The Drowned God have now twice chosen the very beginning of the year to release their music. This tactic is an infamous double-edged sword. On one hand, it allows you to enter the field with fanfare, blasting into the new year when ears are still fresh and expectant. On the other, you risk your album wearing out your welcome, buried underneath the sheer mass of albums released every year. However, I’ll Always Be the Same is its own release and such extraneous, “strategic” considerations shouldn’t keep us from cover it as the album it is rather than how it will be perceived and its relationship with the first release by the band.
Considered under this lens, I’ll Always Be the Same is a further consolidation of the unique and much needed sound that The Drowned God set forth on their debut. It doesn’t revolutionize the formula but it’s another powerful explanation of that unique space between emo, shoegaze, and hardcore which The Drowned God have come to inhabit. However, it is definitely accurate to say that they feel more confident on this release, more able to swim within the formula they’ve created if not break out of it entirely.
Take “Catholic” for example, the second track and probably the highlight of the opening half of the album, if not the entire album altogether. It opens with a pretty out of character drum line, a faint kind of rapid sound that works very well in establishing the sound of the track. The vocals are also especially excellent on it, working exceptionally well with the hectic guitar track in the front while the backing guitars provide the more stable background noise. By the middle of it, those backing guitars fall away to leave a void in the mix as the vocals become even more harrowed, creating a very moving and effective passage smack in the center of the track.
This is where the bass comes in, more pronounced in both mix and composition on this release. That “empty” space in the mix becomes where the bass lives, as it presents us with another take on the line the guitars are working on. This is what we mean when we say that this release feels more confident; it takes the aggression and emotional pain with the debut album communicated so directly and builds on it, adding embellishments and complications to keep the listener engaged. The basic direction is the same but the path to get there is varied and different.
This is where your mileage may vary. If you’re loved the band’s debut release, then this one is a no brainer; it’s basically a more nuanced and interesting version of that (where the debut was already very interesting), achieving the same impact but with more things to say, musically. However, if The Drowned God’s style wasn’t exactly for you, or if you wish for the band to evolve beyond their core sound, I’ll Always Be the Same is not really concerned with any of that. It’s here to cement the band’s statement and make course-corrections to the direction they were already headed in. If you were listening intently when they made their statement last time, you should definitely be listening now.
I’ll Always Be the Same was released on January 25th via Solid State Records.