CBRASNKE — pronounced "cobra snake" — are a Burlington hardcore band whose debut album, ...But first they must catch you, is inseparable from the tragic loss of their friend, drummer Collin Reynolds, who died in 2015. Reynolds, along with most members of CBRASNKE, belonged to As We Were, a fiery and precocious band that imploded as he was fighting cystic fibrosis. ...But first they must catch you was written during this time, and the result is cathartic and remarkably honest.
There is grief and anger, of course. But atonement is the theme that really emerges as the emotional core. The album is not just about facing death; it's about facing our own moral failures and having the courage to change. The lyrics are lean and haunting, full of short lines that evoke big pictures, and always more stoic than sentimental. It's also painfully confessional stuff.
This isn't a collection of journal entries, though. The album is built on serious songwriting that examines how we cope with death. It's nakedly raw but very creative and calculated, often using literary devices to find new angles.
"Roseabelle Believe" uses Harry Houdini's fascination with the afterlife as a frame for coming to grips with the permanence of loss. "Bethany," a standout track, introduces a fictional protagonist to depict the breaking point when grief finally begins to subside. Closing song "Watership Down" is a powerfully ambiguous anthem about survivor's guilt that only hints at recovery or transcendence.
Everyone in CBRASNKE has serious chops, and the gravity of it all shouldn't overshadow the fact that this is pure, ass-kicking hardcore metal. They sound confident at any tempo, from the blistering sprint of opener "Born in the wringer" to the grinding, Black Sabbath-like expanse of instrumental piece "Dyatlov Pass."
Sonically, the album is impeccable. The band recorded all instrumental tracks at GodCity Studio in Salem, Mass., a hardcore haven owned by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou. The vocals were recorded later by Urian Hackney (Rough Francis) in Burlington. Engineer Robert Cheesman is a seasoned professional, and every track sounds huge and heavy but radio ready.
...But first they must catch you is both a monumental tribute to Reynolds and a testament to hard-won personal growth. There are no easy answers or condolence-card clichés here, and, despite all the unflinching self-examination, it never lapses into navel-gazing indulgence or mere self-abuse. That's quite a tightrope to walk for a full-length album.
It will be interesting to see where future projects take this impressive young band. For now, its members are fundraising for a vinyl edition of their debut and booking a tour that should take them as far as Cuba and Central America. The fire they've got on tap could take them farther than that. Let's hope this dark chapter is just the beginning of a much bigger story.