Review: Gouge Away ‘Deep Sage’

Forming in 2012 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Gouge Away‘s line-up comprises of Christina Michelle – vocals, Thomas Cantwell – drums, Mick Ford – guitar, Dylan Downey – guitar and Tyler Forsyth – bass. Soon after their formation came the self-released Still Bored and Focus Your Anger EPs followed by the Dies and Burnt Sugar full lengths not long after.

Gouge Away 'Deep Sage' Artwork
Gouge Away ‘Deep Sage’ Artwork

Deep Sage marks the band’s third album with work commencing on it back in 2019 and songs demoed in 2020, however, with Covid came an enforced hiatus. The only peep heard from the band during this interim period was the Consider/Wave Of Mutilation single, the latter undoubtedly one of the best cover songs I’ve heard to date, surpassing the Pixies original by quite some distance. Six years is a long time to wait and I for one am beyond excited about getting stuck into this record.

The omens appear good with Stuck In A Dream opening the album in a muscular and hard-hitting fashion. Musically the track alternates between squalling noise-rock and the loud-quiet dynamics of ‘90s alt-rock and bands such as the aforementioned Pixies. The Breeders and Sleater Kinney spring to mind on Maybe Blue with a more indie sensibility prevalent than heard previously. Despite an increased focus on melody, it doesn’t detract from the track’s overall vitality and attitude.

Idealized, one of Deep Sage‘s leading singles, is even more entrenched in indie but with faint traces of Fugazi’s exploratory and intelligent brand of post-hardcore present. In fact, the band seem to share some of Dischord Records ethos both sonically and otherwise. The title track, Deep Sage, reminds you of Sonic Youth’s brand of cool no-wave with disjointed spoken word-esque vocals not a million miles removed from Kim Gordon’s. The band have truly excelled themselves here, exceptional.

The band have truly excelled themselves here, exceptional…

A Welcome Change musically lives up to its title and has to rank as one of the band’s most introspective, quiet sounding and interesting tracks in their catalogue and an example of a band unafraid of taking risks and broadening their musical palate. Overwatering has a dark death rock spirit, especially with the tribal style drumming, as such it references bands like Christian Death, TSOL and Super Heroines, be still my beating heart. No Release has a harsher musical attack than heard on the past few tracks, as well as the dissonant angular energy of bands such as Unwound, mouthwatering stuff I’m sure you’ll agree.

The Sharpening points its way to vintage The Jesus Lizard what with its familiar bass rumble which helps maintain the momentum built by the preceding track. One of the record’s angrier sounding songs for sure and a nod to Nirvana with vocals resembling Kurt Cobain at his most unhinged on Bleach. Spaced Out is a short, spiky and surprisingly catchy little number that employs the use of gang choruses but thankfully eschews the meat-headed postering of Madball, Hatebreed and their ilk.

Newtau feels cathartic in a way that recalls Babes In Toyland and early Hole, the vocals particularly adopting a positively Kat Bjelland/Courtney Love hue, while by contrast Dallas again taps into Fugazi’s Steady Diet Of Nothing era but also adds in the kind of emotionally deep, punk-informed indie pop that you might expect to find on the But I’m A Cheerleader soundtrack. A rather sweet conclusion to the album truth be told.

Gouge Away‘s journey, to me anyway, mirrors that of Hüsker Dü’s; starting life as a fun, albeit raw hardcore outfit who eventually grows into a group of accomplished and talented songwriters capable of producing excellent works such as this. Highly recommended.

Label: Deathwish Inc
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Reza Mills