After a productive decade with five albums (not to mention "The Oculus" EP in 2008) spread over the even years, Alaskan-Oregonian metalcore quartet 36 CRAZYFISTS took a sabbatical. In the interim since their last album "Collisions and Castaways" from 2010, the band has welcomed back bassist Mick Whitney and added drummer Kyle Baltus to the fold. Now with a new label and a recharge, the band returns with their seventh full-length, "Time and Trauma".
It's been nearly twenty years since the passing of original bassist JD Stuart and while 36 CRAZYFISTS has naturally long since moved on, there still feels a carryover sullenness in this band. "Time and Trauma" opens with the trudging and decidedly angry "Vanish (We All Disappear)", and thus a hanging surliness prevails over much of the record. To the good, 36CF sound like the veterans they should be on this track and instead of it being a predictable metalcore blaster, the methodic traipse of "Vanish (We All Disappear)" builds to a stepped-up finale that's not so much cathartic as it is a sensible acknowledgment of frustration and a subsequent will to soldier on.
This leads into the brisker "11.24.11", a tuneful if noisy number where Brock Lindow reminds listeners of his undulant ranges. There's a maturity to his scream-clean swaps that carries an affecting lilt (largely due to his willingness to swing mostly clean on the album) as the track ranges between cautious plods and bouncing pickups. Better, 36CF employs a breakdown that worms in and out without cutting into the main stream of the song.
Steve Holt and Mick Whitney's grinding riffs (as gory as those opening "Silencer") that break into and chuff intermittently throughout "Sorrow Sings" give Brock Lindow opportunity to spill some of his most emotive chops. The jacked string picks on the verses only adds to the agitation. "Lightless" finally steps out of the slog 36CF feels resigned to, giving the album a solid lift with its brisker tempos and raised chords. Lindow responds with harmonious sways that are so touching you nearly forget his minute screeching interjections.
The title track pulls the album back into its dank crawl, but once more it's Brock Lindow who acts as conscience over the general unhappiness of the tune, dialing up some guttural pleas amidst the laboring chords. "Also Am I" afterwards is one of the album's best tracks, riding smartly through tempo shucks and dialed-in guitar grooves, while "Translator" sounds a bit like the DEFTONES in its shuffle-drag instrumentation. Lindow's voice grows even stronger on these songs and they never waver through the rest of the album. Steve Holt's chiming guitars on "Translator" convey varying sentiments that match Lindow's swelling pitches.
Still borrowing from the DEFTONES on the frequently intense "Silencer", the following song "Slivers" serves as the album's purgation hinted at all the way back on "Vanish (We All Disappear)". "Slivers" shakes and pounds with shackles-freed harmony and only when hitting a scream-filled breakdown does the song feel weighted instead of uninhibited. Fans will no doubt be most attracted to the back-and-forth tempo rails and memorable choruses of "Swing the Noose".
There's very little to "Time and Trauma" that constitutes metalcore as most know and some loathe it. This album is both pissy and hopeful, but there's a lot of likeable melodic beseeching to counter its overt ire. It's a chore of an album, but not for the standard reasons as come with metalcore. Frankly, this is not a metalcore album by any definition. "Time and Trauma" is a determined, intelligently-plotted journey. Often the curious paths open some exquisite moments filled with both pain and wonder, the most moving coming on the closing number, "Marrow". For certain, 36 CRAZYFISTS' long break has opened old wounds with the benefit of age and wisdom to alleviate them a second time.