Deep Sage, the third full length effort by Florida noise rock band Gouge Away, wrestles with the torturous weight of everyday struggles with candidness, and in the process sees the band write some of their best material.

Opener ‘Stuck in a Dream’ sets the tone of the record with a call-and-response riff and the barked repetition of the titular mantra. Balancing their punk-inflected hardcore roots with the gnarled noise rock leads. Thematically, the song sets up the album up perfectly with its lyrical focus on the mundanity and dissociation of a dream-like state.

‘Maybe Blue’ follows this up by dragging a mirror up to the routine face of depression, announcing in its opening seconds, “Your hair has been growing longer, food in the fridge is going bad. The plants are in need of water, it’s so much harder when you’re sad.” The familiar sensation of lacking the willpower to take care of yourself and your responsibilities is crushing, and the gnarled guitar line, in its dissonant melody, reflects the ache of promise wilted by a bout of depression. In its refrain, though, is a pained remnant of hope, asking “Doesn’t this mean we have no choice but to change?”

The everyday management of personal and social issues is a common theme on Deep Sage. ‘Idealized’ focuses on the expectations imposed by society. Declaring “Don’t wanna go through life seeking validation from a stranger or a neighbour or an institution. Before you form your picket lines, look within your picket fences.” The track makes good use of the quiet/loud dynamic popularised by Pixies, from whom Gouge Away take their name. The contrast between the subdued verses and erupting choruses matches with the vocals ranging from falsetto to guttural roar.

Influence from post-hardcore bands like Fugazi and Unwound are clear on Deep Sage. The more melodic side of their music is much more present, if washed in a caustic bath. The title track and ‘A Welcome Change’ are perfect examples of the band taking a step back into more subtle, if not subdued, territory.

‘Overwatering’ compares the accidental, irreversible act of harming a houseplant with too much of what it requires to the maintenance of relationships. ‘Spaced Out’ is an exasperated demand to be left alone. ‘Newtau’ delves into being around someone who never seems to act on what they acknowledge in their apologies. On Deep Sage, Gouge Away target every normalised, mundane issue that erode at our mental health and put them on blast. To score this lyrical focus is noise rock that is unafraid to lean into sombre beauty as often as it is caustic ugliness.

To close out the record is ‘Dallas’, the band’s most pop-friendly track to date. Taming the guitars that have been unwieldy elsewhere on the record, keeping the pummelling drums and squirming bass to a driving rhythm and subduing the vocals to airy drift, the band construct something not too distant from the material on the new Mannequin Pussy album. The song doesn’t feel out of place, though, and by introducing a wailing guitar lead the noise never feels far from reach.

Deep Sage sees Gouge Away at their most comfortable, but not complacent. Improving on all fronts from elements introduced on past releases, the band have put together a formidable batch of tracks. Some of their best tracks to date and a testament to their growth as songwriters.

Gouge Away: Deep Sage – Out 15th March 2024

Away “Spaced Out” (