Signed to Spinefarm Records Alaskan natives 36 Crazyfists have experienced many highs and lows in their 20 year history; Time and Trauma is a brutal and bittersweet culmination of that. They still have a signature sound but a more modern yet unpolished production more reminiscent of their raw live performance. With poignant lyrical content both dark and positive, this is their most important record to date. The album was recorded at High Holtage Sound in Portland, Oregon and production duties handled by Steven Holt whose guitars and vocals are interspersed in a way that flawlessly complements Brock Lindow’s fiery delivery. It brings a blend of heaviness that highlights the diversity of the band and proves that after two decades they are known as pioneers yet succeed in remaining relevant. With the much heralded return of original bassist Mick Whitney and the addition of Kyle Baltus who replaced drummer Thomas Noonan; Baltus names Noonan as one of his inspirations and heroes and it seemed immediately fitting he would take over percussion duties. Recently the band went on hiatus to deal with a tragic loss, and from the agony and pain of death came the birth of this album, and a resurrection of the original synergy of the band. After two decades this record will be what propels them into the stratosphere, not just in the UK but across the world. Blazing up the charts already, the day of its release their first single shot to number one on iTunes Metal and the band is charting on Billboard higher than ever in their career.
To begin with, the CD has a much richer tone, a warm impressive feel to it that the digital copy lacks. Opening in traditional epic feeling with the song “Vanish,” they establish dominance immediately with the metal screams and growls punctuating the melodies. It’s easy to get lost in the music, the vocals kick in followed with a crescendo and a sweet riff and elements that show incredible growth. Track 11-24-11 is a gut ripping, heart gripping ride through the emotions of the singer as he uses the music as an expressive purging to help him grieve a very personal loss. My heart aches for him as every lyric drips off his tongue, moments both viciously raw and sentimental. So many have known personal tragedy, and in the bravery he shows in sharing it he offers his heart up to listeners. Next is the sludge laden “Sorrow Sings” a buildup, then when words begin you can feel the new level of creation with Holt at the Helm, there’s a subtle difference felt here. This songs catchy chorus with a sweet hook buried deep in the middle, a sway in the vocals and contagious groove heavy guitar and bass work left me wanting for more in this vein. Following is “Lightless” fast yet insightful it’s another chorus grabber that kicks in mid song. It’s more of a nod to their earlier sound but more reckless and instrumentally driven.
Title track “Time and Trauma” is an obvious favorite and incredibly infectious. In the same frequency of the album lyrically, musically it showcases individual strengths. The screams on this are insane, giving it an essential metal crunch yet addictively memorable enough that will make it a crossover hit. Heavy and powerful, the song rips my guts out and leaves me hollow, but in a good way…pure Catharsis. Then when you feel like you’re bleeding internally from the release, the heavy kicks in and brings you out of it to purge in the flames of the music. Next is “Also Am I” the first track released to high acclaim and charted instantly, it has both that radio quality and pure 36 Crazyfists sound without overtly covering any of their former work. It has layers and elements that reveal themselves on repeated listening. The sweet melodies in “Translator” give way to the absolute heaviness of “Silencer” a dark anthem that has an old-school recipe loaded with aggression, an impressive feel and an eerie finale. Another favorite is “Slivers” which takes them effortlessly back into their old sound, but with an updated layering and poetic lyrics that are significant while staying true to their roots, something mirrored in “Swing The Noose,” both beautifully written and arranged with a killer low-end and finale ending in a sick breakdown, it’s classic 36CF sound, but…heavier.
The beautiful “Gathering Bones” has an ethereal wandering quality which builds into a crushing metal chorus, heavy on riffs and then headlong right back into melody, so much bittersweet angst breathing through the music. It features guest vocals by the fierce yet enchanting Miss Kelly Acone. Emotional and different in rhythm, it’s a slow burner that will still rip your fucking face off. Ending track “Marrow” is spine tingling, gorgeous and highlights guest vocalist Stephanie Plate’s surreal voice blended with Lindow’s breathier familiar vibrato. Six minutes in length, it serves as an exquisite finale to an excellent effort; I predict Time And Trauma will surpass everything they’ve done, both retaining their loyal fans and commanding the attention of a new generation of listeners.
Most albums tend to have a buildup and an ending but you don’t get that here, each song tells a story and at the end you want to hear another chapter. There is no let down, no filler, no formulaic noise to span the space where musical excellence fails to bridge the gap. I didn’t listen to this album so much as I absorbed it into my veins like a drug. Once again, their music is a powerful life soundtrack to many, and they have proved their widespread appeal and relevance in the history of music. The crescendos and pure unadulterated metal are my favorite elements and the screams nothing short of fucking delicious. I connected to it with every fiber of my musical being. It’s the best chapter yet in a musical career that has spanned two decades and while it may have been marked with Time and Trauma what came from it is beautiful Catharsis that is significant to a crossover collection of global fans that are loyal for a lifetime.
Kerrang gave it the much coveted five K’s, I give it ELEVEN.
~ RS11 (Robin X Steeley)