As the weather takes a turn I often am reminded of my formative punk years. Doubling down on that sentiment, I’m enjoying hearing some quality punk releases by my friend and former band mate Jared and his label Sore Ear Collective. This brings us to the matter of a new record from Drowse titled “Dance in the Decay”. Drowse is a hardcore band hailing from Philly PA, and it is not lost on me that this record has an apt title for these times. The importance of finding some sort of happiness and entertainment has probably never been more important in most of our lives. So, onward to the sound.
“Pleasure” begins and ends with some feedback laden space with some vocal samples intertwined. A mess of dirty high-pass drum and guitar leads info a familiarly paced half time hardcore feel, complete with floor Tom chugs and tri-tome intervals. This eventually goes on to dance back and forth between a breakneck double time section and the former half time time feel, before devolving into the aforementioned effect laden outro. This transitions seamlessly into the blast beat powered 40-second ranger titled “Penance”.
A brief blast beat appearance gives way to somewhat of a 90s skate rhythmic feel, which then goes on to occupy space more similar to the previous track, thus demonstrating threads of conceptual continuity between the two. “Civilization” comes out with a breakneck punch to the throat, with frenzied splashes I’d buzz saw chords and guttural screams. The speed finally gives way to a dive bomb guitar beat down section, with some nice bass impact felt particularly during this section. An abrupt ending leads to a smooth fadeaway, harkening back to Carmelo Anthony’s classic DC Hardcore phase. DC nuggets can help you get interested in so many new things!
A wall of feedback squeals brings “Tanzler” into and interestedly places groovy rock space, which of course inevitably leads to some breakneck hardcore. A walking speed hardcore groove artfully slips back into the groovy intro feel, which compounds with some other small nuances to make this one of the more interestingly written tracks.
“Mangled Mess” is a minute long murder session that features some slick breakneck to jogging transitions, before slipping into a diabolically whimsical 6/8 section before stepping aside for some distorted guitar string slides. “Missing Persons” report ticks a couple classic hardcore staples out of the gate, including the coveted bass intro and the time tested hardcore snare roll buildup. This track definitely features some of the most interesting little riffs and nuances, even giving off Dead Kennedys vibes from across the sands of time, soaking up a few nice single note guitar lines. A truly evil beat down 6/8 murder riff continues until the song culminates in probably the neatest section of the whole record. I will not spoil everything, as I think that it’s a nice surprise, but I will say that it definitely showcases some good playing and studio trickery. The tandem of “Mangled Mess” into “Missing Persons Report” lends itself to a.... colorful narrative that is not lost on this listener!
“Domesticated” starts out with some floor time thumping chug riffs. The song remains in this space for most of the track, save for the briefest of brief freak out hardcore ending. “Self Destructive” alternates between breakneck and chugging speeds, while calling back to the one note guitar melodies of previous tracks. The second half of the track features some creepy effect-laden guitar work almost reminiscent of 80s production, providing some well deserved sonic contrast.
“Shattered Ego” begins with a wall of buzz saw guitar and UK style gutter riffs, before faking a slower breakdown and speed running into a faster section that features some dissonant high note patterns from the guitar. Screeching feedback gives way to “Expressions” which features some manic switching between half time and full time punk grooves within measures of each other. This effect is counter balanced with a more mid-tempo middle that features more of the screechy guitar work, and eventually returns to top speed before devolving into a blurry mess of feedback.
“Incapable” features a sneaky fake-slow intro before racing into breakneck speeds. The latter half of the song features another UK-esque pissed off walking down the street riff, complete with short guttural growls, before returning to top speed for a brief callback. “Dance in the Decay” is probably one of the slowest tracks on the record, and likely the most melodic. The vocals take a more post-punk turn, and the chord structure follows suit. The musical elements of the song more identify with a sad feeling rather than outright anger like the majority of this record. The title is indeed reflected in the music, as the track does include more elements found in typical “dancing music”. That said, this track does have it’s own punk identity, featuring a post-chorus punk freak out in at least two spots. All in all, this is a very interesting outlier on a quality hardcore record. I would recxomend this record to hardcore enthusiasts, and will thusly assign a score of 666 Danzigs out of 666. Now, join us for a little Q&A with the band!
EB: Provide a brief history of the band in the form of a historical set list.
Mike Bifolco - Guitar: Drowse started in 2015 with Evan Zuk, myself, and whoever else we could find. We would always play sporadically because we could never find any drummers. Fucking drummers... The Drowse “Past Members” list is probably almost as long as Black Flag’s at this point. When Wyatt Oberholzer (who actually recorded the first Drowse 7”) and Tom Alderson officially joined Drowse in 2018 is when we finally started doing stuff. Drowse is one of those bands that has been around for a while, hasn’t really done much, but still has this odd following. I feel like a lot has to do with this foreboding vibe Evan has created lyrically and artistically. It’s interesting that we never really toured or put out that much music, but then I go out of state and see people wearing our shirts. Drowse is a Cult...
EB: What are some of the most important influences, musical and otherwise, that came together to form the basis of this record?
Mike: I would say if Salvation was an east bay band.
Evan Zuk - Vocals: My influences were Salvation, Pig Destroyer, and Bauhaus.
Tom Alderson - Drums: I definitely hear Dead Kennedys in it.
EB: What is next for this band and the individual members?
Evan: Hopefully a post punk/deathrock EP for the band, pushing out more artwork, and maybe try a second band out
be easy, folks. stay spooky, stay weird, and stay evil.