» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Learn to Let It Go
Law of Inertia

Rating: 7.5/10 ?

October 1, 2004
The last words of Learn To Let It Go are "Burn, motherfucker, burn." Nihilism never sounded so horrifying.

Simon Brody, the tortured lead singer for Vermont's Drowningman, screams the epithet in anguish after telling of a deathbed conversation with a woman with "the lights burned out behind her eyes" and "curses [that] lay on her dying lips in her last mouthful of air." And that's not the worst of it. Just before she expires, perhaps having taken her own life, "She said 'You're killing me'" to that person that wronged her and turned her into a shell of a human being.

If that doesn't make you take a good hard look in the mirror, nothing will.

One of the heaviest, most dynamic metalcore acts to ever grace the Hydrahead Records label, Drowningman is anything but easy listening. And that goes double for the previously unreleased material, all demo recordings, found here.

"Burning Buildings", the song that leads Brody to consider arson or self-immolation, or whatever other nightmarish scenario he has on his mind, is one of Drowingman's first recordings. It's grouped here with other songs from the band's first demo, including "Wellwisher", "Contagious", "Open Book Test", and "Kerosene", all of which possess that raw, unfinished quality demos often have.

Drowningman makes up for their lack of polish with blinding speed metal riffs and seamless tempo shifts that slow things to a crawl to introduce something akin to melody. It's here that titanic chords heave and ebb like rogue waves of sound, crashing against punishing drums and bass that seems weighted down with an anchor. Though hardly the band's A material, it portends of work that would become more fully developed and, therefore, more powerful on recordings like 1998's Busy Signal At The Suicide Hotline and the How They Light Cigarettes In Prison EP, or 2000's Rock And Roll Killing Machine.

The sequencing for Learn To Let It Go pushes those recordings to the back of the bus. Sitting up front are the ferocious opener "Weighted In And Weighed Down", with its rugged bass and huge, sharp bearclaws of guitar sound that simply maul you that segue into a hushed, melodic ending, and "Static Mouth", which projects math rock equations onto big, dumb power chords that don't know their own strength. The effect is dizzying.

On "Your Eyes Look Like Candy", Drowningman takes a different approach. Lyrics are delivered in a distorted, sinister whisper as twinkling guitar shines over a mid-tempo groove that's dark and forbidding, like mid-period Shiner. "Red", though, is Drowningman at its best, nailing down heavy blankets of layered guitar in a manner befitting of Hum over hurricane-force winds of rhythmic fury to try to limit the damage.

Inexplicably, Drowningman takes a detour into emo-core territory on "Kiss The Canvas" and "Where The Heart Is," and the results are a little bland, though the chaotic sirens of guitar lend the songs much-needed urgency, a la Thursday. What's missing is the sonic heft of Denny Donovan's guitar. By the time the package of initial demo recordings is introduced, Drowningman gets back to what it knows best: a surging blend of metal and hardcore stylings that demolish whole city blocks when the beat drops.

News that heralds the release of demo recordings for any band usually elicits two kinds of responses: one being a yawn, the other a drooling mouth. That guy with the overactive saliva glands, he's got to be a collector. They covet this kind of stuff as if it were lost treasure from a pharaoh's tomb.

The problem with demos is they usually sound truly horrible. The arrangements are almost skeletal, and the production is often so awful, it seems like the band was actually recording in a Campbell's Soup can -which is why the savvy consumer often begs off making such a purchase, even though the allure of hearing how a beloved group has evolved since the early days is tougher to resist than a plate of brownies. It's best to wait for a deluxe re-release, like Sonic Youth's Dirty. That way you get the good stuff, namely the original record, plus all the ephemera, like demos and live stuff that you want to hear, but only just to get a taste of it.

Of course, not every band has the financial backing of Geffen. The recently reunited Drowningman doesn't, so they've gone and dumped their unreleased material on the open market. It's supposed to set the stage for a full-scale invasion of new material that the band hopes to release next year. Usually, I'd say, "Buyer beware", and tell you to give that money to charity - which you probably should anyway - but in this case, the product is worth your hard-earned cash.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad



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