Artist: Drag the Lake
Album: Live Together Die Alone – EP
In today’s world of heavy music, to stagnate–to fail to grow and progress, that is—is to die. Maturation and development from release to release is a must if you want to reach new listeners and break free from a small scene defined by close friends and soft critics. So even with the sinister tone set by Drag the Lake’s latest EP, don’t let the name fool you. Live Together – Die Alone isn’t the same pointed, lacerating display of deathcore listeners experienced on the band’s breakout EP, I Am Violence. Rather, the band have broadened from brutalizing—albeit slightly cliché—deathcore into something much harder to categorize. With a renewed emphasis on harmonization and groove and the band’s pre-existing penchant for punishing heaviness and brawl-inducing breakdowns, Live Together – Die Alone is a much more creative and comprehensive sound from these Toronto Titans—a sound that will see them losing members of their existing fan base at the risk of branching out and playing music that speaks to the maturation of the band as a whole.
Just because the skin-peeling blast beats and grisly, tremolo-picked chugs are (mostly) a thing of the past doesn’t mean there isn’t a veritable cornucopia of musical mastery for the listener to immerse themselves in. Percussionist Curtis Hircock still has several tricks up his sleeves—kicking off the wicked “To the Crows” with insane speed and intense blast beats that will leave trenches carved into the listener’s head. Likewise, his rollicking, ruthless patterns throughout “Dead Friends” are simultaneously catchy and crushing—forcing the listener’s head to band until their neck can no longer bear it. Here, Hircock works excellently with bassist Brian Bolt, who provides a deep, dense low end that steamrolls the listener. Bolt bounces and grooves throughout “Dead Friends” as well as the energetic anthem “314” and the slightly more melodic “Carcossa,” keeping a constant foundation of firm, fluid bass atop every beefy thud of Hircock’s kick drum and each pound on his resonant, looming toms. With a groovy, fluid low end established, the rest of the instrumental element on Live Together – Die Alone is the work of guitarist Chris Pyrsos. In short, Pyrsos is a dynamo—his melodic, melancholy grooves on “Carcossa” are stark contrasts to the intense, scalding riffs of “314” and “Dead Friends,” which are just subtle enough to allow his solo in the band’s lead single, “Forked Tongues” to truly shine. Dominating the release with everything from ethereal atmosphere (at the end of “Carcossa”) to straightforward deathcore fare (“To The Crows”), Pyrsos works brilliantly with Hircock’s hurried, hefty drumming and Bolt’s sturdy bass to create a solid instrumental dynamic that towers above the works of Drag the Lake’s peers.
If, as a fan of I Am Violence, you are afraid that Drag the Lake’s emphasis on musical variety means a softer vocal element with softer lyrics, you’re dead wrong. Live Together – Die Alone may be groovier and less “brootal,” but the voice and lyrics of frontman Michael Hewat are anything but. “Forked Tongues” and “Dead Friends” are two excellent examples—with the chanted, catchy refrain “backstabbing fucking son of a bitch” ingraining itself into the listener’s head, or the intense and sinister ending to “Forked Tongues” or “To the Crows” serving as testaments to Hewat’s preserved ability to spew forth visceral, harsh hatred, Drag the Lake are still very much out for blood. Even the gritty, earthy singing at the end of “Judgement” finds a place within Hewat’s arsenal of aggression—although it still feels slightly out-of-place, even in the context of the band’s rejuvenated sound. With “Judgement” and it’s odd bridge aside, Hewat’s vocals are raw and ruthless from the start of “Disgust” to the end of “To the Crows,” giving listeners plenty of misanthropic one-liners and passages to feast upon.
Live Together – Die Alone is an excellent example of a band switching things up to extraordinary effect. Much in the manner that the UK’s Martyr Defiled dropped “traditional” deathcore like a bad habit on In/Shadows, Drag the Lake kick their old, worn-out sound to the curb in an effort to make music that truly reflects the band as a cohesive unit. Are there missteps? Yes—like any band adopting a new style, there is still evidence of a learning curve that needs rounding out. A majority of this is evident in “Judgement,” which features a bland cleanly sung chorus and boatloads of build up without much in the way of a veritable “climax.” But where “Judgement” falls short, tracks like “Dead Friends,” “314” and “To the Crows” far exceed their mark, becoming tracks that will become crowd favorites in no time. Where many might be quick to ditch Drag the Lake (especially at the mention of a cleanly sung chorus), they’re missing out on some of 2015’s catchiest and grooviest heavy music—allowing themselves to be the real victims of their quick and harsh Judgement.
For Fans Of: Falsifier, Martyr Defiled, Beacons, Structures
By: Connor Welsh