DRIVEN BELOW PROMO 2016I actually panhandled to get a copy of this record from the band DRIVEN BELOW to review. Yep, flat out asked them - well in a hint, hint, nudge, nudge (nod knowingly - say no more, say no more) kinda way. I dropped by their CD Release Party at Trees last Friday the 28th and recorded a little of their set live. Man, the song they were playing as I went in on the side stage door was BRUTAL - and I kinda dug it! Now I’ve seen DRIVEN BELOW play here and there over the last 4 or 5 years and they’ve always been a solid band. But what I saw this Friday night was different - at least it was for me. And before you die hard Drivers get all nervous about line ups, genres and who’s on first & what’s on second - I will be totally honest in saying that I know virtually nothing of substance about the band or its history. I know Rob (Muck) and I know David (Gotti) and I know of Danny (from Within Chaos). But, that’s about it and ya, I could go look at their bio but I’m not - at least not yet. And I’m cool with that for the purpose of this review. Know why? Because truly, personalities get in the way when I’m doing a review - especially those folks that I know personally. That said, now that this review is out - I will get to know the band...and Lovelies, you should too.

If you’re a fan of harcore metal, if you’re a fan of thrash, death metal, or whatever the hell the industry is labeling the growling, raw-yaw-yaw-yaw’s, unclean (as they’re referred to now it seems), and guttural groans of a frontman, then you are already a fan of Driven Below. If you like a cornucopia of dark but not to heathenistic with a dash of hearty heaviness in your metal, then you are already a fan of DRIVEN BELOW. Hands down and cross my fingers hope to die stick a needle in my eye hole - even without hearing one song off “Trephination”, you already love the band. Why? Well....

What’s not to love, really? I mean look, the album is entitled “Trephination” - I know, I didn’t know what it meant either so I looked it up on the Google machine.

The definition of trephination is as follows:

trephenation imageTrephination (also known as trepanning or burr holing) is a surgical intervention where a hole is drilled, incised or scraped into the skull using simple surgical tools.

Wait, what? Did I just read burr holing? I’m totally using that out of context - “that burrito is burr holing as we speak” or “I totally burr holed this weekend”...anyway, I dig how it sounds, don’t you? Ok, look at the illustration above - no never mind, don’t. I don’t want to either. I mean it’s creepy AF, right? Look at those faces - these people are in physical and emotional pain. Like hardcore. I can’t imagine wearing that contraption around for the purpose of curing my crazies. F that, “I’ll take Lunacy for $500 Alex”.

Yet, as disturbing as the definition is, relating it back to DRIVEN BELOW’s style of metal is totally comprehensible. We rock out to the heaviest of heavy music - well, those that like it do, to assist us in releasing that angst, anger even hate. We put on some loud, low tones, screeching guitars, double bass beats, and growling, screaming, hollering vocals that for us, exorcise our demons, right? At least for me, I can process what is paining me or perplexing me to the point of hostility. I love this about heavy metal, for me personally. So their music is not far from the definition - or these 15 songs are what burr holes into their soul and releases distress, hate, anger, anxiety - whatever it is that is can be like Black Death that eventually tears holes in souls.

DRIVEN BELOW’s debutant DIY debut record is a 15 track (ya, that’s not a typo) mega-metal masterpiece. When I saw there were 15 trcks (really 13 because Infidel and Machine are short tracks) I got a little nervous. It’s freaking 15 songs, y’all! I thought that either they were all short, or this was going to be the last time I asked a band to give me their record to review! Here’s the list of tracks:

170x170bbTrack List - Trephination

1. Infidel
2. Architects of Suffering
3. All My Friends Are Dead
4. Trephination
5. Open the Wound
6. Denial of Fate
7. Weight of Words
8. Confusion Dilemma
9. Laid to Waste
10. Jakarta
11. Into the Ground
12. Parasite
13. Machine
14. Feed the War
15. Stratosphere

Here’s how I work a review for those that aren’t familiar - I go song by song and write on paper whatever comes to my hand and then go back and fill in the gaps. Sometimes I give it a number, sometimes I add up cherries - it just depends on my mood and the band I’m reviewing. So, if you have the record already, you can put it on and read song by song as you listen. Unless you’re a speed reader, then you’re already finished with the article and have made your way back to this point, to which I say “slow down. s-l-o-w d-o-w-n!” K, y’all ready? Let’s go!

