DROPDEAD – Dropdead (2020)REVIEW

Blood dripping from above and shit reeking from below, how does life under foot and licking boots suit you? By the look of most people, their drooling performative idiocy and the way they’ve made such imaginary homes for themselves online, whatever generation I could claim as my own stopped tasting and kept polishing off the knobs of propaganda swung at them years ago. Picked up a non-fiction book in the last ten years? Used global access to knowledge (and people) to the benefit of anyone but yourself? If your mark upon the world is parroting corporate products, schilling mediocrity, hoping to belong or get ahead via streams of fecal spouting on an infinitely scrolling hourly stream of non-stop bullshit then you’re right where you deserve to be. Even when the stomping started earlier this year, the slurping sounds of social media clownage intensified as if a chorus to revive their drain upon humanity — You howled like starving wolves as the batons cracked skulls and human garbage disposal whirred back into use. The doorway to extinction is hanging off its hinge, nihilism is so powerfully defeatist in the hands of the most powerful idiots around and it isn’t even conscious choice any longer, sub-culture itself is burning dim without a course of action or the right to protest and you’re sitting there, a fucking petulant child, apathetic and curled in a ball at the thought of anything but entitled self-obsessed delusion. Providence, Rhode Island-born hardcore punk quartet Dropdead haven’t just been hollering their creed of personal empowerment, bucking corporate propaganda, touting clear and cutting vengeance against animal cruelty and fascism since the early 90’s, they’ve been living it. A house of sustainable do-it-yourself ethos yet stands and could sit comfortably aback while the world burns but, who could contain the outrage any longer? ‘Dropdead’ finds ’em at their hardest, clearest, and most crucial point of rupture.

Grindcore, thrashcore, fastcore, powerviolence or whatever tag you’re about to slap onto these guy’s hard-clubbed style of angular shouting furioso will ultimately tap the tangential root of 80’s hardcore punk at its most furious ’81-’84 clip. If you need a full bio for the band journalists have nailed it a thousand times over the years but my contribution is mainly the perspective that their ’89 spawned and ’91 captured entrance into the world of hardcore was a rage-fueled bout of extremity that influenced countless bands to push harder and get more fucking angry about the glaring failures of society. It was never just a bout of complaining from Dropdead‘s mouth, they had (and they have) resolution in mind and have always spoken to empowerment against corruption and total disembodiment of corporate rule. Beyond that their style has always modulated between pure Negative FX blasters, Conflict-heavy outrage, and Negative Approach-sized slow-burner stomps applied with the extremity of British, Italian, Japanese, and Scandinavian hardcore punk styles in mind. You might see ’em as powerviolence but when dissected from end-to-end Dropdead have always been the quintessential globalist hardcore punk glom, firing on all cylinders with multifarious influences and holding their own via their a hyper-slapped and fast-barking extrusion of it all. Their sound has changed but the core experience, subject matter, and violence of it all sustains all the way through with ‘Dropdead’ (their third LP, each self-titled) representing a few conscious changes made for the sake of being heard loudest and clearest.

Nobody reads anymore. Fewer and fewer folks grow up with critical thinking skills or curious mindset that remains driven to dig in and get all the details with a mind to sort data into reality. The sore-footed and mindless anti-intellectual hellscape resultant means Dropdead‘ve made sure you’re gonna get every goddamn word through your thick skull via what is likely Bob Otis‘ most clear and present vocal to date here on ‘Dropdead’. Though they’ve got new data, new actors, and timely events to talk about here the core subject matter boils down to the same sort of outrageous shit a lot of folks are too easily overwhelmed to keep track of: Corporate-funded fascism via racist militias stoked by a clown-assed McDonalds stuffed reality TV-propped president. No sightline between the average American and their clueless funding of the war machine traipsing its napalm spew the world over. Burying the factory of ignorance that is religion, forever. However you choose to summarize these shocks and tirades they’re all aimed at fighting off indoctrination, lies, and ignorance with the goal of action. If you’re still seated after the album has fully hit and sunken in, not shaken at all and not feeling a thing, I can’t relate.

