Sometimes, people get carried away. They get so invested in the persona they’ve built up for themselves that they forget who they truly are—they begin to see themselves as invincible, undefeatable or even God-like. If you’ve been paying any attention to the presidential campaigns in the race for 2016’s upcoming election, you know just what I’m talking about before I even have to mention who I’m referencing. So what happens when it gets out of control? Well—obviously, they have to be cut down a peg or three—and the crushingly heavy Chicago beatdown act Drowning are just the ones to do it. With their debut full length record, Egotrip, Drowning manage to embody all that is Chicago—combining non-stop energy with bitterness and blistering aggression to start swinging on the listener from the first second, stopping only once the last song has finished. With ignorant, angry lyricism thrown at the listener with catchy vocal patterns atop raunchy, ruthless musicianship, Drowning’s Egotrip isn’t just the beatdown release that 2016 albums will be measured against–it’s the beatdown release that defines the genre’s past, present and future.
Egotrip is the instrumental equivalent to taking a shotgun round to the chest—only instead of rock salt or stew pellets, pure, uncut cocaine melts directly into your mangled flesh. Constantly moving with the force of a freight train and the speed of a Ferrari, Drowning are as driving and energetic as they are instrumentally diverse. Tracks like the opening number, “Dead End,” as well as the album’s lead single “Hollowed” feature bouncy, but downtuned slam-tinted heaviness—where the track climaxes with quick, steamrolling percussion from Eddy Flores, paired with muddy, murderously heavy chugs from guitarist Michael Robinson and bassist Ryan Kramarz. Meanwhile, the album’s title track, “Egotrip,” as well as “Corrupted Youth” and “Speak True” borrow more heavily from traditional hardcore, where the former sees Robinson sneaking more metallic fretwork into the mix, just as “Speak True” is a bolder, catchier track where Flores infuses his fleet-footed two-steps and slams with hints of hip-hop to ensure the track is catchier than the common cold. No two tracks on Egotrip are truly the same—except the fact that they are practically all equally catchy. Drowning manage to effectively come up with as many takes and styles of beatdown as they feature different guest vocalists: giving their debut full length a sound that is as diverse as the streets of Chicago, minus the clutter and with (more) bitter, hostile aggression.
Drowning don’t lose any of the momentum gained by their mammoth musicianship when it comes to their vocal dynamic either. Egotrip may be as tough as nails, but it is also a lyrical expose into the mind of frontman Bryan Grantz—who discussed politics in “No Convictions” as readily as he dedicates a song to his Chicago family in “Corrupted Youth.” Grantz knows no limits—this is as true of his lyrical diversity (something beatdown is not known for) as it is of his constant intensity. Even while sharing Egotrip with some of heavy music’s big names, Grantz refuses to give anything less than 100%, bringing attitude, ignorance, intensity and aggression to every track in an entirely different fashion than the last. “Speak True” sees him stepping up his game with local rapper Desmond Bailey (Baer C00n the Ewokk), while “Egotrip” has what might be the best guest vocalist feature beatdown hardcore has ever seen—as Lionheart’s Rob Watson knocks the hard-hitting anthem straight out of the park with a catchy, gritty hook that is sure to get lodged into the listener’s head. The point is simple—and going through every track’s vocal qualities would only be redundant: Grantz brings unbridled passion and unrelenting power to Egotrip, making every song memorable, masterfully lending his half-barked, half-screamed voice to every style Drowning’s musicians throw his way.
Egotrip is the product of careful, creative songwriting infused with an entire energizer factory’s worth of energy, topped off with pure passion; because of that, it never succumbs to monotony or mediocrity, no matter how many times the listener blasts it. Matt Honeycutt’s harsh ending to “Dead End” hit just as hard on the fiftieth play as it did on the fifth—and Ruse’s JL Luzietti’s part takes what may have been the most “average” track (using that term very loosely) and makes it excellent, finishing the track with a blackened, gritty atmosphere uninhibited by the five-hundred horsepower engine the song kicks off with. For a genre whose albums tend to wholly lack memorability and replay value, Drowning have both with enough to spare. More than just a collection of songs to slam heads to, and much more than a series of mosh-worthy anthems, Drowning’s debut full length is a towering bastion to all that is beatdown—a release that could rightfully give even the most modest bands a full-blown Egotrip.
For Fans Of: Kublai Khan, Lionheart, Madball, Desolated, Demolisher
By: Connor Welsh