INFIDEL - as an intro should, Infidel sets the stage for what’s about to come down the Metal Mountain on the back of a fire breathing war horse - the vocals give way to someone being summoned or doing the summoning. Either way, it’s dope as hell.

ARCHITECT OF SUFFERING - love the differences in the unclean vocals. After the first verse, a different guitar tone pops in and it is like I’ve just witnessed two mythological creatures unknowingly come through an opening in a worm hole and fall to earth and land in the middle of the ancient colosseum of Rome. Holy heavier that lead medicine balls - the last 20 seconds will bruise your spleen, I’m not even kidding.

ALL MY FRIENDS ARE DEAD - the chang-a chang-chang tone of the guitar pummels! The unclean vocals are perfect and THE definition of how this style of vocal should be performed. And I will be honest they will scare the pants off you. The hop-scotch with the percussion and that scratchy guitar tone - damn! Y’all put your friends under the stage, didn’t y’all? But they didn’t die - hell no!! They ROSE the F*@k UP from this track!

TREPHINATION - the bass slays and attacks the beat - SICK!! I love the timing of this one. It’s like I’m running from a zombie in a bounce house, but my legs are asleep. The cadence is alarming at the middle and makes sense. This track is heavier than the weight of the world’s sins and as we continue to live at this fast pace, there’s no slowing down and the burr holing will just continue scraping a hole into the skull of humanity. Or on the flip, maybe our sins and humanity is the device that is burring a crazy hole in our unified existence...

OPEN THE WOUND - OMG. Is there singing? Now this track is super aggressive in an oh-so creepy way. The pulsing drum beats pound out and punish those minor chords that come through and even though there’s a posi-negative aura here, it’s freaking beautifully written. I can hear the agony a little past the half way point - crap!! This poor bastard in the song isn’t singing about unicorns and making sweet, sweet love - no, he’s tied up on the rack and being stretched out like mama’s last dollar...

DENIAL OF FATE - Mosh-ilicious mother f’ers - y’all start circlin’ up and get ready to fling yourselves around like cartoons. So does David (Gotti) have 5 arms and 4 legs or are there like 3 drummers?? Dayum Gina! The clarity in the cymbal work is straight up. I love the tinging and how it blends and kinda then bounces off the verses. Ok, right at the break I thought there was going to be a complete change up - nope it stands up and gets right back in it. Doesn’t even brush off the vermin - just like a feral cat pounces on an unsuspecting mouse - SMAACK! I dig the bass keeping the lows in check - nice!

WEIGHT OF WORDS - Oh My Godsmack!! The first half of this record was a warm up for David (Gotti) - again another rapid infiltration of double bass, electronic-sounding drum parts and whacks on the skins - Mylanta! Danny’s vocals here are weighted alright. They’ll make your head bang and bobble around like an infant wearing an iron mask! WOAH!! There’s a guitar part in the middle that is high on the scale and high on the heavy - it’s very complimentary of the melody. And then. AND THEN...WTF just happened? Ballz! That melody and righteous guitar solo come out and literally slap the snot outta your soul!! My god!! Love, love, LOVE!!!

CONFUSION DILEMMA - I feel no confusion about his track! What. Is. Up??!! If this doesn’t make a pit move, those people don’t have a pulse! How does that guitar tone not pull my speakers down past the floor, ya feel me?! The tuning’s gotta be like a drop “H” for HEAVY (AF)!!

LAID TO WASTE - WOW! The melody along with the “bee-twang twang” guitar tone is like a precursor to this mega vocal part that commands! Giving some chunks from a struggle the other guitar - it’s like an archangel’s cry watching Lucifer’s fall - Danny’s intensity brings something powerful to the song. The bass and drums are entwined like a ball of sleeping snakes - totally mesmerizing and haunts that familiar and empty part inside us all. The chorus is so thick with a sense of loss - it’s just stirring and I love this song.

driven below live

JAKARTA - DRIVEN BELOW stirs up the pot of poison with a distinguished tempo in Jakarta. The drums are impressive (yes, again - but do you expect anything else from Gotti - or David? No or you sure as hell better not). “Divide and conquer” they do -

INTO THE GROUND - Hold on y’all - you’re about to get hammered with a rubber mallet Into the Ground - but only to your nostrils. And just when you have wiggled your neck enough to get your mouth out of the dirt, and open to gasp - this song’s pace kicks the dirt right back into your mouth. Your breathing is elevated at the end of the song and you really don’t know why. Only that it’s from the sheer lashing this song doles out. Towards the end there’s a part that is so hot, you can feel the heat radiating off every note. Wait for it....wait...for...it.

