Album Review: TRAP THEM Blissfucker
Starting off as a fairly prolific crust/sludge quartet from the Pacific Northwest, Trap Them began getting a little leaner in their output as they gained popularity, and the road seemed reluctant to lead to home. No one expected, however, that a full three years would lapse without so much as an EP or split 7" to act as placeholder in order to tide the band's fans over. Here we are, though, having weathered the long hibernation and – on the cusp of another dirty black summer – here comes the curiously entitled Blissfucker.
I suppose it would be only fair to point out that Trap Them have also enhanced the complexity of their compositions in a manner roughly commensurate with the troughs in recording output. This improvement in songcraft has been frankly kind of necessary, as a contemporary listen to material from that fast-moving 2007-08 period show a highly competent band that is nonetheless a bit too reliant on that familiar Kurt Ballou production.
The band haven't so much transcended Ballou's production as grown into it, though. "Organic Infernal" has a moody, off-kilter central riff that shows a group capable of more than just crusty, two-minute grease-punk anthems. "Bad Nones" teases for four full minutes, Chris Maggio's spare use of cymbals creating an unsettling, coiled snake sense of tension. That tension resolves in "Former Lining Wide the Walls", possibly the fastest, most breakneck tune Trap Them have recorded to date. Definitely a career highlight.
They wisely avoid going to that well too often. For many bands that wallow in sludge-laden hardcore, the tendency to go from fast to slow and foreboding can start to feel obligatory, much the same way the grunge-era bands couldn't resist utilizing the soft/loud dichotomy in seemingly every single song. If there are any fans who are not particularly smitten with Blissfucker, it will likely be dissatisfaction with the overall midpaced tempo, with the usual high velocity punk the band is known for on sparing display.
Those willing to invest in the material will find a celebratory sense of variety here, not just in terms of speed (or lack thereof) but also by way of more experimental song structures. "Ransom Risen" and "Savage Climbers" both have long stretches sans Ryan McKenney's vocals, though these instrumental passages are given over to atmosphere rather than the expected soloing.
If there's any further room for development, Trap Them may need to spread the love a bit and work with a wider range of producers. Nothing against Kurt Ballou, of course – he's one of the all time greats in the genre, sort of a metal Steve Albini – but there is still much about Blissfucker that too strongly resembles others in the Ballou stable, most notably Black Breath and High on Fire (the opening riff on "Gift and Gift Unsteady" is a dead ringer for the latter).
Nonetheless, being credible peers of some of the best bands in the business today is not the worst compliment that can be paid. Trap Them continue to develop substantially from one album to the next, and that's about all you can ask out of a band.