REVIEW: Downswing – Dark Side of the Mind [EP/2017]

Artist: Downswing 

Album: Dark Side of the Mind – EP  


Some people lead blessed or privileged lives where there are never any true obstacles that need overcoming—no major traumatic events, just smooth sailing. Some people are just goddamn lucky.  

Then there’s everyone else—everyone who is subject to the unpredictable ups and downs of life, fickle as they may be. Any of those people will tell you—hell, they’ll show you—that life is 5% what happens to you, and 95% how you react. How you take the punches life hurls at you and ride the downswing until it takes you back up to the top. And if you have any doubt about that, then you probably aren’t aware of Albany-based hardcore band-turned-movement, Downswing. Formed from the ashes of previous bands and hardened by the closest thing to hellfire that exists on earth, Downswing and their punchy, bold, catchy and creative blend of hardcore, punk and a uniquely New York mindset have crafted an East Coast movement aptly called Swingstyle—one word that described the maelstrom of intensity Downswing offer to a tee.  

Downswing do little on their debut EP to create their own genre or carve out a new sound—rather, they take a punk-based, hectic hardcore foundation and add their own styles to the mix. At the band’s relentlessly beating heart is percussionist Nick Manzella—who doesn’t really know the meaning of the word “chill.” Every second of Downswing’s breakout EP is explosive, with Manzella’s energetic and intense drumming punching the listener in the face with every sharp, snappy hit of the snare. Songs like “Immolate” offer the closest thing the listener gets to a rest, with mere seconds of Manzella taking a breather between bouts of swift and splendid percussive expertise that blends punk with hardcore and hints of darker, more aggressive and moody metallic elements to add both edge and density. Where Manzella leads the instrumental charge on Dark Side of the Mind, bassist Brandon Jared is always at his side, capturing the hectic and ceaseless energy of his live performance with a groovy, grisly and snappy low end that coats Manzella’s kick drum and toms like molten tar. “Bitter” does an excellent job of this, as does the ten-ton track “Immolate.” However, the introductory track, “Hell,” favors the band’s punkier influences over their barbaric tendency to bust bones and melt flesh. Here, Jared works excellently with guitarists Chris Arnold and Anthony Salvaggio to steep the listener in a punk-infused, pissed off and psychotic hardcore experience akin to Refused’s magnum opus or Madball’s meatier and more substantial tracks. Arnold and Salvaggio cover distinctly -core influenced moments of malevolent heaviness (“Immolate” and “Bitter”) while still proudly wearing their proclivities towards punk on their sleeves with “Hell,” giving them a dynamic appeal further amplified by their New Yorker roots that adds speed and catchiness to every track.  

Downswing’s ability to fuse hardcore, punk and a bit of other comes to a head with their vocal effort. Frontman Brett Colvin is able to let loose with a gritty and crunchy low growl—especially on “Disease”—yet maintain a somewhat shrill mid-range yell that serves as his mainstay. This middle range plays to the more energetic and quick tracks like “Hell” and “Enough,” where Colvin keeps excellent time with the quick, peppy candor of Manzella’s drumming—yet contrast against songs like “Bitter,” which is the outrageously heavy climax of Dark Side of the Mind. Here, Colvin makes more use of his range and gives the daunting, devastating instrumentation room to breathe and beat the living hell out of the listener. Then, there are songs like “Immolate,” which are absolutely nothing like 99% of contemporary heavy music. With an eerie but supremely catchy interlude that comes out of nowhere to segue into a spine shrinking and intense riff-driven breakdown, Colvin’s work on this track is surreal and, honestly, defies description—even in spite of my best efforts.  

Dark Side of the Mind is twisted, pissed, catchy and crushing all in one, truly doing its name proud. More than an Incendiary NYHC rip off, and unlike just about anything else you’ll hear come out of 2017, Downswing’s sound is truly best described as a movement—swingstyle. The fretwork from Arnold and Salvaggio is laden with filthy and furious riffs speckled by skin-splitting breakdowns, just as Jared’s bass and Manzella’s drumming provide a murky and gritty low end that captures the interests of music enthusiasts who are usually into something a little heavier. Downswing, East Coast Trash, Swingstyle—whatever you want to call it, there’s no denying that this Albany-based quintet are here to turn hardcore on its ear, and that’s exactly what Dark Side of the Mind does.  


For Fans Of: Stray from the Path, Madball, Incendiary, Refused 

By: Connor Welsh