Sound — 7
The elements and experiences that have transpired in the formative years of 36 Crazyfists' career come off like evidence of star-crossed destiny. With their hometown of Anchorage, Alaska being nearly as geographically disconnected as Australia, 36 Crazyfists had to spend a lot of time gestating via local venues, and with the tragic deaths of two of their former bandmates (one of which was due to a post-show altercation), that's more than enough bleakness and strife to break any band's aspirations.
Nonetheless, as 36 Crazyfists continued to rock, the silver lining would start to shine come the 21st century. After independently releasing their debut album "In the Skin" and relocating to the more logistically-convenient city of Portland, Oregon, the band signed with Roadrunner Records, not only giving them a big platform for their first three major label albums, "Bitterness the Star," "A Snow Capped Romance," and "Rest Inside the Flames," but also gave them the bolstered exposure of touring with fellow label mates like Killswitch Engage, Poison The Well and Chimaira.
Even after parting ways with Roadrunner after "Rest Inside the Flames," 36 Crazyfists promptly signed a new deal with Ferret Music for their next two albums. But once again, adversity would rear its head into the band's stride. Longtime bassist and imperative member of the band, Mick Whitney, would leave the band after the release of their fifth album, "The Tide and Its Takers." Though the band would replace him with Brett Makowski to make their sixth album, "Collision and Castaways," even frontman Brock Lindow was at peace with the album being their last, on the possibility of "if this would be the end of the band." And with Lindow needing to take time off after his mother died of cancer a year later, as well as the band no longer with Ferret, that possibility was looking to be all but set in stone.
It turns out, though, that 36 Crazyfists would get a new lease on life. Now signed with Spinefarm Records, they bring forth their seventh album, "Time and Trauma," which essentially shows the band picking up where they left off years ago without a trace of rust upon their gears. Though their original drummer has left the band, their new drummer, Kyle Baltus, transcends his newcomer label with worthwhile drumming activity (especially in the second half of the album). And with the triumphant return of Whitney as their bassist, his compositional contributions throughout the album (most notably in "Vanish," "Time and Trauma," "Also Am I," "Translator" and "Gathering Bones") are further proof of how much more interesting a metal band can be with basslines that retain individuality in a song - though the mixdown ought to have been more accommodating towards his bass.
While it's easy to see 36 Crazyfists eager to return to rocking out in an early-noughties metalcore fashion, the album's repertoire of status quo down-tuned guitar licks span from decent (see the fret-active riffs in "11.24.11," and "Silencer") to dull (see the warm-up track "Vanish," the pedestrian licks in "Sorrow Sings" and "Translator," and the double-down breakdown of "Slivers"), and akin to the "Collisions and Castaways" track "The Deserter," guitarist Steve Holt shows off his admirable soloing chops for only one moment - a sweet moment, nevertheless - in this album with "Also Am I."
However, the strongest songwriting moments on "Time and Trauma" are those that properly pair with the pensive feelings the band wants to express, which show a more genuine dimension. The string-bending breakdown in "Time and Trauma" helps enforce the unnerving emotion of the song, and a gloomy cadence is conjured strongly with the gothic melody in the chorus of "Silencer." And while the final metal ballad of "Marrow" bears string melodies that feel recycled from the eponymous ballad track of "The Tide and Its Takers" (not to mention that element being improved in the "Collisions and Castaways" ballad "Waterhaul II"), the preceding tracks "Swing the Noose" and "Gathering Bones" do a nice job balancing their heavy side with a lighter and finer-grained melodic side, as well as invoking a strong dynamic range.
Lyrics — 7
Easily being the most personal and vulnerable Lindow has gotten in his lyrical matters, "Time and Trauma" is primarily concerned with acknowledging the hardships Lindow has experienced, with the title itself being a direct addressing of the state of his well-being in the past few years. As "Vanish" lays out the sentimental foundation of the album (from the encumbrance of grief to the ending line of "we all disappear" assessing the fragility of life), Lindow wastes little time to recount his final moments with his late mother in "11.24.11" ("and I loved loving you was the last thing she said/and I loved loving you was the last thing I said").
This is the most direct reference to that pain, whereas Lindow proceeds more gingerly with sharing his feelings and experiences throughout the rest of the album: grief calls back briefly in "Lightless" ("don't plan to live forever but I wanted her to"), he alludes to substance abuse as an intended coping mechanism in "Swing the Noose" ("broken in a million pieces again, I numb myself with the substances/it's not the same"), and he alludes to scattering his mother's ashes into the sea ("we'll translate the sea to the place where you wanted to be," though this cannot be verified). And despite the overall theme of the album breaking the streak of nautical themes established by the band's previous two albums, much of Lindow's articulation of tumultuous and overwhelming emotion is based in symbolism of the sea. Though his lyrical techniques were noticeably better in "Collisions and Castaways," there's no doubting the raw forlornness that Lindow puts into each song.
Overall Impression — 7
Even despite people enjoying "Rest Inside the Flames" and "The Tide and Its Takers" for their heaviness, Lindow felt that "Collisions and Castaways" was an ideal album for 36 Crazyfists to end on because it portrayed the "more than metalcore" sound that the band has strived for. "Time and Trauma" is another album crafted in that spirit, being more concerned with traveling through the different gears of metal rather than trying to hold top speed from front to back, and it achieves satisfying results. While everything attempted on the album isn't anything too foreign by 36 Crazyfists' standards, "Time and Trauma" makes for a good return album after five years of silence.