Philadelphia-based Low Dose’s self-titled album is a hard-hitting grunge album that feels at once straight out of the nineties and of an entirely new ilk. The debut through Brutal Panda/Knife Hits Records is unapologetically loud, aggressive, and emotionally direct.
As one of the album’s singles, “Right On” establishes the band’s core principles. Heavy, stripped bare, and pushed to the point of clipping, “Right On” hits a raw nerve with its urgent distress. The guitars remain dissonant and simple, leaving room for a potent rhythm section. The bass and drums add strong punctuation and pacing, providing headbanging style without ever putting form before function.
Lyrically, “Right On” contains the same fire of its instrumentation. When speaking with WXPN’s The Key about “Right On,” singer/guitarist Itarya Rosenberg said, “It’s about going through a really f*cked up divorce, but I wanted to have the lyrics be very obvious and pop-sensible so people can apply them to things that they’ve gone through personally. Playing with these guys and writing this record saved my life.” Rosenberg’s delivery holds every ounce of power and potency that comes with deeply personal lyrical content.
Low Dose also finds strength in its record-wide pacing. Whether it’s the transition from mid-tempo jam “Start Over” into the chest-pounding “Away,” or the hard-hitting “Not Break Skin” into the slow build of “Legendary Divorce,” the album continually surprises. The mantra-like interlude of “Otherworldly Motives” perfectly breaks the album for vinyl listeners, showing the smart intention of this album’s mastering.
This smart mastering, paired with impressive mixing that showcases the band’s live sound, is the sign of good engineers that prioritize the band over their own style. Mixing engineer/producer Steve Poponi and mastering engineer Dave Downham (Gradwell House) knocked it out of the park.
In terms of composition, Low Dose pulls elements of nineties heavy grunge punk without ever feeling derivative. The gritty instrumentation and clear, belted vocals might pull influence from The Melvins or The Jesus Lizard, but could be convincingly explained as an analogous evolution of sound.
These musicians were inspired by a series of similar artists, of course, but never do they seem to replicate anyone wholesale. They then took their inspiration and channeled raw, intense emotion into a monstrously powerful debut.
Low Dose is a remarkably composed, well engineered, familiar-yet-new debut that strongly sets Low Dose at an interesting interval of contemporary music. With the rise in nineties appreciation along with a desire to hear new music with fangs, this Philly four piece may very well be entering a musical landscape in deep desire of their razor sharp sound.