DC-based “grind’n’roll” outfit Drugs Of Faith was among the highlights on last year’s Relapse-released This Comp Kills Fascists 2. That record spotlighted underground power-violence, grindcore and hardcore bands, all handpicked by Pig Destroyer / Agoraphobic Nosebleed mainstay and go-to grind producer / engineer Scott Hull. Drugs ringleader Richard Johnson also handles bass and vocal duties in the current ANb line-up, as well as having covered guitars and vocals in influential grind-punk act Enemy Soil. Corroded, Drugs’ first full-length after multiple splits, demos and comp appearances, finds this trio once again on Poland’s Selfmadegod Records, home of their first MCD and split with Antigama.
Stylistically, as the “n’roll” above would indicate, Drugs is a step or two removed from either of Johnson’s other efforts—neither as outright grindcore as Enemy Soil nor as twisted or electronic as ANb. But I’m not sure that “grind’n’roll” is an apt descriptor, as, to this reviewer, at least, the “roll” implies a certain emphasis on groove and classic-rock rhythms and stylings that is absent here. Corroded is not “grind+1970’s hard rock” – pentatonic riffs do not appear; swagger is absent. (Corroded is more post-punk-alt-grind, to give it a comically long portmanteau all its own.) The tunes on Corroded are effectively grind crossed with a hefty dash of DC-styled hardcore (and Fugazi-ish post-hardcore, to split hairs further) and then filtered through AmRep noise rock. There’s plenty of grinding to be had, certainly, but with the spurts of angular and discordant riffing, the generous use of mid-tempo and the mostly punk-shouted vocals (vs. grind’s typically screamed or grunted), much of Corroded is reminiscent of hardcore on steroids, and it’s as indebted to the clanging alt-metal harshness of Helmet and the post-punk of Killing Joke as it is to any traditional grind outfit.
The riffing alternates between more traditional power-chorded bits and those stretches of dissonant voicings. The tempos run the gamut, from blastbeats to sludge-y dirges, but more often these tracks sit in the lower-end of the uptempo range, fast but not human-tornado madness. The bass sits nicely beneath the mix, distorted and driving, underpinning the guitars with moving lines and a gnarly noisy tone – interestingly, here the bass often drives the song, walking beneath the clanging chords and not just following a riff or a root note, which is (I admit) a classic rock trait. Sonically, the production is suitable – not too raw and certainly not too polished, sitting snugly in the middle ground and perfectly fitting the overall aesthetic, with each instrument audible and clear but not clean. Lyrically, as they always have, the band keeps to the political side of the spectrum, typical of both the grindcore and hardcore sides of their equation, railing against government and the war in Iraq and all the usual suspects.
As they blend a more traditional hardcore approach with the elements of grindcore, Drugs Of Faith is and isn’t pushing the envelope – they’re something of a throwback, and yet they’re putting together a new sound nonetheless, carving a nice little place in the midst of a pair of tangential styles. While it’s honestly not the best record I’ve gotten of late, Corroded is good, and it fulfills the promise shown by the self-titled MCD and the appearance on the latest This Comp Kills Fascists. Overall, Drugs Of Faith manages to twist the standard grind formula enough to stand out, and that alone is worthy of some commendation, and in the process, they sound both familiar and yet unlike their peers and influences. Definitely one to watch.