow can clearly sing, and has a rich, melodic voice. But all too often, he uses it either to belt out those unintelligible, unlistenable screams, or the obnoxiously whiny vocals that are the trademark of this particular subgenre of metal. He simply fails to separate himself from the pack as a singer. While the band as a whole is clearly ambitious, and capable of attaining what they want — as on those three opening tracks we mentioned — they simply don't have the identity or material to sustain a whole album.
These guys have been compared, in their best moments, to POISON THE WELL, but they lack the dynamic material that characterized that band's excellent last album, "You Come Before You". Once you get past the opening numbers, only two more songs really stand out: "Skin And Atmospher" is an intricate rollercoaster of a number that still manages to be almost anthemic, while "Installing The Catheter" captures a fast and furious hardcore feel without losing sight of another memorable melody.
There's no question that 36 CRAZYFISTS are accomplished musicians, and in fact are quite better at song arrangements than many other second-rate emo-metal acts. But they have yet to develop enough to keep from falling back on the same old tricks that make more of these bands sound like they're parodying themselves. Half an album's worth of solid material is a decent step forward. Hopefully they'll come up with more next time out.