Depending on how long you’ve been a metal fan, and when you first started listening to metal, you either love or hate metalcore. It’s a genre with a very divided reception that seems to have very little room for a “meh” opinion. It’s understandable why that’s so, though; considering the spectrum of bands that have come out of the so-called metalcore scene, from As I Lay Dying to Converge—the latter of whom I don’t really even designate as “metalcore”—reception is murky at best.
However, that doesn’t mean that there is bad music from that standard metalcore sound (i.e. melodeath-influenced metalcore, also called melodic metalcore). For every genre there’s always a little nugget of quality that comes out. And while there’re a lot of metalcore albums—and some really good ones too—I think that 36 Crazyfist’s A Snow Capped Romance deserves some kudos considering it’s been able to survive the last twelve years with solid popularity but also some fabulous musicianship.
Consider the releases in the hardcore scene in 2004; The Dillinger Escape Plan wowed us with Miss Machine; Converge released what was at the time their most experimental release, You Fail Me; Killswitch Engage dropped The End of the Heartbreak, which is considered one of the best releases from the Howard Jones era. There’s a lot of stiff competition that year. Yet, if you look on Rate Your Music, A Snow Capped Romance places as the fifteenth best metalcore album of 2004. There’s something to say about that.
36 Crazyfists has always been a band that hasn’t achieved huge popularity—placing fifteenth should make that readily obvious—but they have proven time and time again that solid songwriting and musicianship aren’t tied to any particular genre. What makes A Snow Capped Romance so good, aside from its stellar songwriting, is the way the band is able to convey heavy emotions without becoming melodramatic in the process.
Brock Lindow—the band’s vocalist—contributes to this album greatly with his odd style of singing that, admittedly, can be grating for some people not expecting near Fugazi-style vocals in a metalcore record. Every syllable that Lindow releases is dripping with tension and emotion, whether it’s his more melodic singing in “Bloodwork,” his spoken word parts (best heard in “Song For the Fisherman”), or his screaming. He cuts through the toughness that is traditionally hardcore music to get to the heart of the song, yet without completely letting the heaviness of a song die in the process.
On the side of instrumentation, I enjoy that 36 Crazyfists doesn’t completely take the standard, melodeath-inspired direction that we traditionally think of when we think of metalcore. While there are indeed some melodic moments, the band’s overall sound is more inspired from post-hardcore than metal. Steven Holt’s guitar doesn’t crush as much as add to the tension and atmosphere that Lindow brings into the tracks. Although he does use power chords and more traditional metalcore guitar work in tracks like “With Nothing Underneath,” it isn’t as if he’s repeating himself at all. More emotionally-tinged songs like “Skin and Atmosphere” or “Destroy the Map” use more clean notes and melodic licks in their verses before becoming distorted for the choruses. Holt makes every note count.
Lyrically, this album exists in a space between the dramatic and the banal, without giving into either one. While most of A Snow Capped Romance talks about personal problems, it’s kept abstract. Unusually abstract, actually—while we can get the gist of what a track like “Bloodwork” is about (to me, it’s about the challenges of sobriety), it’s all wrapped up in extremely poetic lyricism. “Here is your broken character, the one left of heaven / scissors cut him from the page, example” sounds beautiful, but it’s not something easily deciphered from the words alone. The music, in fact, has a lot to add to the meaning of the tracks in this album.
So, why is A Snow Capped Romance special? Why should I have even bothered with this article? For a lot of reasons, honestly; first off, it’s an album that proves that there is not only such thing as good metalcore, but it also shows that there can be distinction in the genre. While bands like Darkest Hour and As I Lay Dying sound very similar (in my opinion), 36 Crazyfists cuts their own sound out of the metalcore formula, taking little influences from bands here and there, but generally coming out with something incredibly singular and emotionally hard-hitting while not becoming pretentious in the process.
What’s more, it’s the beginning of a great career for 36CF. While their major label debut Bitterness the Star was well received—“Slit Wrist Theory” still remains a fan favorite to this day—A Snow Capped Romance launched the band into a comfortable position in the metal community. Sure, they weren’t as big or popular as some of the other bands, but 36CF followed this album with incredibly solid sequels. Rest Inside the Flames continues the emotional depth that Snow Capped had, with the band taking risks with their music that end up paying off in the end.
So, while not a huge album in terms of other releases that came out in 2004, A Snow Capped Romance remains important in the metalcore community. It’s a good example of a band who wears their hearts on their sleeves in both their music and lyrics, regardless of the commercial reception that that it may entail.