DRAIN - Living Proof (Cover Artwork)


Living Proof (2023)


When DRAIN landed on the scene way back in 2016, they were one of a few bands building a resurgent scene born in the '80s on the West Coast, but had morphed into something slightly different in the intervening 40 years. Basically, they were a crossover band, but one that took very thrash-leaning guitar style and melded it with more hardcore-influenced song structures and defiant energy. Come 2020 and the debut full length California Cursed, it was clear that DRAIN had a lot more to offer than just a re-hashing of old ideas. The record landed very well (it was excellent, after all), but it’s how much of a sustained impact it had that has resulted in DRAIN being one of the most closely-watched and hotly-tipped bands in the heavy music sphere in 2023. Recent weeks have seen LIVING PROOF-themed Instagram Filters, the band landing a Kerrang! magazine cover and even higher volumes of videos of the band on social media than the consistently high level we’d already been seeing. The hype train is well and truly in motion, but if you’re a crotchety old guy like me, that often serves to dull your expectations more than have the opposite, intended effect.

First up, I can say that DRAIN have not taken a significant left turn in terms of their core sound. Energetic, aggro hardcore with thrash flourishes and freneticism is the name of the game and DRAIN play that specific game better than maybe anyone else active today. What sets them apart, however, is something more intangible. Especially in a purely audio form. If you’ve been lucky enough to see DRAIN, or even simply footage of their shows, then you’ll know how they do their thing. Vocalist Sammy Ciaramitaro is an inextinguishable ball of lightning, flying around the stage, leaping and hollering as if it were the first time he’d ever been let loose on stage; every night. He also has the benefit of a vocal that is both consistent, but somehow still manages to span thrash, hardcore and occasionally even more deathy styles. On top of that, you can actually discern the lyrics, which always makes a hardcore band all the more fun to vibe with. Those familiar with the debut record and the various vocal hooks, mosh calls (‘Army of one, motherfucker!’ being my personal favourite) and vocal expulsions will be delighted in Sammy’s performance across this follow-up, as it’s every bit as ferocious and untamed.

I mentioned the thrash influences and you only need to look at Cody Chavez to see some of those influences manifesting themselves. The guy looks so fucking cool complete with skin-tight denim, high tops and big ol ‘tache. Maybe it’s easier to look cool in that get-up when you can shred a guitar, but then he’s got that covered, too. All that being said, the brevity of hardcore is clear in the record’s sequencing and runtime. 10 tracks (including an interlude) over about 25 minutes. Hit hard, hit fast, get out. The 3-piece are completed by drummer Tim Flegel, who manages somehow to keep the wild vibe flush through the band, whilst also anchoring their sound without even having the benefit of a bass player. He’s like a noble single parent, doing a quietly authoritative job of keeping two unruly kids in line, whilst also trying to keep their own crazy impulses within acceptable bounds. An incredible act of dexterity and fortitude, frankly.

But let me come back to that less tangible quality. You might have noticed I’ve pulled back from the word intangible because the more I listen to DRAIN, then the more I’m convinced it is tangible. Or if not tangible, then identifiable. Noticeable. Definable? Subtly innate? Whatever. It’s that party shit. This is a bunch of Santa Cruz dudes playing big, fast tunes because they love it; the community that exists around them, the feeling of playing those songs and just the pure, joyful abandon of making this kind of music. I met Sammy last year and even in the brief chat we had, it was crystal clear how much love he had for his bandmates, his scene and what DRAIN were doing. The fact that there are also now touches of baked concrete, California street vibes seeping into their sound (the record’s ‘Interlude’ is not only brilliant, but one of the best by that name I can remember) just adds to that inclusive, bouncy as fuck, good-time, unspoken mission statement.

There might be other thrash records this year that blow up (I know of a few that will) and hardcore records that kick doors in (again, a few spring to mind), but this is the party thrash and party hardcore record of the year. There is a barely concealed grin behind everything DRAIN do. They might have narrowed their eyes to deliver some of the grit in this record, but you won’t know because they’ll be concealed by a pair of Pit Vipers. Pop your short shorts on, because there’s a hardcore pool party going down in Santa Cruz and DRAIN want every one of you motherfuckers there.