Posts Tagged ‘New York’

Southern Lord – 29th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been five years since Wreck appeared on Alternative Tentacles. So what have Unsane been doing in the intervening period? Gazing at their navels, taking up yoga and discovering a serene spirituality as a means of dealing with the anguish of life in the modern world? As if. They’ve been distilling their brutal rage into even more intensely bleak slabs of sonic nihilism. And, naturally, it’s housed in appropriately unsubtle, gore-soaked artwork. Unsane’s album covers are nothing if not distinct: while so many metal album covers which display hematomaniac tendencies are highly stylised and revel in the intended shock value, Unsane’s covers are all the more shocking by view of their clinicality, resembling crime scene photos than works of art. This is in many ways true of the music itself: there’s a functionality, a bluntness about it, and no sense of there being any indulgence or show.

Everything about Sterilize is stark, uncompromising, and connotes post-industrial, post-everything society, the dehumanising effects of merely trying to exist in the capitalist world where everyone gets pushed further and further down for the benefit of the few. It’s the soundtrack to life being sucked from the soul, the sonic encapsulation of desolate fury.

The grey steel assault of ‘Factory’ sets the tone and tempo: screeching feedback whistles through the grey, grain of the guitars and sludgy bass. From thereon in, the ferocious howls of anguish and packed in tight, back-to-back.

The song titles are also functional, direct, descriptive. Again, there’s no fluff, and little joy, to be found around ‘We’re Fucked’, ‘A Slow Reaction’ or ‘Distance’. Everything is paired back to the bare essentials and compacted for maximum impact. This includes the blues-based sound that defines Unsane: it’s crunched up, compressed, stomped into submission, meaning that while there is a certain swing to it, it’s limited to the most concise and precise form.

‘The Grind’ is aptly titled and brings a thunderous deluge of guitar; ‘Aberration’ is built around a simple four-chord trudge; and ‘No Reprieve’ sums up the album as a whole. You don’t listen to Unsane for variety, either across a given album, or their output overall. You listen to Unsane to vent, to experience a relentless viscerality. There’s something almost self-flagellatory about listening to an Unsane album in its entirety. At a certain point, the initial sense of catharsis is replaced by a crushing claustrophobia. This isn’t to say it’s an unpleasant experience, but is indicative of the effect of such sustained intensity. It’s as exhausting, mentally and physically, as the exertions of daily life on the treadmill, a punishment as reward.

When they slow the pace a shade, the weight is turned up, and when they hit a groove, it’s explosive and blistering. The tripwire guitar that stretches its sinews over the sludgy trudge of ‘Lung’ only raises the tension, and closer ‘Avail’ draws a heavy curtain of screaming anguish on proceedings with distorted vocals tearing across a rumbling bassline and savage guitars.

There’s a desperation and urgency about Sterilize which ensures that it crackles from beginning to end. Everything seethes, spits and scrapes and there’s not a moment’s relief. It’s this intensity which makes Sterilize as strong as any Unsane release. It’s mercilessly harrowing, but is ultimately satisfying in a perverse, sadistic sense.

AAA

hi3000x3000RGB

Advertisements

Sacred Bones – 20th January 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Nasty’ is a word you’re likely to hear or read in relation to dark, gnarly, mangled black metal or crust punk, or perhaps some particularly unpopulist industrial effort, or some particularly savage techno. But on Wake In Fright Uniform offer something that’s a different kind of nasty. And yes, it really is nasty, brutal, savage, uncompromising and unfriendly. And while there are elements of metal, thrash, industrial and power electronics, Wake in Fright – described as ‘a harrowing exploration of self-medication, painted in the colors of war’ – throws down the challenge of a noise all of its own.

Preview cut ‘Tabloid’ doesn’t so much open the album as tear the lid off the thing in a squalling, brutal frenzy. The drums are pitched to a frenetic pace but largely buried under the snarling, churning mess of guitars, feedback and distortion. Michael Berdan sneers and hollers venomously like he’s in the throes of mania, and to describe it as raw would be an understatement. It’s still on the bone and walking around. A gnarly mash of early Head of David, Foetus, Godflesh and the most obscure hardcore punk demo tape you’ve ever heard, it’s anything but easy on the ear. It is, however, a real blast of adrenaline, not so much a smack around the mouth as a succession of steel-toed boot jabs to the ribs.

The earthmoving bass grind of ‘Habit’ is coupled with the dirtiest, dingiest guitar noise you’ll hear all year. ‘The Lost’ combines the harsh edge of late 80s Ministry with an old-school punk feel, New Order trampled under the boots of a thousand-strong army of brutalists. It’s a stroll in the park compared to the thousand-mile-an-hour rage explosion that follows in the shape of ‘The Light At the End (Cause)’, which is nothing short of brutal, a black metal assault. There’s nowhere to take refuge with this album: cover your face, the blows land in the ribs, the back, the legs. Uniform are fucked off, and are going to vent their unremitting ire on anything, everything, and everyone.

The most striking thing about this album – short as it is, with just eight tracks and a total running time of thirty-eight and a bit minutes, (aside from its eye-popping intensity, that is) is its diversity. ‘The Killing of America’ is a full-tilt industrial metal slogger which evokes the spirit of Psalm 69, and packs a truly wild guitar breaks. The tempo is off the scale, to, and th third most striking thing about Wake in Fright is its sustained attack. There’s no let up. Not even for a second. Just when you think there might be a moment’s respite, the buggers up the tempo and the volume and the fierceness by at least another ten per cent. By ‘Bootlicker’ (track six), it’s all reached an almost unbearable level of noise, as the drums pound like machine gun fire through a gut-churning barrage of guitars. Seriously, with Wake in Fright, Uniform make Strapping Young Lad sound like Mike Flowers Pops.

Curtain closer ‘The Light At the End (Effect)’ may slow the pace at last, but the murky Swans-like dirge, with its scratched spoken narrative, remains anything but an easy exit or an uplifting finale. It’s six minutes of postindustrial grind, and a fitting close to an album that comes out, fists flailing, whirling chains and spitting venom.

Don’t come to Uniform looking for a hug. Wake in Fright is utterly terrifying, a horrorshow of a record with not a moment of calmness or humanity. It’s horrifying, squalid, beyond harsh: a sonic kick to the gut. You bet it’s already one of my albums of the year.

 

Uniform - Wake in Fright