At some point in the mid 1980s, there was a musical sweet-spot in the evolution of hardcore where sheer speed and fury was not so much replaced but augmented with melodies and more sophisticated song structures. One band in the middle of this movement was Dag Nasty, featuring a certain Dave Smalley on vocals. Almost 40 years on, that melodic style of hardcore is still very much alive and kicking. There are lots of new bands excelling at the style but also scene veterans hold their own in bands like Field Day, Freewill or Be Well. Don’t Sleep sit right in the middle of that fraction, and also feature that very same Dave Smalley on vocals.
Don’t Sleep are great as they don’t just rehash a carbon copy of that original melodic hardcore style, but they continue to develop and push things forward. In particular, on this release the songs are peppered with additional guitar melodies that give the songs a greater depth than most. See “Dead Inside” for the perfect example of that. A cover of the Tom Petty tune “Runnin’ Down a Dream” is a nod to the rock roots that I think Dave Smalley has always admired. Don’t Sleep have made this version their own – it fits in with the rest of the songs. A rock-solid album that should appeal to fans of melodic punk with an old school hardcore flavour. Tom Chapman