Cast Down – A Deconstruction of Self (Review)

Although Cast Down have previously released music, they consider their A Deconstruction of Self EP to be their first official release. Released on Friday 22nd March via EVP Recordings, vocalist Jack McDonald shared with us that in comparison to their previous works, the EP “feels like a collection of songs with a driving force behind it.”

Those familiar with the band and their live show might already feel familiar with songs from A Deconstruction of Self, as the Melbourne band have been playing them live for some time. It was a connection at BIGSOUND in September which led to Cast Down signing with EVP Recordings, feeling that the label was on the same wavelength with them. Jack shared that Cast Down’s intention is to be the biggest and the best that they can be, pushing boundaries and inspiring others in the process, and they felt EVP could assist them with this.

Sonically this pushing of boundaries is apparent from the opening bars of A Deconstruction of Self in opening track “Pantomime Villain”. Static combined with screaming and erratic beats is an instant attention grab, and this heavy track shows a hint of industrial influence. Flaring riffs and pummeling drums shove the listener into something more intense and racing of pace. Poetic lyrics that are all but buried in intensity of sound carry frustration and a sense of victimisation. There’s a LOT going on, and a wild guitar solo/breakout is just as at home as short and growled vocal punches – even as Cast Down deliver both the same time.

When I spoke with Jack in the lead-up to the EP release, he shared that “Pantomime Villain” was the last song that Cast Down had written and recorded for the EP. Using inspiration from unreleased songs, the EP opener ties in to media exposure and its impact. In the face of dark things occurring in daily life, presented to us by news/social media, Jack wanted to return to a sense of unawareness that he had as a kid – instead of taking on the tragedies and misdeeds and becoming a villain himself. It’s sonically as dark and bombarding as the theme; the heaviest on the EP.

“This life kneels quaintly
Pantomime villain”

The driving and angular “Reborn and Violated” comes across as tense and tangled for its first half. Guitar accents pierce through as we’re asked “Can you feel it?”. The intense track pulls us from overwhelm into surrendering; to be literally ‘reborn’. It’s at the midpoint where a jaw-dropping slower bass-heavy section pulls us out of confusion to steadiness. We speed up again to see the track to the end.

Before I’d heard the track, Jack had explained “Reborn and Violated”‘s inspiration thus: “To crunch it down as simple as possible, it’s kind of like ‘fuck you, I’m better out of what happened’. Like, I’ve gone through some shit, it hurt, it’s fucked, but I know that I’m getting better and stronger, and it’s kind of that ‘fuck you’, you know? Like, I’m killing it, what are you gonna do? Try and take it. Whatever.”

Flowing straight into the EP’s first single, “Thread My Lips”, A Deconstruction of Self comes across as a cohesive release. Finding its way into my regular Spotify listening, this third track of the EP packs a punch courtesy of its hooking choruses and the punchy “take it, break it, bring it back to me” vocal strikes, as well as its ginormous ending. Slithering and whispery sections along the way work well, as do lighter ‘beat machine’ centric parts in amongst the chaos. It definitely seems like the most ‘single-y’ of the EP, and is as moreish as it is moshable.

Jack affirmed to me that the track was about the same situation as the previous one, but more dealing with an inner debate about speaking up or not. “It’s like I felt like I had to sew my mouth shut so I wouldn’t say anything. And I knew that the pain of tearing my lips apart would be worse than just dealing with the rot in my gut and just sucking it up. And having shitty things go on around me, but being mature and silent and just trying to condense it within myself is ultimately the best thing to do.”

“The Water” is less than two minutes long and has only eight lines of lyrics, but packs a punch regardless. It samples Twin Peaks (The Woodsman’s radio broadcast), and takes a God-like stance, from the perspective of a destructive God rather than a loving and creative one. The mostly electronic/atmospheric track expands to have fiery aggression pour outwardly from it, stabbing a stake of responsibility as it goes.

