For newer bands, there can be nothing more important than making a good early impression. Not only does it solidly establish what’s to come from them in the future, but it gives their prospective audience a good idea of what they’re likely to be spending their time and money on, and whether it’ll be worth it. With all that in mind, it’s easy to think that Melbourne’s Drown This City are actively sabotaging any future prospects with an EP like this, being the newest customary Australian metalcore signing to UNFD and adding their name to an ever-extending list replete with acts who’ve either failed to deliver or simply been swept away as the next wave has come along. To Drown This City’s credit, it’s hard to blame them for making such a move – their 2016 EP went unnoticed by basically everyone, and a high-profile move like this is bound to ensure at least some leverage – but given the results this exact story has yielded in the past, preparing for the worst seems to be the knee-jerk reaction it invokes.
But sometimes, that’s not warranted, and Alpha // Survivor feels like one of those instances where Drown This City deliver something that’s more than the sum of its parts overall. That’s not to say that this primes them to be the next world-beating force in metalcore, but they’re doing something fresher and more potent with what they’ve got, and that’s worth celebrating either way. Of course, the DNA of these six tracks is still incredibly easy to trace back, rooted in the sort of widescreen metalcore that’s not overly reliant on breakdowns to get its heft across, but easily finds away to mesh downtuned passages with more overt melodies on Stay Broken and Null to highlight the contrast and actually turn out rather fully-formed. The production can still leave a lot to be desired, especially when melody is brought right to the fore in the choruses and winds up suffocating under extraneous studio gloss, but it never overly distracts from a bigger picture that clicks together with a respectable amount of robustness.
But rather, where Drown This City’s trump card lies is in the vocals, as Alex Reade and Matthew Bean trade off with a good amount of fluidity and diversity between them. With the latter, he’s got the formidable screams that are foundational for a sound like this and is able to run far enough with them, but Reade feels much more like the crucial element of this sound. Her range is already excellent, dipping into lower, smoother tones that on their own make the oft-rigid metalcore boundaries feel a bit more pliable on Stay Broken, but get her on a hook where she can really let loose and show the pinnacle of her abilities, and it makes for some of the most potent metalcore moments of the year so far. Swap out some of the overproduction for strings on In Your Image and Null and they could genuinely thrive as symphonic metal tracks, such is the commitment made to overblown drama and power that, in a genre that frequently hits against these elements when they’re there rather than embraces them, feels so much more comfortable. And sure, the lyrics are nothing all that special within the greater metalcore playbook, but overshadowing them to the degree that Drown This City do feels like a smart move that does pay off overall.
In general, it makes for an interesting case where Alpha // Survivor isn’t doing anything all that revelatory, but their way of bending more tired metalcore tropes to their will just generally feels like a smoother mix, and more entertaining to listen to, at that. It’s unlikely that this one release is going to be Drown This City’s ticket to the big leagues – this sort of metalcore is already starting to phase out as it is, and one quality new addition isn’t really going to change that – but it at least gives them a shot of being one of the bands that prevails through the shuffle, something that plenty of others their size are a fair distance away from. And so, while it’s easy to sneer at these new metalcore acts seemingly following each other to the same dead end time and time again, it can occasionally pay off, and Drown This City are living proof of what that can achieve.
For fans of: The Color Morale, The Word Alive, Like Moths To Flames
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Alpha // Survivor’ by Drown This City is out now on UNFD.