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Thursday, July 22, 2010

CD Review: 36 Crazyfists - Collisions and Castaways

36 Crazyfists - Collisions and Castaways
2010 Ferret Music
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

If there's any band comfortable in their skins, Alaskan metalcorists 36 Crazyfists wear their yelp, stamp and swoon pride with absolute defiance. Forget the fashionable upswing towards death, black and power metal modes, 36 Crazyfists know who they are, even as they begin to stretch their parameters. Good move for future survival.

Without saying they've wanted a piece of Killswitch Engage, All That Remains and Shadows Fall's pie, 36 Crazyfists (like The Autumn Offering and Twelve Tribes) has hung in their, er, shadows, building a rock solid fan base of their own. It amassed on the rally cry of 2008's breakout The Tide and Its Takers, while longtime followers still cite 2006's Rest Inside the Flames as 36 Crazyfist's shining hour.

Pared down in the bass position as of their latest album Collisions and Castaways, guitarist Steve Holt found himself working double-time covering two slots. His frantic energy is felt all over the new album, one which starts as a prototype of the band's previous work, but it shifts gears as of the third song, "Mercy and Grace" in what becomes a genuinely adventurous effort.

"In the Midnights" and "Whitewater" kick Collisions and Castaways off with standard metalcore fare ala verse-chorus-verse-breakdown schemes amped by heavy tempos and happy-go-lucky cleans by Brock Lindow. Merged with his familiar banshee railing, Lindow extends his vocals further than ever. Emo at times, but Lindow's coming into a stout verve even as his group begins to seek new ways to express themselves. Frankly, 36 Crazyfists appear to settle for the sure thing on the opening two numbers, but kudos to the guys for going the extra mile the remainder of the ride.

Power metal and classic rock grooves are one of the pleasant surprises amidst the thrashing madcap of "Death Rides the Light," while they borrow a greasy skillet from Every Time I Die's southern fried kitchen on the slick 'n snotty "Trenches." Steve Holt lays down a palatable bass shuck on the choruses of "Trenches" while lighting the subsequent track "Reviver" with gnarly riffage for Brock Lindow to pitch his listeners some rowdy woo.

Holt spices Collisions and Castaways up with acoustic intros ("In the Midnights" and "Waterhaul II") and aquatic wah on "Caving in Spirals," to which Lindow responds with a Peter Murphy-like wallow in spots. Along with the steadfast mosh gallops provided by Thomas Noonan, 36 Crazyfists speed through their own gauntlet on "The Deserter." There's a certain grace felt by the shambling pace of "Waterhaul II," which booms and punches with severity following sequences of instrumental inertia. All the easier to headbang on those loud sections in accordance.

While 36 Crazyfists still caves their compact spaces with breakdowns (which are finally starting to became passe), Collisions and Castaways is one of their most entertaining and ambitious recordings yet. Rolling the bones on a serene 1:47 instrumental interlude, "Long Roads to Late Nights," the pallette 36 Crazyfists employs to create a more artistic listening experience grants them a free pass for the few cliches poking through the album.

Yes, there is such a thing as being true to yourselves while reaching for a new identity.

Rating: ***1/2


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