Trap Them’s 2011 Prosthetic Records debut “Darker Handcraft” was a watershed moment, not just for the band but for the entire metal world. Here was a rare thing in the contemporary aggressive music landscape, a band with zero aspirations towards prog, psychedelia or shoegaze. No blackening or death, no clean vocals or overblown solos, no orchestral or industrial elements. All of those things can be amazing when utilized correctly but it was a breath of fresh air at the time to be blindsided by a just plain thrashing, grinding, crusty hardcore band that knew what they wanted to do and did it extremely well, and I’ve been in love ever since.
“Darker Handcraft” saw Trap Them somewhat catchier and punkier than on their previous two more grindcore leaning releases, “Sleepwell Deconstructor” and “Seizures In Barren Praise”, but no less menacing and effective. Prosthetic follow up “Blissfucker” took a turn away from crust into sludge territory and didn’t make as much of an impact for me. It was a formidable beast for sure, but a somewhat formless and shapeless one, lacking the almost cinematic quality and sense of purpose seemingly instilled in “Darker Handcraft”. Now, “Crown Feral” splits the difference between the songwriting prowess of “Darker Handcraft” and the grit of “Blissfucker”, a course correction from a sequencing and pacing standpoint, a sleek engine of hellish sonic fury with all the fat cut off of it’s sharp, piercing bones. It’s lean and mean, 12 tracks where the longest, epic tempo switching closer “Phantom Air”, is 4 minutes, adding some powerviolence to their well-honed power and violence.
“Crown Feral” may be the most relentless record of the year, even more so that the mighty Nails’ crushing “You Will Never Be One Of Us”. After the hackle raising, near spoken word intro “Kindred Dirt” (Shades from “Fucking Viva” off of “Seizures In Barren Praise”), Ryan McKenney, Brian Izzi and co. hardly take their feet off the gas pedal, Which isn’t to say it’s all just an impenetrable wall of noise, fast and heavy doesn’t mean much without catchy and that’s never been an issue for Trap Them. McKenny’s breathless rasp is still one of the best in the business and Izzi’s riffs are as earwormingly clever as they are poundingly heavy. Which is to say nothing of the technical wizardry behind the kit of human drum machine Brad Fickeisen and the punishing low end of bassist Galen Baudhuin, easily discernable from the rest of the cacophony due to the genius of production deity Kurt Ballou.
Even when these guys slow down slightly, as on “Twitching In The Auras”, there’s no sign of relief, another dry throated tirade with a genuinely haunting musical accompaniment, and it’s immediately followed up beautifully by my favorite track on the record. The whole of “Crown Feral” hits like a fucking Mack truck, but “Revival Spines” is the perfect example of everything that makes Trap Them in general, and this record in particular, so special. It’s simply the best of what hardcore should be, metal’s heaviness and punk’s speed, whittled down to deadly perfection. If you want to let a neophyte know what’s up with good heavy music in 2016, play them this.
“Crown Feral” is Trap Them, and therefore aggressive music as a whole, distilled to its most urgent and destructive essence. Everything you need, and nothing you don’t.