2020 is off to a hell of start, with great releases from all across the musical spectrum already and plenty more on the horizon as well. When spoile for choice, it’s often sensible to fall back on old favourites and familiar offerings. However, it’s also often those less expected territories that can prove the most rewarding – as is the case with Seattle alternative/pop punks Dragged Under‘s debut record The World is In Your Way.

Dragged Under bring a harder edge to their sound that sets them apart from similar acts, but it’s their monolithic sense of melody that propels them to a league above. The album is packed with instantaneous, feel-good choruses that never feel cliched and often subvert expectations as well. Another element that sets Dragged Under apart is the sheer variation displayed throughout the album’s lean, half-hour, run-time. At a base level, the band’s sound blends the melodic irreverence of Sum 41 with the frantic bite of Comeback Kid. That’s only scratching the surface, however, with countless other influences invoked across the record’s  duration. “Roots”, for example, blends the confrontational Rage Against the Machine worship of Stray From the Path with a chorus reminiscent of peak-period Rise Against, while “Here for War” sounds exactly like what I’d like the upcoming Ocean Grove album to sound like (and definitely won’t).

As impressive as The World is In your Way‘s opening offerings are, however, it’s during its second half where Dragged Under truly shine. Standout track “Instability” is a heavier, metalcore-tinged offering, built around a chorus that distinctly brings to mind Evergreen Terrace of all bands. Following that is “Chelsea”, which is maybe the best straight-up pop punk song I’ve heard since Sum 41’s Does This look Infected? (2002) or Blink-182‘s “Feeling This” (2003), although its subject matter sits uncomfortably (especially the “sometimes I lose my temper line”), especially given pop punk’s history with gender dynamics, and is perhaps the only misstep on the whole record. “Riot” is another late standout that starts off sounding with the kind of “Mobscene” worship you’d expect from Motionless in White before quickly becoming a bluesy rock n’ roll ditty, with frontman Tony Cappocchi switching gears to sounding like Kieth Buckley fronting The Damned Things. From there the track erupts into the album’s most triumphant and anthem chorus, before culminating in a wirey letlive.-style breakdown, of which there are plenty more peppered throughout the record. Closer “The Hardest Drug” brings things to a close with another oustanding chorus and an emotional climax that should have you reaching for the repeat button.

Having already heard great upcoming releases by bands I love – like Sepultura, Annihilator, Sylosis, Polaris and even Ihsahn – I can confidently say that The World is in Your Way is easily the best of the bunch. For all Dragged Under’s stylistic variation, their execution is never less than masterful. Although it draws from a lot of artists I already enjoy, I didn’t think what is essentially a pop punk record would be the first album I’d truly fall in love with this year. Nevertheless, here we are – multiple back-to-back listens later – and I simply can’t get enough of it. The new A Day to Remember album certainly has a lot to live up to.

The World is in Your Way is out now.

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