AMERICAN BAND “We’re not the type of band that would practice every week if we lived in the same place,” says Ryan McKenney.
Hardcore cribbing from metal is hardly new territory. At least, according to Trap Them vocalist Ryan McKenney. "In the '90s, you had hardcore kids discovering At the Gates," he tells me, referring to the explosion of Göteborg-death-metal-influenced metalcore that sprang up around Massachusetts with the likes of Unearth and Overcast. "And now it's Entombed from the early '90s."
Trap Them guitarist Brian Izzi wanted to incorporate that buzzsaw sound into his music long before he and McKenney met. That was a decade ago, when they were both working at Newbury Comics in Salem, New Hampshire. And though it's a sound they've been at since Trap Them's 2007 album, Sleepwell Deconstructor, crowds weren't always receptive. "The first few tours we kind of were fish out of water," says McKenney, contrasting hardcore crowds puzzled by the band's death-metal riffs with the reception they've had on more recent jaunts around the world.
Yet though different strains of extreme music have meshed closer in recent years, Trap Them were once again out of place in the midst of last month's European tour in support of Finnish grindcore band Rotten Sound. They were booked for Sunn 0)))'s curated day of the Netherlands' Roadburn Festival, but McKenney says both band and promoter "weren't really sure how we'd go over. The promoter told us we were Roadburn's first loud and fast hardcore band."
Since 1995, Roadburn has been the fest for doom metal and acid-drenched Sabbath worship at 33 rpm rather than the d-beat and metal in Trap Them's arsenal. But any anxiety dissolved once the band took the stage and treated the packed house to an hour of their now signature sound. Roadburn was just one stop on a tour McKenney described as "summer camp with loud noises" that saw Trap Them make their first visit to Scandinavia.
Long distances are nothing new for a band who sprawl across several states, designating home bases in New England, Seattle, Phoenix, and Louisville. It's an arrangement that began when McKenney moved cross-country just a few months after Trap Them formed. He describes the band on tour as "a weird bunch of dudes in a van with chemical imbalances," so the dispersal approach works perfectly. "We're not the type of band that would practice every week if we lived in the same place," he says from Seattle. In fact, he believes the distance between band members prevents studio tension and facilitates greater creativity.
Witness this March's Darker Handcraft (Prosthetic Records), which, from mosh anthems "Evictionaries" and "The Facts" to closer "Scars Align" (which sounds like something off Deathspell Omega's 2004 landmark, SMRC), spans hardcore, death, and black metal. After several releases with a revolving cast behind the drum kit, new drummer Chris Maggio, of Louisville's Coliseum, has brought the rhythm section up to snuff. Maggio's punk background created a nice interplay with Izzi during recording. "He just wants to accentuate the parts that really matter," says McKenney. He describes the result as Trap Them's most hardcore to date. Just listen to the huge headbanging grooves the band lock into throughout