They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. The thing is, “they” also say eating bread crusts makes your chest hair grow curly and that going to sleep with wet hair gives you a cold. “They” can talk a load of bollocks at times. Sometimes absence makes you think “Oh, I’d forgotten about them”, “I thought they’d split up” or even “well, I hadn’t actually missed them at all”. So, while 36 Crazyfists aren’t quite starting from scratch with Time and Trauma (Spinefarm), their first album since 2010’s Collisions and Castaways (Ferret/Roadrunner), they do have a little bit of re-establishing to do as it is now thirteen years since their defining moment, debut Bitterness The Star (Roadrunner).
The first thing to notice is, that while it would be churlish to say there’s a reduction in aggression as the Alaskan quartet were never about being heavy bruisers, Time and Trauma moves their trademarks more into the alternative metal ballpark, focused on building dynamic atmospheres rather than the quick win thrash-holler-beatdown formulas of many of their contemporaries, giving room for mainstay vocalist Brock Lindow to seek powerful melodies and create a more expansive universe for the Crazyfists. Lindow has always been a divisive figure in my mind, distinctive – which is always a bonus – and capable of creating the choruses that others may not think of, but at the same time over-reliant on an idiosyncrasy that doesn’t always enhance, with his warble grating as often as it augments.
There is an interesting dynamic to Time and Trauma in that this is an album that aurally grows and develops as it progresses, with the depth and quality of tune, in the main, saved for the second half. Most bands frontload with singles in the hope to build up enough brownie points in the opening exchanges to win the plaudits and the affections of their faithful, however 36 Crazyfists are confident in their material and happy to display a maturity that suits them, a darker churn to their sound that stands them in good stead.
There may be touches of Drowning Pool (‘Also Am I’) and the odd ‘Grind’ of Alice In Chains (the title track) but the over-riding feature seems to be that this, the sixth Crazyfist release, is the album that sees them explore their inner Deftones, expanding and lurching this added influence into their sound, culminating in the interesting penultimate track, ‘Gathering Bones’. That said, it is only on the closing, harrowing ‘Marrow’ that the band unveil a truly great song with a chilling, spiraling bleak melancholia that sees a great female vocal guest performance (and shame on the band for making it so hard to find out who it is).
As far as comebacks go, they may be aiming for “swinging for the fences again”, as Lindow declares again in the press statement, but Time and Trauma only sees them round second, falling short of a home run. A decent effort that will be a welcome addition to the collections of those who are already on-board and that, despite the added exploration of the dark and the Deftones, is unlikely to convince those who don’t already walk the world of the 36 Crazyfists.