Being from the Baltimore area myself, I've been privileged enough to have seen Trapped Under Ice rise from their humble beginnings as one of our city's best kept secrets to the international hardcore mainstays that they've become. Through the years, they have seen their share of line-up changes and set-backs... but they have obviously used those experiences to temper and fine tune their craft. With their demo and first 7", you learned very quickly what it is that this band was was all about. You were slapped across the face with the raw reality of life in Baltimore as seen through their eyes. Then we saw 2009's Secrets of the World. This was a record where the band seemed to be more comfortable in their own skin, now with their most consistent lineup to date. The songs were well written, unique and very hard hitting both musically and lyrically. The popularity garnered by the release of this record allowed them to tour the world several times over... but here we are 2 years later... eagerly awaiting something more... something fresh. Big Kiss Goodnight is just that.

This record is the cumulative result of the maturation process through years of touring and writing together as a unit as well as the pooling of their collective influences as a source of inspiration. On this release, you will find all of the telltale TUI trademarks like the driving grooves and heavy 90's NYHC influence... but more apparent this time around is the element of punk rock. While most of the songs found on this release are quite obviously written by the same group that release the previous records, but there is more emphasis on melody, accents and dynamics. It is incredibly refreshing to hear an established band reach back to their influences while at the same time, progressing as song writers and performers.

All facets of this record are undeniably top-flight. The drums and bass are highly in tune with each other, providing the heavily groove laden backbone that we've all come to know that this band is capable of. Layered above the unwavering foundation of the rhythm section is the trademark guitar tone of TUI. As you have undoubtedly come to expect, the guitars are dense and quite textured as with previous efforts... but this time around there is a new found focus on melody. This incorporation of a more "punk rock" approach to some of these songs is a breath of fresh air and really opens the door for even more sonic exploration on future releases. Vocally, this record is mostly in line with the previous release. Justice's style is very distinctive and mostly unchanged since you last heard him. There are several songs that offer a bar or two here and there of a more "sung" vocal... but don't mistake my words as saying that there is real "singing" on this record. Trapped Under Ice ain't croonin'.

The production on Big Kiss Goodnight is stellar. Behind the boards on this release is none other than New Found Glory's Chad Gilbert. When I first heard the news that he would be the man behind the scenes on this effort, I was slightly apprehensive. I am well aware of his pedigree and history in the hardcore scene, but I wasn't sure what his touch on TUI's sound would produce. As soon as I hit play, any apprehension I had was out the window. This record sounds incredible. Crystal clear and incredibly dense without being hyper-polished. All in all, I couldn't ask for more in a hardcore record.

The bottom line is that Trapped Under Ice just released a contender for hardcore record of the year. It is everything that you've come to expect from them and much more. I applaud them for reaching outside of the box and experimenting with their sound, all while remaining anchored to a tried and true recipe of rock solid hardcore song writing.

Don't sleep on this.