Trap Them has for years been in that beautiful sweet spot of great hardcore with a monstrous buzzsaw guitar sound. 2011’s Darker Handcraft pushed out excellent songs at high speed and sounded really good thanks to Kurt Ballou’s revered production chops, turning many a head and securing an already growing reputation for excellence. Three years later, Blissfucker readies for release, but with an entirely new rhythm section and a long silence from the band, what could have been cooking? Is Blissfucker just a Darker Handcraft redux, or has putting together half of the band again altered Trap Them beyond recognition?
In order, no and maybe. Gone is the continuous energy and uniformly breakneck speed of Darker Handcraft, but in their place Trap Them have inserted stranger, more experimental elements. There are big gaps in aggression, like the intros of “Organic Infernal” and “Bad Nones,” which favor saturated, sludgy riffs and minimal drumming, but the speed of “Former Lining Wide the Walls” proves that the band can still keep up with ridiculous tempos and deliver excellent performances in their new incarnation. As a whole, the album is surprisingly downtempo with respect to older material, which will be a disappointment for fans, but the right mix of Brian Izzi’s sludgy riffing, Ryan McKenney’s rough shouts, Ballou’s meaty production, and a creative rhythm section ensures that this is still very much a Trap Them album.
While the majority of Blissfucker jogs along pretty predictably, the real treasures of the album are closer to the end. The unusual structure of “Savage Climbers” makes for a great listen, despite its less than lively tempo, and “Let Fall Each and Every Sedition Symptom” ends the album at a rampant pace, but the best song is between them.
“Ransom Risen” is a strong contender for song of the year. Integrated with the end of “Savage Climbers” by way of overhanging guitar hold, its ominous, sludge-ridden riff creeps along, calling out across a great distance to awaken short bursts of earth-shaking anger. In these, Ryan McKenney unleashes a wordless roar across a few perfect seconds of explosive drumming and simple but crushing guitar work. The sequence repeats itself twice before the lead transitions to a giant, Entombed-style buzzing guitar and fades out. At four minutes and twenty-one seconds long, it’s years too short, displaying the hallmark of excellent grind writing while not really being a grind song.
The downside of “Ransom Risen” is that when compared to it, the rest of the album seems pretty lackluster. It’s the moment when everything comes together and a simple, plodding song transcends mediocrity and defies expectations while still sounding like a Trap Them song. Most of this album just isn’t very exciting. There’s a chance that like Leprous’s Coal, the bearer of one of last year’s greatest songs, Blissfucker will grow on me big time after initially seeming lackluster. At the moment, though, this album is a bit disappointing. It’s also extremely loud, with a DR score of 5, and though the sound doesn’t suffer as much as one would expect from that compression, it’s difficult to listen to at full volume.
While the years certainly haven’t weakened Trap Them, they have changed the band, and the end result is an album that, while certainly not devoid of what makes the group good, has neglected the speed and energy that fans have grown accustomed to. There’s an excellent song, some good songs, and a lot of songs that are just ok, and that’s pretty disappointing in the perspective of the band’s previous output. Blissfucker is a good album in its own right, but it’s not anywhere near the quality that Darker Handcraft pointed towards.