Album: Absent Motion – EP
Music has a beautiful way of taking all of the feelings and energy of its surroundings and putting them into an accessible wellspring of force and fury—this is especially true of hardcore. Countless hardcore bands make their hometown a prominent part of their identity, wearing their home state on their sleeves. Breakout hardcore band Downcast have this down to a science. The quintet’s debut EP, Absent Motion marvelously snares the hardships and strife of living in metro Detroit, capturing the sentiment of crushing defeat and aggressive, embittered angst and combining it with an unstoppable, can-do attitude that is a staple of the Midwestern mindset. The result is a resounding, passionate display of raw, raunchy hardcore that makes up what it lacks in duration with desperate, frantic emotion.
Instrumentally, Absent Motion is a misnomer—as it is practically motion embodied. A sturdy testament to fast-paced, brake-for-no-one hardcore, Downcast launch at the listener with battering, punchy percussion and scrambled, dissonant fretwork that clashes to and fro calamitously, knocking the listener out of their chair. “Blue Collar” is a brilliant example, using a catchy, thrashy opening riff and straightforward percussion to strong-arm the listener into the mindset of a working man. However, even as “Blue Collar” begins akin to a thrash anthem, it doesn’t stay that way for long—as rolling, rapid double bass and bouncy, booming bass guitar drive the track into hardcore territory exemplified by the chug-friendly “Failure on Repeat” and the ambient, doom-and-gloom atmosphere of “Resentment.” The take home message is that Downcast provide archetypical mastery of a variety of instrumental styles, even if they don’t particularly create anything new or groundbreaking. “Blue Collar” is a perfect example of driving, metallic hardcore, just as “Resentment” or “Shadow Hands” capture moments of sludge and crust excellence. Absent Motion is a mosaic of enthralling hardcore musicianship that will keep the listener firmly engaged, but not necessarily engaged.
Where Downcast are instrumentally varied, they are vocally consistent. Absent Motion is home to an outstandingly controlled and constant gruff, half-shouted half-screamed yell provided by Trevor Giles. Giles provides a solid anchor from which the entire band can revolve around, drawing from a variety of distinct instrumental styles and connecting them all with the same bitter, brooding shout. Because of this, the thrashy “Blue Collar” hits just as hard as the punchy, punk-styled “Failure on Repeat.” While it might be easy to interpret Giles’ constant, monotonous shout as a negative, it is just the opposite. Were it not for Giles’ constant, crushing and throat-searing shout, Downcast would appear an indecisive act unsure whether they were destined for dark, doom-based sludge or fast-and-hard metallic hardcore. With Giles as the chain connecting the band’s various influences, Downcast are able to effectively link them both, providing an immersive experience for the listener.
Because of Giles’ ability to serve as an interstate between slow and fast or shrill and low, Downcast provide an experience as varied and unpredictable as Midwestern weather. As each of Absent Motion’s tracks fade into the next, the listener doesn’t know whether to expect a suckerpunch to the jaw or a baseball bat to the backs of their knees. “Blue Collar” and “Failure on Repeat” simply don’t know how to be subtle, instead forcing the listener to feast on a five-knuckle buffet. Instead, the slow burn of “Resentment” or the haunting atmosphere of “Shadow Hands” lingers, infecting the listener’s head and spine like meningitis, burning and wearing away at their sanity. The beauty of Absent Motion is that the listener doesn’t know what fate they will be met with—until they find themselves waist deep in it and it’s far too late.
If you’re a stranger to the hard heart and bruised knuckles induced by Midwestern living, or the immersive, expansive energy characteristic of Michigan hardcore, then acquaint yourself with Downcast. Absent Motion is a solid, stellar display of hardcore in a variety of forms, a figurative “sampler” of all that the state has to offer—even while it might cast itself as a Jack of all trades, but innovator of none.
For Fans Of: Misfortunate Sons, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Rzl Dzl, Terror
By: Connor Welsh