Drowningman – How They Light Cigarettes in Prison EP

Drowningman
How They Light Cigarettes in Prison EP

First, let me start by saying this is probably the best packaged CD EP that I’ve seen. The jewel case is a dark red, similar to a Rykodisc packaging, and the disc and booklet match, with angry, scrawled script and very cool design. The whole impression is impressive.
That being said, this CD scared me a bit. The title of the EP (and I don’t want to know how they light cigarettes in prison), the song titles, and some of the lyrics convinced me this was going to be deathcore, grinding and indecipherable. Boy am I glad I was wrong. I can tell a good hardcore band from a bad hardcore band by the quality of the screaming. If I can understand what the singer is saying while screaming and hear him over the guitar and drums, I think it’s good. And Drowningman are loud and angry as any hardcore band, but you can understand the screaming. At one moment, they’re blaring away, screaming and angry and tossing out metal riffs, and the next they pull back from the angry riffs to a more rock-based sound, the vocalist singing instead of screaming. It’s an impressive combination of styles, not slowing down and getting all moody like some of the old emo bands but just pulling back a bit and playing a little softer.
I love the songs that start off so loud you immediately turn your stereo down and look guilty. Like “Black-Tie Knife-Fight,” which starts off blasting, loud and angry hardcore, with loud, crunchy guitar, blaring drums and screaming vocals. But then, all of a sudden, he’s singing. And the singer has a good voice, singing in an almost emo-rock tone, with the guitar suddenly more melodic than sonic. It’s still got the intensity, and it goes back into the screaming with a head-banging metal riff and drum beat. I love this song, especially for the combination of styles. “Radio Tuned to the Sounds of Hearts Breaking” incorporates the screaming and singing together, alternating loud and angry and more restrained. When they scream, you can’t help but scream along. I haven’t heard this style of singing and screaming done so well since Boy Sets Fire. “A Quick Prayer to the Patron Saint of Dirty Rest Area Bathrooms and Clean Getaways” (I love these song titles) starts off like a BSF song, sung and more melodic before breaking into the intensity, screaming and angry, then slowing down again, getting a bit more moody just to hint that they’re going to calm down before blasting off again. The title track is definitely the most consistently angry and loud song on the track, really impressive and driving. At one part, the singer screams wordlessly, dying out slowly, and at another one person is talking while another screams in the background.
Fans of Boy Sets Fire and some of the other Revelation bands will definitely appreciate this. It’s got all the elements of the newer brand of more complex hardcore that I like so much with a more melodic and powerful quality that comes across when they slow down and sing. Deeply dark and disturbing lyrics practically drip sarcasm and anger. All in all, a most impressive release, one that struck me enough to have me looking forward to the band’s full-length this year.