"Architectural Failures"

By Solomon G

Beginning as (but not merely as) a side project for Richard Johnson of grindcore innovators Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Drugs of Faith is equally ambitious, yet necessarily broader in scope than the former. Song structures are epic length by grindcore standards, yet remain extremely tight and compact. And though tempos are blazing fast, there is enough variance in tempo and time-signature to keep Drugs of Faith from being misclassified as yet another grind core outfit, such as Agoraphobic Nosebleed. However, lest you think DoF seek to venture off into prog territory, think again: this stuff is as brutal as music gets, really, which isn’t to say the subject matter is all death and dismemberment (though no surprise these are touched on occasionally), and musically speaking, it is muscular and precise - like some impending, infernal machine that has yet to emerge within temporal and physical reality. The band, rounded out by Taryn W., (no last names, please), bass, and Edward S., drums, definitely seems to aspire beyond the constraints of hardcore/grindcore constraints, while conserving it’s power and intensity on an ‘as needed’ basis, which actually turns out to be quite often.

On a personal note, reviewing albums can be quite a challenge in presenting bands and their music in ways that are fresh and entertaining to read. Think about it: what does a reviewer know that you do not? The answer is barely anything, if that: it is all subjective. In addition, I don’t know about you, but I can definitely recall bands/albums that I hated upon first listen that I think are brilliant now, and inversely other acts and recordings I once loved but not can barely tolerate. So that is what I keep in mind when hearing material fresh, as has been the case with every review to my name to date. Even if I hate an album, I will try and find something constructive to say about it, while if I am crazy for it, I do attempt to dilute that with more acute critical analysis. It may not often seem to be the case, but that is precisely the deal.

Which is a long way around to saying I had struggled to find something original to grasp onto while listening to this release. As the few short compositions ground on, I felt increasing anxious to find something - anything - to say about this highly competent band of accomplished musicians, playing their hearts out, apparently, but not doing so in many ways that could spark a fire of inspiration inside with which to illuminate this review.

Then it hit me.

The fourth and final song in the promotional release (and shortest @ 1:56), Placing Bets, appears to be the strongest indicator of the direction Drugs of Faith aim to inhabit. I’ll stop short of declaring it completely original - though it is damned close to just that: angular tempo structures that fold in upon themselves, much like the crumpling power beacons of the album cover, dissonant shards of wayward chordal noise, a dynamic range of imagination and ambition that strives to clear the path for future innovation. I would be a liar if I said I don’t think they can pull off a whole album of this. Even if they got only half there, that would be an album that nobody would forget anytime soon.

Producer Kevin Bernsten brings the super heavy metallic edge he blanketed over his production of super heavy doomsters, Ils, while engineer Scott hull adds the aggressive sheen he honed previously with Agoraphobic Nosebleed, and further perfected with such acts as Pig Destroyer, et al. The effort extended on this album is brilliant and commendable - and points a clear direction for the band that is exhilarating to imagine where it could go.