Review Summary: Does brutality and a change of tact rid 36 Crazyfists of the mistakes of old? Yes, but only for the most part...
Alaska's metalcore giants 36 Crazyfists have been a band of promise since their raw, powerful debut Bitterness The Star, and more notably since the excellent A Snow Capped Romance; an improvement upon it's predecessor in a cacophony of ways, proving itself to be as fine a sophomore release as any within the genre. Their early success however, rather than being a foundation from which they could further expand their sound, proved to be the peak of their energetic yet catchy formula. Further efforts Rest Inside The Flames and The Tide and It's Takers both patchily displayed the exuberance of yesteryear, providing fans with solid listens, yet teased the listener by leaving them ruing what might have been were it not for the filler tracks which ruined the flow of the albums, bringing no anger nor beauty to the frame. It is these mid tempo lapses in quality which 36 Crazyfists need to avoid in order to truly craft an album worthy of succeeding A Snow Capped Romance, which brings us smoothly to their fifth release, Collisions and Castaways.
The album kicks off in promising fashion, with the beautifully furious 'In The Midnights', a song that can proudly be labelled one of the best the band has ever written with the likes of 'Bloodwork'. A calming and almost morbid ambience breaks us in gently to Collisions and Castaways (somewhat misguidedly, it is soon apparent), something Brock Lindow and co. have refused to do in the past with the blistering openers of the previous two releases. The calm before the storm however, breaks amidst a torrent of abuse from Holt, with a dark spiralling riff accompanied by an invigorated Noonan demonstrating fine double pedal action. 'Death Renames The Light' is another prime example of the band showcasing its talents, and keeps the tempo flowing solidly, where in the past a mid tempo struggle may well have buried itself. In terms of mellow songs, the short instrumental midway through the album is welcome given the breakneck pace of the previous 5 songs, whilst the beginnings of the opening and closing tracks both provide a subtle calmness and much needed respite from the new, less forgiving sound.
Where the album falls below par, is with the attempt to recreate their style of old, namely 'Reviver', where chugging guitars and standard fills combine to craft something that could comfortably detach itself from Collisions and Castaways and find itself a snug niche between any track on The Tide and It's Takers. A similar fate is true of 'Caving In Spirals', an effort that sadly falls into the aforementioned trap of being mid tempo and tiresome, and not only suffers from little passion, but perhaps too from a lack of effort from the band. Whether included to 'bridge' this album from the last, or just because they simply can't avoid filler, it alters from the passionate style of the album and ultimately drags it down.
No 36 Crazyfists review can be complete without mentioning the vocal talents of Brock Lindow, the cornerstone of their success. The distinct shouts of anguish coupled with his ever-welcome familiar clean vocals improve since their fourth release, with the energy of old returning (for the most part at least) to help the band prevail in their venture into a heavier, more unrelenting sound. 'The Deserter' shows exactly why Lindow is considered one of the best in the genre, with growls complementing the metal inspired backdrop the rest of the band create to great success.
With their fifth release, 36 Crazyfists have finally broken the awkward formula they had followed and only just succeeding at repeating in their previous two releases. Instead, the implementation of a heavier yet paradoxically mellower sound; accentuating the brutality whilst simultaneously pulling the reigns in to greater effect and making the low key more appealing and memorable. But have they finally eradicated the mistakes of old? Yes, but sadly only for the most part, as Collisions and Castaways is not without it's faults. 'Reviver' and 'Caving In Spirals' fall into old traps and bring nothing to the table except for mild frustration, an all too common feeling that seems to be an unwelcome mainstay in 36 Crazyfists' catalogue.