I’d actually discovered Dropdead as a kid, I mean circa ’95 when I was about eleven and independent record stores were in every small town. I’d bought ‘Scum’ for the album art and probably a Melvins record for the same reason and that’d lead to the guy at the counter pointing me towards Slap a Ham, Crossed Out, a split and powerviolence in general. None of it had much meaning for me beyond fast and defiant hardcore punk until ’98-’99 when I’d grown tired of the (brutal death) metal I’d been listening to at the time and picked up the second ‘Dropdead’ on a whim. Once I’d paid attention to what they were doing stylistically the door opened to start caring about what they had to say. It was a bigger, heavier “get up off your knees” than before and I think the most important thing to me at the time was that they were taking potently intelligent shots at religion and animal cruelty. Yet folks are already saying the same thing about this record that they’d said about the previous back in 1998 — “Dropdead didn’t evolve or change.” That is to say that giving cursory listen to politically inclined music, making selectively reactive judgements and moving along with a dumpster mind isn’t an internet specific phenomenon, it just took longer via zines, mailing lists, etc. Beyond that, sure, good. Shits entirely traditional multi-national hardcore conglomerate sourced from the apex of the craft. If you’re a fan of powerviolence, thrashcore, grindcore or 80’s hardcore punk you’ve got a three decade long punch in the shoulder in their discography, this album included.

I don’t think there is a way around that mountain. The sense that you’re getting classic Dropdead out of ‘Dropdead’ in 2020 is functionally inspiring as fast, hard and smart music and nostalgic in a couple of different ways; Nostalgia for Dropdead‘s name and the associated intensity is there but also the rarity of higher visibility for classic hardcore punk and powerviolence introduces a whole other set of endorphins. You can blame their legacy for one hit of it but the fact is they’ve brought something considerably different, much more eye-to-eye engaging, on this new record. Cut the whole early 90’s powerviolence thing out of mind, forget the muffled grind-apropos vocal barks and some (not all) of their ultra-sped up anarcho-clangor from the previous two albums and think more along the lines of Infest‘s comeback record ‘No Man’s Slave’ circa 2002 where they were still doing Infest but kinda throwing it back further — A bit more straightforward than where they left off. If anything it falls in line with my own tastes simply because it feels more like a blend of hardcore circa ’83 but hey, I’m the guy who still loves the self-titled Discharge album so, go figure. The big thing here is going to be Otis‘ clearer diction and I feel like even if ‘Dropdead’ did feel like a different band to an old listener this one would still fit in on a bill with Dropdead circa 1993, 1998 and anywhere before or after. Production is clean and punch-heavy, a God City x Audiosiege triumph, and the guitar sound is big enough that when the balls-heavy distorted bass tone chills out everything still pushes arm-powered air. I believe the same team is remastering/restoring the entire discography and it will almost all release by the end of the year.

I mean I could plug on and pick like ten favorites out of the entire 23 song album but you’ll have gotten the idea by now, classic fast and shouting mad political hardcore punk music. “God Delusion” all the way through “Book of Hate” represents my favorite pocket of tunes on the full listen, I especially like the “Second Coming” feeling of “Vultures” rolling into the more Boston feeling intro to “The Black Mask”. They probably could’ve opened Side B with “Hail to the Emperor” b/w “United States of Corruption” but I do love how the album feels like they’re getting a bit more pissed as it rolls through the end via those pieces. The full listen is a joy to get to know and it becomes transfixing just how pissed and eloquent the experience is at once. Lyrics roll by quick but with some intentional weight so it might take one listen to get the idea and then several more to sit and consider what each piece is saying, direct or not. Without belaboring the point too much, you’ll love this record if you’re a fan of classic hardcore punk and powerviolence, the tweaks to their sound still qualifies as killer Dropdead stuff and I’m impressed enough to give a high recommendation of the album.

High recommendation.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Armageddon Label
RELEASE DATE:September 25th, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Hardcore Punk,

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