Dropdead – “Dropdead”

dB HoF No. 138

Label: Selfless
Release date: November 1993

It may be the punkest thing to ever happen to an album in Decibel’s Hall of Fame: It was bootlegged after its release by the band themselves. So it goes with Rhode Island’s long-running hardcore punk/crust/grinders Dropdead, who found themselves with a debut album that was pressed and distributed by Dutch East India Trading, a company that was crunching numbers and trying to move units—and in the process changing Dropdead’s album’s artwork, much to the band’s dismay.

But that’s not even the main talking point about the now-classic slab of manic hardcore, crusty grind, and frantic powerviolence: The reason we still care all these years later is because it was an incredible display of both punk energy and metallic force, even though the band was far more rooted in the hardcore underground than in the metal scene. But years later, their influence would be broadcast loud and proud to longhairs worldwide by way of a Nasum cover of “Bullshit Tradition” and a split record with fellow Hall of Famers Converge. Plus, there’s the knowledge that this band was playing a take on grindcore in the east coast of the USA in the early ’90s when that wasn’t really the fast pass to any sort of… well, anything. All of which just means that their name comes up when metalheads are drinking beers, talking shop, and making charts and spreadsheets of early bands in various metallic subgenres.

Plus, do the math: 34 songs in 24 minutes. There’s no way any self-respecting grindcore fan didn’t just pop at least a teeny lil’ sweatpants boner trying to figure out what the average song length is here (look, I can’t do the math either, but it’s less than a minute). Dropdead—which at the time of their debut consisted of vocalist Bob Otis, guitarist Ben Barnett, and brothers Brian and Lee Mastrobuono on drums and bass, respectively—considered themselves a punk band, but the beats are blasting on this album, the riffs are raging, and it’s talked about all these years later as a classic in grindcore. Call it what you like, but there’s no disputing that Dropdead’s 1993 self-titled debut album was loved and continues to be loved by grind fanatics, fans of fastcore and powerviolence, lovers of Japanese and California hardcore, those who swear by Swedish d-beat, and the crust punk who puked on your arm in that squat in the mid-’90s.

For all these reasons, and the fact that it hits just as hard today as it did in 1993, Dropdead’s self-titled debut (not to be confused with their second self-titled album, from 1998) is worthy of many hails and horns raised, ales tipped, and solemn fists raised in the air in the name of all that is good, and all that is grinding.

– Greg Pratt

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