DAILY RECORD: 36 Crazyfists

by | Sep 9, 2010 | MUSIC

36 Crazyfists – Collisions And Castaways (Ferret Music)

Having been a band for over fifteen years now, it seems that Alaskan metalcore foursome 36 Crazyfists have accepted their lot in life. Downgrading from Roadrunner Records (where they were labelmates with Nickelback), who released their first two LPs, to Ferret Music, whose most high-profile current artist is Every Time I Die, 36 Crazyfists have committed to being a cult act, seeking success under the radar and avoiding the temptation of commercial accessibility. Sadly enough, in 2010, it still seems that the path to success for heavier bands is through clean vocals and pop-influenced songwriting, but 36 Crazyfists went for that exact thing with their 2002 single “Slit Wrist Theory” and were branded nu-metal for their troubles. When their second LP, 2003’s A Snow-Capped Romance, came out, a friend of mine had to do a good bit of persuading to even get me to listen to it. As it turned out, I loved it, but I think even at that point, 36 Crazyfists were moving away from tailoring their sound towards commercial accessibility. Having now reached their fifth LP, they’ve completely rejected concerns about what will or won’t get their album a high chart position, in favor of sounding like nobody but themselves.


36 Crazyfists – Collisions And Castaways (Ferret Music)

Having been a band for over fifteen years now, it seems that Alaskan metalcore foursome 36 Crazyfists have accepted their lot in life. Downgrading from Roadrunner Records (where they were labelmates with Nickelback), who released their first two LPs, to Ferret Music, whose most high-profile current artist is Every Time I Die, 36 Crazyfists have committed to being a cult act, seeking success under the radar and avoiding the temptation of commercial accessibility. Sadly enough, in 2010, it still seems that the path to success for heavier bands is through clean vocals and pop-influenced songwriting, but 36 Crazyfists went for that exact thing with their 2002 single “Slit Wrist Theory” and were branded nu-metal for their troubles. When their second LP, 2003’s A Snow-Capped Romance, came out, a friend of mine had to do a good bit of persuading to even get me to listen to it. As it turned out, I loved it, but I think even at that point, 36 Crazyfists were moving away from tailoring their sound towards commercial accessibility. Having now reached their fifth LP, they’ve completely rejected concerns about what will or won’t get their album a high chart position, in favor of sounding like nobody but themselves.

Where A Snow-Capped Romance was the sort of emotionally-driven melodic metalcore that bands like Hopesfall and Underoath were making hay with in the early part of this decade–and don’t get me wrong, it was a really good example of that style–Collisions And Castaways seems far less indebted to contemporary goings-on in the metalcore community. That’s not to say that 36 Crazyfists have created a wildly original sound on this album; their influences are clear. However, what keeps it interesting and free of cliche is the way that influence is combined. The midtempo intensity of recent American metal bands, such as Lamb Of God and Chimaira, comes through on many of the songs here, especially on opener “In The Midnights.” This album is unlike earlier work by 36 Crazyfists in that it focuses on heaviness, spending more time on pounding, distorted riffs and screamed vocals than it does on clean vocals and melody. That’s especially true on the first half of the album, which also features the driving “Anchors.” This song’s verses are chugging, thrashy, like a callback to the late 80s crossover era. At other points in the same song, they demonstrate the influence of a slightly later hardcore era, alternating the occasional clean-vocal chorus with powerful mosh breakdowns that would be right at home on an early Earth Crisis record. Meanwhile, the rock n’ roll groove riffs that are incorporated with heavy chugging at other points on the album might be considered reminiscent of aforementioned labelmates Every Time I Die, were it not for the fact that Every Time I Die uses these riffs to such diametrically opposed purposes. Their heavy, midtempo rock n’ roll grooves are used to indicate swagger, but 36 Crazyfists use these riffs to create an atmosphere of swampy dirge, much like Pantera did on prime-era albums like Far Beyond Driven.

Even the clean-vocal sections, at least on the album’s first half, sound heavy, due to the dark minor keys in which they are played. However, the more melodic sound that 36 Crazyfists have previously been known for does show up on two songs, presented back-to-back towards the end of the album. The first of these two tracks, “Reviver,” appears to be the album’s first single, and it is much better suited to radio airplay than most of the other tracks on Collisions And Castaways. Nonetheless, while it is missing much of the heaviness that infuses the rest of the album, it makes up for it with a powerful, emotionally-driven chorus that combines distorted guitars with an excellent, overtly melodic sung chorus, one of the few on the album. This song then flows straight into “Caving In Spirals,” which has more of a ballad feel but features melodies just as powerful as those on “Reviver.” These two songs combine to create the emotional centerpiece of the album. Indeed, just as singer Brock Lindow declares, on “Caving In Spirals,” “Years go by and it’s what I’ve learned, that no one’s getting out alive;” or on “Reviver,” “I couldn’t remember what I used to be;” he screams out similar sentiments on opening track “In The Midnights:” “I wanted to believe in everything I’m after, but I was drowning in the hell that I raised.” In a recent interview, the vocalist made explicit the concerns that are merely alluded to on the album. “All these years, I have been saying [that] if you quit making some of these mistakes, your life is going to change… I thought I was doing it myself, but I wasn’t. I really wanted to talk about what has hampered progress for me in my life.” These personal demons are given metaphorical form on “In The Midnights,” as Lindow screams out, over and over, “I saw the dead rise!” But it seems he is more literally truthful when he refers to “a bottle to get by” in the song “Mercy And Grace.” Collisions And Castaways is full of imagery depicting water as a malevolent, life-ending force, but it seems this may just be a metaphor for a liquid of another type.

Or am I reading too much into things? No matter. The important point is that the latest, and possibly greatest, album from 36 Crazyfists offers quite a bit of food for thought. Certainly an album for dark, difficult times, it can also act as an inspiration to move beyond personal struggles. Or failing that, it is if nothing else a heavy, powerful metallic hardcore album, one of the best I’ve heard this year. “We’ve always wanted to have a career with this,” Lindow says. “[To] make music that was maybe not for everybody, but for a certain group of people [to whom] it meant a great deal.” Earlier attempts by 36 Crazyfists to achieve commercial accesibility may not have been successful, but it’s much more important for bands to make worthwhile music that reflects their true sound. 36 Crazyfists have done that on Collisions And Castaways, and it is that achievement, rather than any nu-metal missteps, that will ultimately be their legacy.

Marilyn Drew Necci

Marilyn Drew Necci

Former GayRVA editor-in-chief, RVA Magazine editor for print and web. Anxiety expert, proud trans woman, happily married.




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