Swiss Army Grind
“Jack of all trades, master of none” is a phase that carries both positive and negative connotations. So to describe grind/crust/hardcore/doom band TRAP THEM as jacks of all trades is to find some good and some fault in what they do. Blissfucker, the band’s fourth full-length, does many things well, and if one is in the mood to be bludgeoned in a certain way, the album fits the bill perfectly. However, there’s something lacking here in the realm of real cohesion and core strength. It’s not hard to point to what TRAP THEM do well, but it’s very difficult to say what it is they do best.
Starting with “Salted Crypts,” TRAP THEM show off their versatility, with a plodding stoner-doom riff lumbering ominously in, only to erupt violently (after a frantic count-in) into a full-blooded D-beat romp, into which death metal-ish segments are interposed. The juggernaut thunders through a sort of semi-guitar solo before returning to the stomping doom of the intro.
But really, it’s a silly exercise to slap genre tags on Blissfucker’s 11 songs. The album represents a slightly more subtle paradox. Each song is a different recipe in terms of songwriting and genre, but the ingredients are almost completely uniform. Brian Izzi’s guitar tone is compressed and sharpened for maximum damage—an audible reminder of Kurt Ballou’s presence. It is robust as far as buzzsaws go, but it lacks contour, becoming nearly binary in its all-or-nothing bite. Vocalist Ryan McKenney’s manic yelp contains shades of rage, bitterness, fear, fury, and sorrow, but these are mostly established by context. New bassist Galen Baudhuin mostly plays root notes. New drummer Brad Fickeisen handles the many beat styles on Blissfucker with ease. The D-beats, double bass runs, thrash beats, and more roll off the kit beautifully. Fickeisen’s blastbeats are fast and precise, yet sound natural. Just don’t expect any jazz breaks or Latin-inspired rhythms to occur.
That’s not to say that Blissfucker doesn’t deliver some really exciting moments. The fluttery riff driving “Organic Infernal” isn’t quite convincing initially, but TRAP THEM get behind it with such force that it becomes a beer-sloshing death and roll mosher reminiscent of Kvelertak at their evil-convivial best. “Ransom Risen” steals the show with its eerie atmospherics and blasting releases. There are also small experiments that mostly go well. The screams-and-drums outro to “Habitland” is beautifully uncomfortable. The filtered intro to “Let Fall Each and Every Sedition Symptom” sounds like that opening shot in the music video where you see the musicians playing through a window. The outro of the same song, in which brutish low-end grind digitizes and overdrives into an unrecognizable mess, is pretty cool too.
With Blissfucker, TRAP THEM have delivered another very solid collection of punishing songs that refuse to settle in any one genre. There are a lot of parts on Blissfucker, and it’s hard to find a truly bad one. However, it’s also hard to find anything truly innovative or superlative here. It feels like the clearly talented TRAP THEM have limited themselves a bit by using a such a restricted palette—working in black and white when they really could benefit by incorporating some color. Ugly and bitter are certainly well represented here, but some bolder contrasts or the development of a cohesive signature sound would go a long way in elevating TRAP THEM into heavy music’s elite.