I've never really been much of a Drowningman fan, because, let's face it, aside from being the undisputed kings of the smartass song title, what they put forth simply isn't all that substantial unless you're a true fan of wild 'n' crazy metalcore. That being said, this is a good record. After being plagued with lineup changes and breakups, this revamped formation of Drowningman does present a significant progression, and should they be fortunate enough to finally continue unscathed I bet they could finally win me over with a better recording. In fact that's one of the only real faults on this outing: That the sound is just sort of flat and dull. The drummer's a fuckin' nut and throws down some wicked fills all over the place, but the drum mix is pretty unbalanced and favors the boxy snare over all else, while flimsy kicks cut through to the front as the toms and cymbals kind of get shuffled aside while the vocals and guitars fight for space as the plunky basslines weave around in between. It's not that bad in terms of sound quality, it just kind of feels like they had everything perfect and then someone accidentally hit a button that sucked out a lot of the brightness and punch, so the end result feels way too lifeless for what's going on with these songs. Yeah, the basic approach is still the same: You take a bunch of riffs that wind around all over the place from dissonant note choices and caustic picking patterns to chugging power chords alongside plenty of screaming, but now they're throwing in lots of melody and a more focused sense of technical metal wizardry to provide a lot more variety to the material, which is in turn far more memorable and diverse, including a number of spoken/sung vocal passages as well. "White People Are Stupid" is probably the best example of Drowningman circa 2005: An excellently written composition that blows through plenty of shapeshifting changes sure to please fans of the "crazy go nuts" metalcore boom of the late-90's, but combined with the band's newfound penchant for stunning melodic riffs that sound akin to Shai Hulud meets Cynic in some sort of pseudo emo showdown. Of course, as with any band that utilizes a million changes in a half-hour, there are still stumbling blocks where things get a little too jarring or some of the riffs simply aren't very good, but for the most part Drowningman has finally become a band that keeps their eyes on the prize and puts a lot of thought and effort into good songwriting, not senselessly flashy riffs or complex showmanship, and that's where they're now vastly overshadowing so many of these similar bands that have all sort of sounded the same for the last five years or so. "Major Disappointment Reporting for Duty" is another rather amazing track, again full of those insanely awesome melodic riffs and powerful changes that really stand apart from the other songs, and if they could hit this level more often I'd be a surefire fan in no time. Also worth mentioning is that "John Cougar Mellencamp is the White Devil" is bookended by some of best samples ever, a few more of which are interspersed throughout the remainder of the disc. Hilarious, hilarious stuff, seriously. The layout keeps things pretty consistent with lots of high contrast imagery of guns and knives and such, while the lyrics are actually a pretty good match for the song titles. A million bands took what Drowningman started with this whole "funny song title" shtick and ran it into the ground fast, but there's no denying the wit in a title like "Dude Status; Revoked" or "Major Disappointment Reporting for Duty", and with lyrics like, "Heart isn't something you earn, it's something you lose," it's kind of hard not to appreciate a lot of what's going on here in that regard. I really wish the recording was better on this thing, but there are a handful of songs on this fucker that are just great, so I have to give 'em the benefit of the doubt there. Hopefully whatever comes next will really hit it out of the park...
Running time - 32:18, Tracks: 10
[Notable tracks: Today's Special: Still Beating Hearts, White People Are Stupid, Major Disappointment Reporting for Duty]
Thorp Records - http://www.thorprecords.com