ADRIFT
"Absolution"

(self-released)

01. Betrayed
02. You Don't Know Me
03. Wither Away
04. Pushed Aside
05. Back To Square One
06. Absolution
07. S.I.C.C.
08. Held Down
09. Departure
10. Come Around
11. Left Behind

RATING: 7.5/10

CANNIBAL CORPSE and DEICIDE fans, prepare to either expand your horizons or get really bummed out. Guitarist Jack Owen has declared "Absolution" the best album he's ever played on, and there's nary an entrail (ripped from a nether region or otherwise) to be seen. In fact, death metal's most recognizable chrome-dome (getouttahere, Robert Vigna) has gone and mixed himself up in a band that could legitimately get themselves on the radio. The real radio, the one with commercials and stuff.

Whether that causes you to spew self-righteously across metal message boards or not is your own lookout. For those still interested, ADRIFT is definitely worth a listen, for those who like their heavy rock accessible, dark, laden with brick-heavy grooves and big, wide-open riffs. Newcomer vocalist Dean Pskowski sounds uncannily like DEADSOUL TRIBE's Devon Graves, doing that big melodic Maynard Keenan thing with the occasional throaty yell to break things up. His chip-on-the-shoulder lyrics get a little wearisome after a while, but that's a minor quibble — this dude's got some great pipes and the confidence to front a band with a well-known member without folding under pressure.

Owen, for his part, delivers great tone and catchy riffing, often laying down big open chords and leaving plenty of room for the vocal melodies. His rock soloing is tasteful, minimal, to the point, again in service of the greater glory of that three-minute out-of-the-park single. The rhythm section of bassist Jen Parker and drummer Kevin Astl (Astl, Pskowski… can someone buy this band a vowel?) holds it down with oomph, with plenty of low end anchoring this record and keeping it heavy despite its more commercial tendencies.

ADRIFT seems to work best on their slower, more brooding numbers, where Pskowski can really stretch and the music, at its simplest and most stark, really hits home. The band shines on "Pushed Aside", a song with a massive heavy chorus and subdued verse, where the band allows each part of the tune to make its presence felt without tons of extra studio gloss or frippery. ADRIFT are working with big, obsidian walls of unadorned sound here, coming off arena-size without losing a certain bleak, depressive underground class. Part of that is great tone and production, but a lot of it is just the savvy to know when to play and when to use space – not something you'd expect a death metal guitarist to be good at, but there ya go.

Some of these comparisons might seem a little whacked out, but vibe-wise, I'd put ADRIFT somewhere in between DEADSOUL TRIBE, LIFE OF AGONY and STAIND — radio-ready rock with plenty of heft, heart and subwoofer-destroying groove. "Absolution" is not perfect – there are some generic moments that'll have you reaching for the fast-forward button, and I'm not sure if I'm ready to agree with Owen that this trumps everything else in his career to date (ridiculous to compare this to death metal anyway, it's a different beast). The point is, you're better off just approaching ADRIFT as a whole new entity, without any baggage from past fandom, because that's what the band itself did. This is a hungry new band out to win hearts and minds with their dark, swirling, catchy, sinister rock and roll, and with "Absolution" they're off to a helluva start.

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