“It’s been a pretty rough ride for the past couple of years” says Lois McDougall, vocalist for Drones, a truth that resonates with us all right now. The punk quintet are back with follow up to 2018’s Exiled but a shift this time in message to address this personal pain and struggle; divorce, loss and inevitable mental health challenges that come with the weight of the world on a person’s shoulders. Our Hell Is Right Here is here to tackle it all.
The opening four tracks deliver an array of snappy post-hardcore punk riffs and vocal melodies. Echoes of luminaries A.F.I. and Rise Against ring throughout. Neck wrecking rhythms served up with pummelling drum patterns and fills. Mitchell Thomas’ performance behind the kit a highlight throughout this record from the succinct and satisfying beats to splashes of flair in his fills in the likes of ‘Our Hell Is Right Here’. Said track also features an ever-fierce vocal guest spot from Ren Aldridge of Petrol Girls pushing the band further to hardcore side of their sound but it’s too brief of a guest spot. You are left wanting a larger bite from Ren’s power as it adds some variety to Lois’ melodic delivery. Which in turn is no negative point, Lois’ style and talent stands out from her peers, she is ardent and deploys her skill wisely never overstating it which other vocalists can be guilty of when having such raw talent.
This is most apparent on ‘Listen’ which takes the record down a gear. Strings delicately layered with acoustic guitar in a bittersweet twist, the lyrics pushing through becoming more direct. Lois’ mind and heart on display for all. Even though this is not the full band throwing all their ingredients at you, this is a palette cleanser and draws you into her message.
The lyrics throughout a deep and honest reflection of Lois’ troubles over the last year. The words not only a way to handle her own suffering but also reaching out to the audience and making you aware you can come out the other side. Lyrics ‘Maybe I’m not meant for this world, maybe I’m not meant to live anymore’ a dark introspection and she was ‘never gonna learn’. But Lois clearly has to produce something that can be inspiring to those that also deal with these challenges.
Single ‘Josephine’ is the standout track and will be a full capacity venue sing along. All elements are at full ferocity, hooks aplenty, an impressive guitar solo, drilling drum fill and a chorus that many will roar. The accompanying Claymation video crafted by animator William a dive into the dark alien world of an abusive relationship with alcohol. A journey that many go on that starts as an escapade but turns ruinous.
The major challenge of putting the record together over 2020 was well realised by the band. Guitarist Tim Kramer finishing the record with Lois well after other parts were laid down. Spread out across the country isolating, his work behind the desk has paid off in the production. No more than two members were ever in the room at the same time and this is unnoticeable.
One criticism of the record it mostly stays in one gear which a lot of punk post hardcore records can fall foul of. With the ability Drones have shown with their musicianship and song writing it feels like there is more in the tank that can add variety. However Our Hell Right Here is undoubtedly forty minutes of exceptional, brutally honest punk music that has the capacity to ignite a flame in their audiences. Hopefully it will also connect on an emotional level with the listeners, many of will have been undoubtedly have had their own demons this last year.
Our Hell Is Right Here is released February 12th via Lockjaw Records.