Drain has been around for nine years now, but they really exploded into the limelight with 2020’s California Cursed. Released on long running hardcore label Revelation Records, California Cursedwas a natural fit with a heavy, punchier sound and riffs that captured everything from classic hardcore and punk to crossover thrash. It’s an album that I personally got a good deal of mileage out of and showcased yet another group that seemed primed to explode in popularity. Fast forward three years later and now only had Drain moved to Epitaph Records, but their sophomore effort is here to once again deliver the mosh. The songwriting hasn’t changed significantly, but the hooks are still just as strong and there are a few surprises on the second half that showcase this group as one that isn’t afraid to branch out.
If you liked what Drain was going for on California Cursed, Living Proof should scratch that same itch as it makes some slight tweaks but continues to emphasize heavy hitting riffs that don’t overstay their welcome. Opener “Run Your Luck” doesn’t waste any time in unleashing a sheer wall of distortion and heavy hitting drums that will make you want to run in circles and throw your fists in the air, and the band only continues to deliver riff after riff from there. If you haven’t heard Drain yet, think of a cross between New York hardcore, crossover thrash, and a slight hint of metallic hardcore and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. Songs crash together in a flurry of faster paced riffs, destructive breakdowns, and everything in between, and Living Proof manages to have plenty of memorable moments without dragging anything out. Even with only one song reaching the three-minute mark, the band still finds time to add in the occasional solo and the transitions also help to give some of them an individual identity. Admittedly the more traditional crossover and hardcore riffs peak during the first half, as while the second half is still solid it doesn’t jump out quite as much on a song to song basis. But the second half is also where Drain incorporates some unexpected elements that shows they’re more than a nostalgia oriented hardcore band. “Intermission” features a guest spot from Shakewell that goes trap and hip hop for thirty seconds or so before the hardcore kicks back in, and it’s an unexpected jump to another musical style that actually works really well. The other surprise is a cover of Descendents’ “Good Good Things” that showcases Drain can pull off the melodic side of punk and have it fit with the rest of their material.
Sammy Ciaramitaro stood out quite a bit on California Cursed thanks to screams and yells that only seemed to get more intense the further into the album you got, and that’s been continued on Living Proof. Considering things open with Ciaramitaro screaming “run your fucking luck” at the top of his lungs, you know you’re in for a wild ride. There’s a consistently abrasive edge to his performance, and there are also some shifts in pitch that keep things feeling fresh and intense rather than falling into repetition like you sometimes get from hardcore. Shakewell’s feature throws in some quick rapping that fits better than I expected, and the Descendents cover goes for gruffer singing rather than the harsher vocals that are featured on the rest of the album. Should Drain choose to do so, it seems like they could easily branch off even further on the vocal front in the future, and this gives them some distinguishing elements compared to others in the genre.
Having moved to a label with a fairly diverse roster like Epitaph, it makes sense that Drain would try a few different things while continuing to refine their incendiary blend of crossover thrash and hardcore. The first half does have some of the best riffs, but the second half balances it out with the trap interlude and Descendents cover. I think I like it about the same as California Cursed, meaning Living Proof will be sure to get plenty of repeat spins as the year progresses. With that being said, the tweaks and willingness to experiment suggest that Drain still has room to reach greater heights. It’s been exciting to watch them progress and gain steam so quickly, and if you’re a fan of hardcore, punk, or anything in between and haven’t checked them out yet now is the time to do so.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg