Trap Them keep trudging exact same metallic path, get sort of predictable with ‘Crown Feral’

I’ve talked before about formulas and how they can be good or bad for a band, depending on the situation. Having expectations met always is a nice thing, and it keeps you in that warm, tight cocoon where nothing ever changes and you can rest easily. But when does that become monotonous and start causing disappointing instead of comfort?

I think Trap Them may have hit that tipping point on their new, fifth record “Crown Feral.” Through and through, it’s a Trap Them record. It’s noisy, violent, brash, and unwilling to compromise. That last part might be the problem. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with the record, and those who want it by the numbers will be satisfied, there’s a sense of too much comfort sinking in. What a weird thing to say about a group as maniacal as Trap Them. These 10 songs feel like ones you’ve heard from the band before. Most of them follow a similar pattern, they’re all about the same length, and you never walk away surprised at all. Maybe you’re thinking, “No shit, asshole. That’s the point.” That’s fine. But from a band that’s undoubtedly talented and frighteningly brash, “Crown Feral” feels like the band went to the well one too many times. Again, the songs themselves are fine. If this is your very first experience with Trap Them, you may differ from my thoughts. But five releases in, I’d like to see them take some risks and dig up new ground.

trap-them-coverTrap Them have been running full speed ahead since 2002, with their first full-length “Sleepwell Deconstructor” emerging five years later on the Trash Art! label. From there, they returned at a pretty steady clip, with “Seizures in Barren Praise” dropping a year later on Deathwish Inc., 2011’s “Darker Handcraft” marking their Prosthetic debut, and “Blissfucker” destroying lives in 2014. That’s not to mention their EPs and smaller releases along the way. The band—vocalist Ryan McKenney, guitarist Brian Izzi, bassist Galen Baudhuin, and drummer Brad Fickeisen—once again holed up with Kurt Ballou at GodCity Studio, and the result, as noted, is exactly what you’d expect. It does serve their immolated, self-destructive history well, if anything, and will cause bloody mouths live.

“Kindred Dirt” gets things started with noise, fittingly feral howls from McKenney, and some doom spilled into the concoction, as all of this chugs right into “Hellionaires.” There, smothering riffs and a ripping fury take hold, while dissonant guitars hang over portions of the track before demolition comes to claim souls. Guitars rise and wash out, while the back end is actually kind of catchy. “Prodigala” has drums stomping as hell is unleashed. One of the better riffs on the record then scrapes away, as the pace trucks, a simple chorus lays waste, and wild howls get trampled by the chaos. “Luster Pendulums” is speedy and raucous, a bout with total punishment, with heavy thrashing and guitars chewing scenery. “Malengines Here, Where They Should Be” is crunchy and heavy, with the pace grinding, the vocals stabbing, and the atmosphere starting to feel a little hypnotic, which is the first real twist on the album.

“Speak Nigh” continues into a blinding fury, with maniacal yelling, the band mauling, and the taste starting to feel a little samey. Things do change up on “Twitching in the Auras,” where McKenney’s vocals rip over a hanging storm of sound, giving this an injection of strangeness. It’s smudgy and ugly enough, but the extra weirdness they allow into the room does enough to make this one stand out in a choking cloud of smoke. “Revival Spines” is washed out at first, but then is launches into raspy growls, guitars cutting, and the track steamrolling. “Stray of the Tongue” takes things back to predictability, though the cut is short enough, built on bass slither and virulent vocals. Closer “Phantom Air” has a creepy start before guitars catch fire, the vocals lacerate again, and the band throws in a few curves for good measure, giving a glimpse that they’re capable of changing up this engine.

Trap Them might do well to pay closer attention to the paths Converge have trudged, in that they kept their base in place but also shook their bones and brains so that things didn’t grow stagnant. “Crown Feral” is just fine, and in a vacuum it likely would feel a lot fresher than it does here. Trap Them might want to think about shaking things up on record six and exiting their comfort zone so that the danger and volatility in which they excel could feel terrifying again. In the meantime, this is fine but not super exciting.

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