Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips has been known to dazzle audiences with the sight of his forehead dripping with fake blood, but Trap Them’s Ryan McKenney does him one better. Catch the frontman of the New Hampshire hardcore/metal outfit on a good night, and you’ll see his mug slathered in the real thing. That’s just the kind of intensity that Trap Them puts into their live shows, at the expense of physical well being. That grotesque site is a striking visual companion to the kind of bruising, high-speed musical menace the band stirs up. Listening to their albums may not literally assault the listener, but spend 30 minutes with one of their albums (which is about the average running time anyhow) and you’re likely to leave with the invigorating albeit tenderized feeling that only an aural equivalent to a fight club can provide.
Ferocious and unruly though Trap Them are, their songwriting skills have ascended to a spectacular new peak on third album Darker Handcraft. More than ever, the band’s melodies are more pronounced, their hooks sharpened and choruses more infectious than they’ve ever been. With production aid from Converge’s Kurt Ballou and new drummer Chris Maggio (ex-Coliseum) beating skins with the kind of precision that a viscerally thrilling and destructive band such as this requires, Trap Them have carved up their best album to date.
From the blistering d-beat launch of first track “Damage Prose,” the band blazes a trail through 12 songs so fast and beastly, one barely gets the opportunity to catch his breath. Yet for a band who clearly places speed and muscle at the top of their priorities list, Trap Them treads remarkably diverse ground on Darker Handcraft, interspersing their vicious death ‘n’ roll assault with moments that range from sludgy and murky to just plain catchy. The mosh-pit-engineered chorus of “Every Walk a Quarantine” erupts in the midst of hyper-velocity riffs, while “Evictionaries” struts and stomps with a rock ‘n’ roll swagger made all the more badass with the band’s merciless hardcore ferocity.
While “Evictionaries” sets a pretty high bar for the combination of catchy and vicious, “The Facts” surpasses that with a skewed, sinister groove and some unexpected touches of piano during its piledriving chorus. McKenney’s shriek of “I am that goddamn son of a bitch” is a truly inspired and satisfying moment in heavy music, and one with their highest earworm factor at that (and despite the lite profanity, their most FCC friendly!). Meanwhile, an eerie blanket of organ casts a funereal glow over “Drag the Wounds Eternal,” and “Scars Align” finds Trap Them trading in their explosive hardcore detonations for a churning, harrowing dirge.
Much like Trap Them’s previous albums, Darker Handcraft soars too quickly to wear out its welcome, but in the 30 minutes provided, the band makes more than efficient use of their time. Each of its 12 tracks, including the brief instrumental interlude, is a ripper, packed with jagged riffs and a massive and cathartic rhythmic force to back them up. Darker Handcraft is that rare, satisfying metalcore triumph that sinks its claws into the listener until it draws some blood.
Stream: Trap Them “The Facts”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.