Gouge Away – Deep Sage

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Gouge Away Deep Sage review

Even at their most intense, Florida’s Gouge Away always suggested sonic depths beyond sheer punishing aggression. They’re a band that’s more than the sum of their genre tropes, however you choose to interpret them—hardcore, noise rock, even grunge on their runaway hit of sorts, Burnt Sugar‘s standout melodic moment “Ghost.” But while that song stretched out the group’s cathartic crunch into double the length of their standard ripper, drawing out the tension via creeping bass and sung-spoken verses, it’s not necessarily an outlier. Within Gouge Away’s all-cylinders-firing eruptions, there are always finer details that reveal themselves for those who lean in for a closer listen.

It’s not necessarily surprising then that Deep Sage, the group’s first new album in six years, shows an even greater level of depth and maturation within the band’s sound even with the intensity still always bubbling just beneath the surface. Though those six years weren’t exclusively spent on refining their sound; the usual pandemic complications led to the band members moving to different parts of the country and making the band a secondary priority. After reevaluating their priorities, taking a breather and grieving the loss of a friend, the group found their way back to their musical home but with a new motivation, and in the process accelerated the evolution of their idiosyncratically abrasive music in spectacular ways.

That evolution is perhaps only subtly apparent but still easy enough to hear within the first track, “Stuck in a Dream,” around twice the length of a standard Gouge Away pit-starter, awash in punchy post-hardcore riffs and a steady percussive pummel. Vocalist Christina Michelle repeats the title phrase in a hypnotic loop, but it’s clear soon enough that this isn’t a pleasant fantasy: “I just want to wake up,” she sings, resigned, between more ferocious screams. The band’s sandpaper-and-cinderblocks approach is still recognizable, but they ride the tension out a little longer, hold that discomfort a little past what might have been a breaking point in years past.

Yet it’s what happens thereafter that sets Deep Sage apart from the band’s previous two albums, whether through the “I Wanna Be Your Dog” one-note piano repetitions on “Maybe Blue,” the giddy tambourine shake on the infectious title track, or the melancholy churn of “Newtau.” A handful of sub-two-minute detonations in the form of “No Release” and “Spaced Out” find their way into the mix as reminders of the band’s sinewy muscles and sharpened claws. But the greatest moments of growth are those where space is given the biggest platform, whether in the form of a dubby, Fugazi-like groove on the stellar “Idealized” or clearing a darkened path for Michelle to further explore more melodic vocal expression on “A Welcome Change.”

The album’s closing track, “Dallas,” is unlike anything the band’s written before, about a hundred highway exits from the hardcore outbursts from their early years or the churning scrape they eventually morphed into. That tension and power remains but catalyzed into a more low-simmering post-hardcore dirge, one that harbors an emotionally raw but melodically beautiful vocal from Michelle, escalating into an intense expression of grief: “I don’t know what you want me to say/You want an explanation but I can barely breathe.” The anguish is palpable but affecting in softer ways, devastating and tender but carrying a heaviness about it just the same. Deep Sage finds Gouge Away allowing more room for quiet, with Michelle screaming a bit less than she used to, but their music’s never sounded more urgent.

Label: Deathwish Inc.

Year: 2024

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Gouge Away Deep Sage review

Gouge Away : Deep Sage

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