I’ve grown tired of discussing the “heaviness” factor when it comes to rock music, so whenever I see something described along the lines of “the heaviest effort _____’s ever produced,” I cringe a little. Sure, there’s a niche for thumping and banging and thundering for the sake of it. But doing things for the sake of it rarely works, especially when there are so many other bands to choose from these days, and heaviness for the sake of being heavy just sounds obnoxious in the end.
In the case of 36 Crazyfists, however, I’ve always found a reason for the heaviness. There’s a crushing weight bearing down on this Alaska metalcore act and they, for the most part, convey a raw intensity that other acts could only dream of.
Collisions and Castaways, the band’s sixth studio recording, is a thunderous wave of snow-caked emotion. It’s a blizzard of grievances and reflections, culled from frontman Brock Lindow’s closet of mistakes and memories. And when things get this personal for the Alaskan band, turning up the amps to 11 is the only logical approach.
The record has somewhat of a drowning effect, as though Lindow is using the crush of guitars and drums to bury the past once and for all. He shifts and meanders through various vocal styles, from clean singing to gruff snarls to bellows from the depths of hell. He is as vicious as he is subtle, wavering at times and confident at others.
“In the Midnights” opens the album like a crack of sun through a Northern sky. Guitar, like the calm before the adamant storm, pulls through as the song picks up speed. Avalanching, the cut blends the band’s elements together into a towering roar.
Adam Jackson of Ohio’s Twelve Tribes and Raithon Clay of Plans to Make Perfect appear on “Anchor,” a pulverizing song that rolls seamlessly between ferocious verses and sluggish choruses.
Lindow tries on a little Marilyn Manson-esque vocals for the verses of “Caving in Spirals” and it’s an interesting fit. He seems aware of the inelegance, playing it to his advantage by amping up the theatrics over the song’s sparse arrangement. It’s a dramatic song, purposely so, and it blends well with the rest of the record.
I can’t help but applaud the adventurous spirit of 36 Crazyfists. Collisions and Castaways represents growth and a turn away from heaviness for the sake of it. There are the typical trappings of metalcore, sure, but the band is playing to its strengths as much as it is exploring its boundaries. A lesser band would have left the risk-taking behind in the snow.