Album ♯7 from Unsane, purveyors of New York’s post punk/hardcore, noise rock or whatever you want to call their style. Their career has spanned almost thirty years. My first encounter was their 2005 album “Blood Run” which mixed aggression with something very listenable. I confess that I have trodden different musical paths since then but I’ve always liked the New York hardcore scene and was impressed with “Blood Run”, so I had reason to look forward to experiencing their latest album “Sterilize”.
And so “Factory” leads off. It’s gritty, melodic in its dark way, ugly and as tight as you’d expect from a band of this pedigree. I just love the way the atmosphere is such that you can only imagine yourself in a decaying building or passageway with rubbish bins and smelling of pee. The groove of “The Grind” is compelling and of course dark. As the drums tap tribally, the bass sends shockwaves through this fluid piece, while on vocals Chris Spencer adds his unique touch. He sounds to me like he’s shouting through the fog. Sound effects are something that Unsane are good at. The subtle echo of the guitar creates that wall of sound with detracting from the song structure or quality.
It’s tough stuff, but accessible enough so that we can share the anger and negative vibe. As I listened to “Aberration” blazing out, it occurred to me that this isn’t of the modern age of metal really, but that doesn’t matter. “No Reprieve” is equally crumbly but it’s tight and out of a dark niche. That enveloping sound and sophisticated developments never allow it to escape from us. “Lung” and “Inclusion” share the same quality: drawn-out toughness. There wasn’t enough going on there for my liking. I had hoped for something more explosive but “Distance” heads towards the same world of dinginess, while packing a punch on the groove front. There are tinges of hardcore and punk but the framework is grim. Once again, the grey instrumentals of “A Slow Reaction” paint a vivid picture. Unsane manage to create the impression of a grim state of affairs. Appropriately then, the following song is “We’re Fucked”. For a few songs now, Unsane have been extracting any semblance of life out of everything and this is no exception. “Avail” too has the air of pulling along entrails. There’s no doubting the atmosphere. It is one of threat and decay. Deep, sludgy sounds are accompanied by more hopeful guitar passages, the occasional upturn and the vocalist’s desperate cries. It works.
Where Unsane succeed is in creating their grim and grey urban world. The highlight of this album for me is the tight and knife-twisting instrumentals, which are structured in such a way that they manage to convey with great skill this desultory and colourless scene.
(8/10 Andrew Doherty)