Can 'flaming' passion compensate for blatant unoriginality?
As metalcore goes, 36 Crazyfists are about as generic as it gets. They sound like heavier cousins of Finch or Thrice, and their structure of rousing melodic verses ascending into scream-based serenades is as predictable as the cover artwork itself: an oily heart burning. Don't expect the songs on Rest Inside the Flames, their third release, to be about much more than failed relationships and lovelorn loneliness. Yet there's a lot of emotional upholstery behind the voice of Brock Lindow, which is hard to deny in any circumstance. As utterly cliche-ridden as a line like "With that look in your eye / Knowing that you never looked so beautiful" sounds, it's performed with such eye-bursting intensity that you're willing to ignore it for the greater good of the number. They're known for being quite an intimate band, and that's part of how they've already built themselves a loyal following in the UK.
The tracks themselves, as a whole, pale in comparison to the giants of the scene -- Killswitch Engage, Lamb of God, Underoath. It's solo-less, guitar-driven post-thrash (although Steve Holt does throw in a screeching twiddle every now and then) whose low degree of technicality and shameless over-emphasis of dynamics makes the vocals -- or rather, how the vocals are delivered -- the saving grace... and the band knows it. So they underline that, too! Rest Inside the Flames is an effort that takes minimal absorption on the part of the listener to pick up, and its surprising consistency and turmoil is only second to its sloshy production values ("Felt Through a Phone Line"), which nearly ruin the four-piece's catchiness or eye for a good hook.
So, while Lindow and his bleeding heart want to be the main focus of the record, and while the rest of the band just gels with his alterna-singing-screaming shtick, "Elysium" seems determined to disprove that. Their last album was polished over by Dashboard Confessional's producer, and on this one they're working with the members of Killswitch themselves, whose versatility might well be the death of them, so it's understandable that they want to tip the scales more towards 'heavy' and less towards 'sensitive'. It's a bulk of screaming and abrasive offal, but, while it's fairly flashy for the approximate three minutes that its on, it rubs off as trying way too hard not to fit the protocol. Besides, when you've got so many songs alongside it that so tepidly do, why bother? "The Great Descent" is comprised mostly of bland emanations, and much the same can be said about "Aurora" -- while it's a pretty crossover ode, it just doesn't have the bite it needs to stay on solid ground.
Nevertheless, "On Any Given Night" has the added resolution it needs to make it a necessity if you decide to check out Rest Inside the Flames, and the album does lift towards the end. "We Cannot Deny" is easily the best of the bunch, a hard-hitter whose harmony is equaled only by its subtlety in transitions -- that's right, a subtle metalcore song! "In the Air" wraps up some loose ends, keeping the metallic bombast and Lindow's trademark fervor in hand, before "The City Ignites" perfectly closes the album. It's a raw acoustic, one that draws attention to Lindow's throaty Cobain-esque growl, and while he does sing cleanly (and does it well), he also sounds thoroughly depressed and apathetic -- which was surely the aim.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment about 36 Crazyfists' third release to Roadrunner Records, though, is the fact that the band can see themselves 'bowing gracefully out' of the scene in a few scant years, when in reality they've got so much potential to add to it. Brock Lindow is earnest enough as to be transparent, a quality that really speaks higher than the disc itself can (and probably makes it stellar when played live), and Steve Holt has a unique signature which can only come from thirteen years of experience -- that's old enough to put Trivium in diapers.
That leaves either the lyrics (phrases like "This is how it's supposed to be / Somebody better call a doctor" just aren't good enough to make the grade these days, boys) or the production team to become the scapegoat on Rest Inside the Flames -- they're working with second-rate gurus when they should be mustering the resources to work with masters. A 'graceful exit' isn't what either the band or their material needs -- rather, they need a moment of realization. In the meantime, this is recommended if a by-the-numbers hybrid of 'emo metal' sparks your interest. But if they can take the basic formula that makes this enjoyable, and push out from there, then they'll be something worth remembering. This is the beginning. Only the beginning.