It's always nice to hear a band taking a bit of a risk. Departing from the melodic metalcore style that has served them so well for the past 15 years, 36 Crazyfists have increased their ferocity on this fifth studio album, decreased the number of breakdowns and just generally gone More Metal. Hurrah!
The opening brace of In the Midnights and Whitewater, however, are pretty standard fare as far as 36CF goes: fast, chugging guitars, double kick drums and rapidly meandering melodies all merge into a meaty hook that you'll enjoy without loving a huge amount. Vocally, Brock Lindow roars and rampages through, before breaking into his clean, almost crooning singing voice. It's a more than acceptable introduction into an album, which after 2008's chart breakthrough The Tide and Its Takers is hoping to satisfy existing fans while still appealing to new ones.
That increase in musical violence is explored first during Death Renames the Light, where relentless screaming is impressively tempered by near-industrial guitar work. While the occasionally brilliant Anchors swerves close to DevilDriver territory, the plaid-shirted, greased-up swagger of Trenches has a crafty wink at Every Time I Die. Still, it manages to resolutely remain sounding like (a heavier version of) 36 Crazyfists.
That said, the band isn't afraid of settling down on the gentler side of the fence. With the instrumental Long Roads to the Late Nights and the wholly melodic Mercy and Grace, they explore other avenues, offering a vague respite from the brutal remainder of the album. Interestingly the closing song, Waterhaul II, is the follow-on from the closing track on their stunning 2004 album, A Snow Capped Romance. Is it in the same league? Nope.
The Alaskans have loitered menacingly in the shadows of so many more commercially successful bands for several years, but have never quite made the step up. They're not even a perennial support band; they've always just been there, doing their thing pretty well but never amazingly enough for everyone to sit up and take note above all the rest. Despite many a moment to recommend it, it's unlikely Collisions and Castaways will change that.
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