Sound — 8
Getting to work and develop themselves under the guidance of the incomparable Kurt Ballou of Converge, Trap Them have progressed nicely with their grindcore sound. Banking on a purely frenzied sound in their 2007 debut album, "Sleepwell Constructor," their 2008 follow-up album, "Seizures in Barren Praise," started to dabble a bit in a lower, doomy gear, and 2011's "Darker Handcraft" showed the band reaching a higher level of substance by growing further from their whiplash grindcore songwriting and bringing forth songs with more defined riffs and screaming hooks ("I am that goddamn son of a bitch" from "The Facts" being an instant classic). 2014's "Blissfucker" would take that elaboration even further, where an even balance between blistering grindcore moments and slow-burning sludge/doom metal moments made it their most dynamic album to date.
With the initiative of "Blissfucker" also making it the longest album Trap Them have ever composed - clocking in at a runtime longer than their first two albums combined - Trap Them's fifth album, "Crown Feral," aims to trim down that duality of grind and doom to a more concise offering. As opposed to the doom sections in the previous album being 7-minute-long slow-burners, those sections this time around are composed with efficiency while still being a substantial contrast, like the wide-mixed guitars that create a gloomy atmosphere in the lower gears of "Malengines Here, Where They Should Be," the cryptic clean guitar lines that juxtapose the chugging choruses in "Twitching in the Auras," the dark melodies in the opening doom cut of "Kindred Dirt" reprising in the following grindcore cut of "Hellionaires," or the sludgy-to-frenetic closer "Phantom Air."
On the heavier side, Trap Them don't quite match the unbridled grinding energy in "Blissfucker," but they still dish out their high-gear moments well. "Prodigala" boasts some nice hammer-on riffs, the following "Luster Pendulums" emphasizes its tremolo riffs, "Stray of the Tongue" throws in a quick but impressive guitar solo, and other moments come off reminiscent of earlier albums, like the blastbeat pulses in "Speak Nigh" being similar to the rhythms in the "Seizures..." song "Roam/Absent Civilian," or the straightforward drive of "Revival Spines" feeling akin to "The Facts" from "Darker Handcraft."
Lyrics — 8
As frontman Ryan McKenney had previously divulged that his hard-to-distinguish vocals and lyrics are a purposeful obscurity in Trap Them's music for the sake of mystique (and to allow ad-libbing lyrics at live shows), his vocals and lyrics in "Crown Feral" are still harsh but clearer to hear compared to "Blissfucker." Any listener used to his grainy timbre can decipher what he's saying in this record with better success, and even if it's just piece by piece, one can get enough of the picture to see McKenney's lyrical painting of impending destruction in "Kindred Dirt" ("As if we're on the same road / To share the same waste / Build a way to our grave") and welcoming that fate in "Hellionaires" ("Making my way to death's wooden door / And I'll bring a fucking battering ram"), lambasting the faithful in "Prodigala" ("They need to mar / Need to maul / They need to spite... And fucking repent") and "Luster Pendulums" ("I've got a gospel to spade your grace"), and reveling in the power of mutiny and bloody revolution against the elite in "Malengines Here, Where They Should Be" ("There's no backroom deal to be bought / No briefcase in hand to exchange / There's nothing held in your hands that we don't know how to take") and "Twitching in the Auras" ("It's the sadist teeth in me / And the drive to be there for the hangings").
Overall Impression — 8
The trimmer version of the doom/grind recipe in "Crown Feral" is one with benefits and drawbacks that counter the more elaborate version of that recipe brought forth in "Blissfucker." While the desire to carry itself with brevity restricts the album from truly one-upping the output of its predecessor, the quarrels listeners had with the extensive, slow-burning nature of "Blissfucker" will be more satisfied with the to-the-point mentality of "Crown Feral." And beyond the comparison of albums, "Crown Feral" is simply another impressive notch in Trap Them's belt.