In 2013 Drenge thundered out of Castleton in the sleepy Peak District with enough teenage angst to fill a successful tumblr blog.
Yet the visceral, no nonsense garage rock of their eponymous debut proved that there was more to them than just pent up frustration. Now having moved to Sheffield and acquired Rob Graham (formerly of Wet Nuns) on bass, Eoin and Rory Loveless have expanded not just the band but their sound with the beast that is Undertow.
From the murky beginnings of the opening couplet of Introduction and Running Wild, which merge seamlessly into one another, you can tell this is a record with ambition. Rory’s pounding drums are still here in unrelenting fashion, but there’s a bit more polish than what you might expect as Eoin’s riffs have shifted into more Sabbath like territory. This early highlight creates a dingy atmosphere that’s ever present during the album as it seeps into the rest of the tracks, particularly the distorted Never Awake, that’s built around a cascading drum beat.
There’s no time to catch your breath and regain your bearings however as this leads to the vicious double whammy of punky lead single We Can Do What We Want and the snarling Favourite Son, both of which were just designed for chaos and mayhem; you can already picture bodies flying into each other during these songs when they’re unleashed live.
The relentless pace continues to The Snake which should be familiar to many Drenge fans as it, along with Running Wild, has been part of their live set for about a year but it’s still as heavy as a punch from David Haye in his prime. As is Side By Side which possesses something incredibly unusual for Drenge: they’ve only gone and included handclaps. This begs the question have the Loveless brothers sold their souls and gone poppy? Well, fear not, as the absolute monster of a riff that then materialises is a resounding no, so we’re safe for now.
Following the depths of Side By Side comes possibly the best track on the whole album in The Woods as it shows just how far the band have come from their debut both musically and lyrically as they even manage to quote the bible. “Lead us not into temptation / but deliver us from evil”. It’s the most ambitious the band have sounded and it doesn’t half excite you as to where they could go next and sets us up perfectly for a final flourish.
The instrumental title track is menacing and sounds like something ripped straight from the soundtrack of a slasher horror soundtrack and fits perfectly before the melancholia of Standing In The Cold that seems to bridge the gap perfectly between debut standouts Let’s Pretend and Fuckabout. The finale of Have You Forgotten My Name? is similar to the earlier Never Awake and feels like a late night drive through the country as Eoin tells you to “Tell it to somebody who cares” before a huge outro that brings proceedings to a fitting close.
To put it simply Undertow is yards ahead of the pure guts and violence the band’s debut as you can see just how much both Eoin and Rory have developed their sound whilst the inclusion of Rob Graham brings a much needed depth to the whole thing. Yet what Undertow does best is that it proves that Drenge simply aren’t a one trick pony; they’re one of the best bands in the UK. 9/10