Perhaps the most surprising thing about 36 Crazyfists is that they’re still going. After all, this is a band who rose during the ascension of nu-metal, found their way around it via mid-noughties post-hardcore and metalcore, and somehow managed dig their heels in deep enough to weather the implosion of all of those genres. It’s not as if they’ve been totally dormant for all this time, either; their work at the back end of the decade might not have done much for them, but 2010’s Collisions And Castaways actually managed to drum up some hype, and 2015’s Time And Trauma received some frankly shocking amounts of critical praise. And for a band who many would’ve delighted at using as the punching bag for nu-metal and metalcore’s downfall, that says a lot.
It builds up a lot of high hopes for Lanterns, especially with its more ambitious concept of beating adversity and rising up from one’s lowest ebb, something that 36 Crazyfists have become well versed in. Unfortunately, not a lot really comes from that. Maybe it’s the downside of building expectations up to such a degree, but Lanterns is disappointing on impact, with 36 Crazyfists wheeling out the alt-metal toolbox for a collection of tracks that really aren’t novel or memorable. In fact, this is probably the worst kind of album to discuss at length, the kind that rounds out to such a flat average with shallow lows but highs that can’t nearly make up for them.
That’s not to say that it’s entirely bad, as pieces of Lanterns do work in isolation and have potential if used in another context. The riffs on Wars To Walk Away From and Laying Hands don’t have the greatest amount of texture or vibrancy but there’s enough blunt, metallic bludgeon in 36 Crazyfists’ arsenal to hit with a decent amount of force. The guitars are probably Lanterns‘ most impressive feature, as they at least deal in the sort of crunch that’s always done this band a lot of favours. What’s even better is when they’re pared back to let a darker sense of atmosphere flow through in Dark Corners or especially Where Revenge Ends, stripped down to a haunted acoustic line with only a few touches of electric guitar and the sort of hollow mix that lets Brock Lindow’s deep, creeping vocal work to its greatest effect.
But really, Lindow can’t be given too much credit here, as he’s easily the weakest link when Lanterns is viewed as a whole. At his best he can unleash some screams to rejuvenate things when they begin to flag, but more often than not, there’s a lack of control to his vocals that causes them to slide around with little real stability. Take a track like Damaged Under Sun, for example; it’s not exactly a totally unmanageable track with a heavier, more mid-paced charge, but get to the chorus and Lindow is totally falling off the rhythm, and the whole track pretty much bottoms out from there. Lanterns as an album doesn’t pack in the greatest variety as it is, and with a vocal performance that struggles to find the necessary synergy to work with even that, it leads to an album that, even on a fundamental level, feels uneven and lacks the reinforcement needed to even scrape a pass.
The frustrating thing is that Lanterns is so close to working as well. It wouldn’t be anything spectacular, but at least if it could get its individual components working in tandem, there could be something that would stick. Instead, there’s little here that fits together, and as such, it’s an album that runs together and just feels sloppy overall. There’s definitely appeal here, enough for any diehard 36 Crazyfists fan to get a solid amount of enjoyment from it; for anyone else, though, that appeal is likely to be a lot more limited.
For fans of: Papa Roach, Still Remains, Deftones
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Lanterns’ by 36 Crazyfists is released on 29th September on Spinefarm Records.