REVIEW: UNSANE LAND FAMILIAR YET BRUTAL WRECKING BALL BLOW
Firstly let me congratulate Unsane on celebrating over 20 years as an active band, in a career that has given us some of the harshest noise ever to come out of the Lower East Side of New York and surely some of the most graphic album covers of all time. They have soldiered on regardless of personal loss and physical injury with the grit and determination befitting the hardworking dogged ethic of their New York heritage, never diluting their sound or wavering in their convictions. So it comes to this, ‘Wreck’: Unsane’s seventh studio album (complete with typically blood-soaked artwork) and affirmation that this band has been so often criminally overlooked in favour of some of their East Coast peers.
On first listen, ‘Wreck’ comes at you jarring and lurching like haywire deep-core drill; opener ‘Rat’, captures the kind of chaos that many an Unsane record has produced, only here it has been stripped down, rebuilt to perfection and then spat out with more spite than a Rottweiler with his testicles caught in a mousetrap. The intensity of ‘Rat’ is replaced by the haunting tones of ‘Decay’ with Chris Spencer’s desperate and distorted howls barely cutting through the caustic din of his own guitar and Dave Curran’s rumbling bass line. One of the many highlights of this record, ‘No Chance’ transports you over a thousand miles away to the deep South, with the menacing shriek of the harmonica giving the huge slabs of blues laden riffage a real feeling of danger akin to that of being stalked in some nightmarish Louisiana swamp, by a bunch of inbred, gun-totingcrazies.
The unrelenting ‘Pigeon’ and the sheer viciousness and claustrophobic uneasiness on tracks ‘Metropolis’ and ‘Ghost’, are only accentuated by the chaotic production, handled by Andrew Schneider, giving you the listener the desperate task of fighting to keep your head above the maelstrom of noise. The massively sludgy ‘Don’t’, grinds and whirrs like a (not so well-oiled) machine before the records only vaguely sing-along moment ‘Stuck’ shuffles its way forwards, battered and bloodied, to a gravel-throated crescendo. The runaway pounding of Vinnie Signorelli’s drums on ‘Roach’ coupled with the maniacal laughter of the pretty obviously titled ‘Ha Ha Ha’ finally brings this chugging, bi-polar locomotive of a record careering off the rails and over the canyon edge into glorious oblivion.
Arguably the ten tracks on display here could quite easily be the defining moments of Unsane’s career. ‘Wreck’ doesn’t go for the same purely brute force approach of 2007’s ‘Visqueen’ yet it out-muscles it by varying the methods of its engagement, picking a good balance between all-out assault and psychological warfare. Similarly, ‘Wreck’s beefier moments out-box some of the bands earlier work by utilising the gargantuan guitar parts that made ‘Visqueen’ such a monstrous sounding (if a little one dimentional) recording, to devastating effect.
That said you won’t find any real new additions to Unsane’s tried and tested formula on ‘Wreck’, indeed the band’s seemingly bullish refusal to evolve their sound has been a criticism occasionally planted at their feet, but when said ‘formula’ has given you a steady 20 plus years career, the incentive to change it becomes redundant (the old adage, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, comes to mind.)
However you choose to view it, the songs on ‘Wreck’ stand loud and proud alongside their raw and nasty eponymous 1991 debut and 2005’s ‘Blood Run’, as some of the best that Unsane have committed to record. Their fellow East Side brethren Helmet may have gone on to greater commercial success but Unsane can rest safe in the knowledge that they have always held an integral role in the creation and upholding of that unmistakeable stripped-down New York style…Long may they continue to do so.
David Tuckwell- 4
You can listen to the live streaming of ‘Wreck’ at Metal Sucks.
Thanks for dropping in!
If you’re here maybe you should think of adding Zero Tolerance Magazine to your arsenal of regular reading? We offer a 3-issue trial subscription to whet your appetite. http://store.ztmag.com