Album review: Drain – Living Proof

Everyone’s on about Santa Cruz hardcore mob Drain. This stunning second album shows why…

Album review: Drain – Living Proof
Luke Morton

All eyes have been on the Californian hardcore scene for a while now, and for good reason. What was once a close-knit underground community of like-minded independent artists is now a global phenomenon, with bands like Scowl and ZULU commanding Kerrang! Cover Stories on their first proper records. The explosion of the scene can be traced back a few years to moments like the incendiary live video of Gulch at This Is Hardcore, but it’s arguably the Real Bay Shit all-dayer that set things in motion, and the world saw first-hand just how alive and spin-kicking the scene had become.

Santa Cruz natives Drain were one of the standouts of the day, riding high on the success of their California Cursed LP, which blended chest-beating hardcore with high-octane thrash and gallons of pit-ready swagger. Elevated to one of the scene’s leaders – thanks in no small part to frontman Sammy Ciaramitaro being one of the nicest guys in hardcore – expectations have been sky-high for the follow-up to deliver. And boy has it.

From piledriving opener of Run Your Luck, Living Proof puts its pedal firmly through the metal, hauling a mix of chunky riffs and frenetic two-steps into a mosh-ready melee, superbly bolstered by Slayer-esque guitars and snarling, spiteful vocals. Despite the aforementioned Sammy being a genuine Good Dude, he is in serious Fuck You mode throughout Living Proof, spitting lines of defiance and individuality.

Indeed, as independence ultimately lies at the root of hardcore, the concept runs through the veins of Living Proof – from the ode to sobriety FTS (KYS), where chainsaw guitars and a brawling rhythm section battle against Sammy’s rousing roars to reinvent yourself and ‘kill all the parts that you don’t love’, to the record standout Imposter. Opening with an (almost) Oscar Wilde quote that ‘imitation is the lowest form of flattery’, said track points its crosshairs at the fakes and posers in a scene rife with hangers-on and people wanting to get involved because hardcore is cool right now. This mentality is the antithesis to Drain, and you can almost taste the undiluted rage oozing out of the band, as Sammy seethes, ‘I’ll never fucking respect you’ to those who ‘try too hard to be something you’re not.’

Paying homage to the bands that came before, Drain deliver a fairly faithful cover of Descendents’ Good Good Things amongst their cathartic cacophony, but they too look to the current blending of hardcore and hip-hop culture by introducing rapper Shakewell on Intermission. Such dexterity within and admiration for the genre they inhabit sets Drain apart from the ever-growing pack, and Living Proof might just be the best record yet to spawn from a scene that still hasn’t hit its peak.

Like their merch says: ‘Drain is your friend’. And friends don’t let you down.

Verdict: 5/5

For fans of: Sunami, Scowl, Power Trip

Living Proof is out now via Epitaph

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