Swim or Drown – Trapped EP


Dutch metallic hardcore collective, Swim or Drown, gained attention with their 2022 Torment EP. Scream Blast Repeat praised the zeitgeist of their music for reminding us that ‘the world is a fucked-up place that will eat you alive unless you use your underdog energy to fight back.’ We also noted that ‘they promise a full-length album in the next twelve months. Can we believe them?’ A new 7” release suggests that the quintet need to make more time in their lives to produce art, which is one of the challenges of the modern age and is hard to criticise. Nonetheless, calling this product an extended play (EP) is a dubious piece of marketing.

On a musical level, Trapped is a fine record. The title track on Side A bristles with a muscular audio engineering and gives you everything you want – maximum rage, excessive testosterone, ugly distortion, and fat drum grooves. Imagine Slayer at 100 bpm. These riffs could cut through a polar ice cap. The abrasive amp noise from Roy Sloothaak and Hylke Wijnstra is the type of ear-bleeding crusade you cannot resist. Their palm-muted aggression could awaken a man from a coma. Vocalist, Jan de Groot, sounds like he swallowed a plate of rusty nails for breakfast. When did hardcore become more metal than metal? The answer might be the mid-90s, but these Dutch stalwarts remind you why the genre appeals more to metalheads these days than straight-edge ideologues. 

‘Human Scum’ on Side B needs little analysis from a lyrical perspective. Man is the biggest threat to the planet through his selfish behaviour, shallow needs, and hubristic belief that he can subjugate the environment to his whims. It’s the rhtetoric we’ve heard many times over the last three decades, but much of it rings true. Nail this message to d-beats, hysterical screams, and gold-plated groove metal riffing, and you have a reason to snap out of your comfortable life and shake a fist. Here, drummer, Jack de Leeuw, tunes his kit to the lowest notes to enhance the bludgeoning. Your posture is a confrontational one throughout the listening experience. Cocky? No, but your shoulders will bob up and down and your chest will puff out like an extension of your warrior ego. 

Swim or Drown suggest in their name that they see the world in Social Darwinian terms. They don’t, but they recognise that the complexities of life need to be boiled down to the simple choices that challenge our existence. Maybe one day, they’ll expand their Weltanschauung (worldview) into a full album.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 13/12/2023

Record Label: WTF Records

Standout track: Trapped

Suggested Further Listening: Extinction A.D. – Chaos, Collusion, Carnage & Propaganda EP (2021), LIES! – Mind Pollution (2023), Own Your Life – This Hate EP (2023)