“Left Unrequited” is dancey as it begins, courtesy of its steady electro beat, but the ever-present bass purrs foreshadow something heavier to come.  There’s something instantly likeable about this track to me, how an undeniably dark song can still carry a dance worthy beat and be easily consumable despite the lyrical density. Smokey whispers billow around while the beat marches on. All the sonic threads pull together at the chorus, which is just plain delectable in its climbs and roars. I find “Left Unrequited” a fully riveting adventure from end to end.

Of the moreish track’s meaning, Jack shared that it’s about “kind of fighting with yourself about the person you love and feeling like you’re not good enough for them, and wanting them to verbalise that and treat you back that way. Like, if I felt like I was a shitty boyfriend, then I wanted to be told that, but then at the same time I wanted to be told the absolute opposite of that and be nurtured and loved.”

The EP closes with “Leatherman”. The track was written three years ago, and was previously released for the band (and was their only single on Spotify for a very long time!). A Deconstruction of Self saw “Leatherman” be re-recorded, and the difference between the two is impressive. The murky and hectic original has been transformed to something cleaner and fresher of sound, while still keeping the slamming intensity and outward fury.

When I spoke with Jack, he described how this “‘fuck you’ song” had evolved over time for him by way of his understanding. Originally written about another person, “Leatherman” has shifted 180 degrees and Jack now feels that it’s about him from the other person’s perspective. “I wrote it just trying to get my anger and frustrations out about someone else. Now I think it’s actually a song about me through that person’s eyes, because I was able to accept the shitty things that I’d done and deal with it that way rather than continue being angry. Because there’s no point, really. It’s just exhausting.”

“For every lie you spoke, for every word untrue
I live with regret
In contempt of you”

Ending in a static storm, “Leatherman” ends where “Pantomime Villain” could then begin again with its own rain of static. With a (seemingly deliberate) creation of ongoing threads between songs, the tracks of A Deconstruction of Self flow easily from one to the next, giving further meaning to Jack sharing that the EP presents something united.

My impression of A Deconstruction of Self is that it’s an EP designed for repeat listens. From initial jaw-dropping reactions of the heavy bombardment of constantly varying sections and flavours of sound, further listens offer up reason and enjoyment in something impressively creative. Poetic lyrics are virtually buried under hefty savagery, or otherwise seem to dissolve from whispers into thin air.

As a lyric and emotion focused listener, it’d be great to have these at the forefront to savour them more. I personally love the concept of someone going through a ‘deconstruction of self’ and would have appreciated more strength behind that idea carried throughout the EP.

I personally appreciate the tracks that have ‘reprieves’ of chorus or memorable hooks in amongst the chaos; a kind of anchor during forceful storms of hatred. The riff threading from midway through “Reborn and Violated” is an example of one such anchor for me, as is the “Thread my lips!” chant, and the chorus of “Left Unrequited”.

I am reminded of early Nine Inch Nails at times when I listen to Cast Down, and I appreciate the vibe of experimentation that the Melbourne band carry in their music. They create with sounds that you wouldn’t expect to exist alongside each other. And yet it works and works well. A Deconstruction of Self is a strong debut that packs a punch and showcases the varied approach to sound that Cast Down are capable of. In the future I’d love to see this capability honed and focused full-force toward their music’s themes.

Cast Down - A Deconstruction Of Self
  • EP Rating
The Good

Strong and creatively imaginative songs. Impressive and catchy instrumentation despite being never a dull moment and constantly changing.

The Bad

Would love to see the (very capable) lyricism honed to create more unambiguous scenes for listeners to immerse in, and more clarity with the song themes. I think Cast Down have a hefty toolkit of sound they can use to pull the listener more deliberately along with them..

Kel Burch

Creator and caretaker of Depth Mag, Kel uses her superpowers of empathy, word-weaving, and feeling everything deeply, to immerse herself in music before returning to reality to write about her experience with it. [Loved the read? Shout Kel a latte.]

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