PARASITE - “bawow bawow bawawow” these guitars are so precisely written and played together. They are so straight with each other and listen, when the guitar solo is over you’re going to experience some drumming that you might not have before. So turn this song UP and clinch your booty cheeks - because there’s something after it that'll make your butt flutter.

MACHINE - this is like the intermission or break in the record and it’s 50 seconds of terrifying sounds. What is it about about that throcking “pwang” sound that is so scary? It’s like so primal or something that pulls your Scaries out of you and makes them line up in a nice little row...only they’ve got minds of their own and just when you think you’ve got it under control, all be damned if those things don’t sprout wings and fly right back inside.

FEED THE WAR - the noise continues to fade as the 50 second Machine ends and Feed the War begins. I mean how can you NOT dig how the unclean vocals are almost in harmony with the rest of the song. 

STRATOSPHERE - this gives me that heeby-jeeby feeling like I get when I watch “Donnie Darko” and Frank the Rabbit has his scenes or when that noise goes off when Donnie’s looking in the bathroom mirror, that “bam bam bam”. Y’all know what I mean - right? Look, this song seriously can put you in a trance. I am pretty sure as I sat listening, my eyes started getting heavier and heavier and they just closed with me sitting still and listening to what the guitars said in the repetitive progression and just was...

For the last minute or two of the last track “Stratosphere”, with my eyes weighted down with the gooey sludge of the music...I don’t know how long had passed but I didn’t hear anything but the creaks of the loft or the outbursts from the street below, I knew I’d been lulled into a trance; driven below that place in my subconscious that is summoned out of other people’s Dark Places that they chose to share with us through music...

For as heavy as DRIVEN BELOW is as a band on stage and in previous stages of their existence, “Trephination” is no doubt a work of intricacy, creating provoking thoughts as the measures in the songs go by on the record. The album is extremely well written and the recording, mixing and mastering is killer. From what I gather, this is recording is self-produced, recorded and everything...I’m not sure about that so before I go flappin’ my jaw, I will just wait to give the skinny on the record when I can sit down with the band - then we can get to all the nitty gritty goodies.

Everything worked out so well on this record for DRIVEN BELOW that even the explanations that explain can’t hold a candle to what I felt and heard. And really, when you think about it - that’s all a band wants right? Is for their listener to “get” what they are giving. When a fan can reach into the sound waves and pull something out of it, that’s what fulfills artists, musicians, writers, singers, painters - all creatives want to inspire and to be inspired. For me, the “why” is because I find the living in the inspiration - life happens right in the middle of a big ball of inspiration for me, and I can only speak for me. Y’all may live in other ways or find life happening in other parts and that’s cool - just as long as you’re finding something that makes you breathe in and out; something that keeps you going during those times when it seems as though that Nothing will take over forever; eventually it will become different. Until that shift happens either way, hold on to the source that brings you inspiration.

DRIVEN BELOW’s “Trephination” is one album that should be in every metal fan’s library or playlist. The record is out now and can be purchased on iTunes and Amazon and at other music retail outlets. Follow the band on Facebook by clicking a the links below. For any additional media inquiries please contact Padded Records.

About Driven Below:
Danny Reid is the former vocalist for Within Chaos (KOCH Records). Robert Wilson is a former guitarist of Flush (Midwest Records) and is also currently performing live with Low Gear (Padded Records). Jacob Flores is a former guitarist of Low Gear. Jim Taylor is the former bassist for Within Chaos (KOCH Records). Jim is endorsed by Spector Bass, Dean Markley Strings and InTune Guitar Pics. David Osbourn has played drums for Thee Final Chapter (Tribunal Records/Divebomb Records), Flush (Midwest Records), Nocturne (XXX Records), and is currently also performing live with Low Gear (Padded Records). David is endorsed by Silverfox Drumsticks and Soultone Cymbals.


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