by Johnny Papan
“This EP is definitely inspired by some very dark personal experiences and observations,” says bassist and frontman Jay Townsend. “Hardly anyone is immune from depression, addiction, anger, and self-loathing; neither are we. The heavy music that Drown in Ashes creates together deserves words that can reach people who may be struggling, or are also frustrated with the way the world seems to be going.”
Vancouver’s Drown in Ashes are on the brink of releasing their newest cut, Ruination, the follow-up to 2017’s Social Collapse. Their macabre sound blends elements of thrash, hardcore, and groove-metal, constructing a merciless wallop for the self-identified social degenerate. The new record is expected to be their darkest yet, touching on elements of modern day turmoil and ghosts of the past.
“All of the songs on Ruination possess significant meaning, but if asked to choose one, it would be ‘Less Than Human,’” says Townsend. “It speaks to a childhood that lacked significant attachment and communication, which created a young person who had very low self-esteem and was, in many ways, lost. The older the child got, the more of an outcast he became to his friends and family. Life for this man became about self-medicating, regret, and self-destruction as a means to cope with his alienated and lonely childhood. It’s a really heavy and personal song, as are all of the songs on this album. However, the music is not strictly focused on the negative – it also possesses hope and the realization that change is possible. At 10 years clean and sober, I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to write songs with Owen [Lewis, drummer] and Valek [Morke, guitarist]; looking back and unpacking some of what I went through as a young man who was entrenched in a lifestyle that hurt and destroyed me, and everyone around me.”
The album cover of Ruination, designed by Stefano Mattioni, features an image of a fist that is literally pulling a face into itself. It feels like a message of grizzly introspection, a sort of self-annihilation in which the body wants to self-destruct.
“We also have had the opportunity to frame the music around social and global issues. You would need to live on another planet not to see or feel the impact of the current housing and fentanyl crises in Vancouver. The increasing social disconnect in communities, media’s growing influence in our lives. The current state of global politics. These topics find their way on to the EP in songs such as ‘Disconnected’ and ‘Plague of Discontent.’ The themes on this album are part of our everyday lives, struggles, and will grow old with all of us.”
It’s fair to say that many of the world’s greatest artists have been those who drew from pain. It’s beautifully tragic, but art has always been a filler to the void within both creators and consumers. Drown in Ashes isn’t afraid to express their struggles through their art, letting the outside world know they’re not alone. Even the band’s name is derived from their personal sunken place.
“The name speaks to being overcome or choked by our mistakes, regrets, failures, traumas, fears, pasts, as well as the external forces of which we have no control. More importantly it is how we face life’s adversity, moving forward; overcoming the struggle, anguish, agony, and pain in our lives; rising from the ashes to fight another day in a world that is evolving at an unprecedented rate. We feel fortunate to have the opportunity to write and perform music together that will hopefully resonate with people and potentially help someone through their own pain and suffering. We believe there is realness to what we are doing with our art, and we are only getting started.”
Drown in Ashes will be performing the Ruination release party at Pub 340 (Vancouver) on September 28.