posted on 3/2011 By:
Trap Them returns with their third full-length, the first for Prosthetic and the first with new drummer Chris Maggio, formerly of Kentucky hardcore outfit Coliseum. Continuing the trend of 2008’s Seizures In Barren Praise, Darker Handcraft sees Trap Them easing back on the dashes of grinding cacophony that characterized their earlier efforts. On Handcraft, pure blasting speed is most often sacrificed in favor of a still-furious d-beat / hardcore template, still dashed with Converge-esque noisy discordance, although not as relentlessly. Fortunately, though it’s not quite as ferocious its elder brother was and is, Darker Handcraft also continues Seizures’ trend of bashing you in the skull like a ten-ton hammer. And as an added bonus, as the tempos decrease, the band has further upped the ante on catchy riffs and memorable songs. Though they’re far from “selling out,” Trap Them has crafted a record that’s catchier than Seizures and almost as feral. They’ve managed to temper their grind-indebted noise violence, and they still balance it against hardcore in such a way that it possesses some of the best qualities of all styles. (And also, in Trap Them fashion, it possesses fleeting nods to sludge and the tones of death…)
Thankfully, that latter bit, the band’s penchant for a beautifully Swedish guitar sound, remains fully in fashion – that Stockholm buzz is brilliant; it’s welcome to these ears anywhere, anytime, and especially so here. And again like Seizures, Kurt Ballou’s production on Darker Handcraft is damn near perfect – the guitars are stouter than hell, the bass audible and gnarly, the drums punchy and solid, McKenney’s voice unhinged and raging. The discordant riffage also remains, although slower at times and mostly less meandering.
Whereas Seizures sidestepped Trap Them’s hardcore traits somewhat, tucking them beneath the Swedeath guitar tone and the grindcore attack, Darker Handcraft finds them in plain view. They’re there in the beat and chords of “Damage Prose,” in the bouncing final moments of “Slumcults And Gathering,” in the pounding drive and Misfits-paraphrasing lyric/melody of “The Facts,” in the opening quarter-note pulse and subsequent chug of “Manic In The Grips.” Grind fans fear not, however; in the far between moments when Handcraft still touches upon grindcore, it does so with skill. “Saintpeelers” kicks in with a blistering blast, alternating between bars of d-beat speed and full-on squalling grind (or grinding squall), and stands as both the album’s most downright violent moments and one of its best.
Amongst the chugging and screaming and blasting, only the drifting “Drag The Wounds Eternal” fails completely, the album’s sole misstep. With its chiming guitars and sudden shift towards a menacing but almost post-rock atmosphere, it’s likely meant as a respite from the fray, but it achieves only in ending the album prematurely, with one song yet to go. Not to chain Trap Them to their core attack, but the sudden mood shift feels out of place and more unfortunately, “Drag The Wounds Eternal” goes nowhere and adds up to nothing. Whereas grindcore can get by with one idea in a short stretch and call it a song -- grind is in fact largely characterized by that approach, which can make it a bitch to fully appreciate – this type of lilting post-whatever needs to build, to ebb and flow, and “Drag The Wounds Eternal” does not. It’s an interesting aside at best, an intro to emptiness, a good start to no end. But one lesser track doesn’t sink the whole album, of course, and Trap Them rebounds somewhat in the mid-paced power of “Scars Align,” which isn’t one of the better tunes on Handcraft, but fares better for the blandness that precedes it. Neither is a standout, and one is a strike-out, but either way, subtract “Drag” from “Scars” and the album would be better, would end properly and effectively, if still not brilliantly.
All in, though some fans may decry its shift towards a more traditional hardcore punk approach as a step backwards, Darker Handcraft succeeds far more than it falls flat, and though the band has noticeably scaled back the frenzy, Trap Them remains one pissed-off quartet, a grand example of genre-melding chaos done right. Darker Handcraft will not be my Album Of The Year (hell, it’s already overshadowed by Rotten Sound and Vreid), but it’s still a suitably ugly punk/noise/grind (/Swedish death/sludge) beast and a damn solid contender for the latter half of my top ten, nonetheless.
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