The endless shuffle of Atlanta’s punk scene can be difficult to follow, but to miss the debut from U.S. Drag is to miss a thunderous collage of sounds that ricochet between genre while delivering a singular dose of head-splitting fuckery. The three-piece is comprised of Sara Slick (Maudlin) on vocals, Ian Deaton on guitar, and Ryan Fetter (Nag, Maudlin) on drums. Though they’ve only been active for a few months, their self-titled album reflects a tightly knit band, deftly captured and mixed by Graham Tavel.
Though a cursory listen to the album might not reveal such intricacies, there’s more to these 8 tracks than bleak violence. Fetter’s complex rhythms defy the simplistic blast beat structure which effectually defines grindcore music. As a result, U.S. Drag doesn’t suffer from the same drab homogeneity that infects so many grind bands. Still, compared to the subtle complexities of his work with Nag and Maudlin, the beats here feel like standing under a waterfall of gravel. It’s not so much that the melody is buried beneath the noise so much as it is defined by Fetter’s frenetic output. This intentionality is made all the more suffocating thanks to Deaton’s stringent guitar work and Slick’s encompassing screams.
While it’s possible to find definition buried beneath the chaos, it’s better to embrace the noisy collision of sounds rather than dissect the individual pieces of each track. Still, U.S. Drag’s occasional inclusion of elements from post-punk and hardcore add gripping textures to their music. These jarring shifts don’t disrupt the album’s flow, and although it’s still easy to get lost between tracks, for those paying attention the grim identity of each song is clear.
Grindcore bands often rely more on shock than substance, but U.S. Drag doesn’t fall into such an obvious trap. Instead, their apparent obsession with detail lends their music a more dismal tone than can be achieved with simple sonic trauma. Overall, it’s a monster of a debut that splits the seam of grindcore, exposing a darker, more nuanced center.
U.S. Drag will perform this Saturday, October 8, at the Freedom University benefit at Hill St House alongside Rapturous Grief, Fishmonger, and Drool. The all ages show starts at 9 p.m. Donations accepted at the door.