Twenty-Eight Days Later
It’s been almost ten years since Trap Them hit the scene, but it feels like just yesterday that Ryan McKenny first shook us awake while barking at us to, “put on [our] mask, put on [our] gloves,” over an assault of clattering blast beats.
It feels like such a short span because, well, Trap Them haven’t exactly evolved in the fifteen years that they have been technically active. Seriously, you could hit shuffle on the group’s entire discography and you would hear fifty songs with the cumulative length of Zen Arcade (if that) that sound like they could have come from the same album. It is very Motorhead-esque, the staunch way in which they’ve planted their stylistic feat. Though they have only been around for one-fourth as long, Trap Them feel as fixed in cultural place as AC/DC, which is sort of what makes them great and the reason their fans seem so cultish and rabid. The group is a steadfast, reliable pillar of modern punk. The sun will rise in the East, the tides will ebb out, and Trap Them will continue moving at the same speed – boom-BAP b-boom-BAP – at the same earsplitting volume as always. And by the end of the day, their followers can always expect something similar from each subsequent outing: eight to twelve slabs of crusty, rotted hardcore full of divebombs, buzzsaws and bleak screeching, all helmed by legendary knob-twiddler and curator of underground phenomena Kurt Ballou. (Oh, and he’s also in Converge.)
All the classic Trap Them ingredients come together to form Crown Feral, an album that is virtually indistinguishable from any of their previous offerings– at mere first glance, that is. Everything seems normal when the album kicks off, if a slight bit stilted. Opener “Hellionaires” touts beefy, death metal bulkiness, stomping around at mid-pace. The old-school extreme metal influence of “Luster Pendulum” peeks through in the form of serpentine riffs that owe their existence to Chuck Schuldiner’s right hand. “Prodigala” wastes no time, firing hardcore double bass cannons straight out of the gate. It is this track that reaffirms that Trap Them are still up to their old tricks, still habitually peppering in those cheeky, slurred Greg Ginn-style guitar fills straight from “Police Story,” the sound of which is still dominated by the piercing HM-6 effect pedal, Trap Them’s trusty sonic six-gun. “Speak Nigh” plays it fast and loose as well – the boys pretty much throw everything they’ve got at the wall to see what sticks. The song trips over itself with thrashy moments, d-beat parts and their trademark slip-sliding blast beats. “Twitching in the Auras” tries out a bit of deep bellowing rather than the traditional tracheal shouts, and even features some clean guitar work that Trap Them’s disgustingly low tunings reduce to a muddy dirge.
Somewhere in the spacious, tranquil hang time of “Twitching,” the uncanny element that runs through Crown Feral suddenly hits you in the face. It becomes very clear that the latest Trap Them record is virtually bereft of the rapid, frantic grindcore influence that so heavily informed their initial releases. Compared to, say, “Day One: Insomniawesome,” there are such vast expanses of time between notes – yes, single notes, not jackhammered barre chords – in the numerous, brooding slow-burners like “Phantom Air.” It feels like Trap Them have grown slightly more comfortable with a pace that is less than a mile a minute than they were when Séance Prime came out, as if the band took a collective valium. Or maybe everyone’s favorite metallic hardcore punk band has, as the critics like to say, “matured.”
At the end of Crown Feral you will feel just like you did at the end of Seizures in Barren Praise: burnt out and headachey from about thirty minutes of near-nonstop bludgeoning. The good news is that Trap Them don’t seem to be dulling with time. Granted, Sleepwell Deconstructor literally hurt to listen to, but no band can be expected to maintain the exact magic of their first album forever. Fans will get exactly what they want and expect from the new record. Trap Them remain fixed in their own niche spot in modern hardcore – a bleak, darkened nest all to themselves; one that they have carved into the cliff face of modern heavy music. In doing so they can morph and change under our noses and in the shadows, filtering in and out different strains of heaviness as they please.