In what could only be described as any self-respecting fan of so called ‘Noise Rock/Metal’, this judicious melding of minds between Chris Spencer (Unsane), Jim Coleman’s sampling mayhem (Cop Shoot Cop), Phil Puleo (Cop Shoot Cop/Swans) and sticky, pounding bass playing from Chris Pravdica (Swans), is the masturbatory, wet dream of a collaboration that would leave said fan looking like they had ram raided a factory of Copydex and rolled around a bit. I am struggling for the female related equivalence but maybe it’s best to leave the wanking similes there for now.
Swans are obviously and simply put, a band of legendary status. Famous for their confrontational live appearances and their apparent disdain for their audiences, Swans go head to head with My Bloody Valentine’s for the most hatefully loud, aural destruction of inner ears around the world. Their deconstructed ‘rock’ is a beautiful, compelling, strange, awkward and magnificent thing to behold and melding this with Unsane and Cop Shoot Cop’s unorthodox musical parlance only adds to the melting pot here in what is a dark but shifting experimental rock musing, that is concussive, driving and challenging. Two parts Killing Joke, three fourths Nine Inch Nails more rockier moments three eights the substitute soundtrack to David Fincher’s nihilistic nightmare movie Seven.
Human Impact is, genuinely, an intriguing, interesting and challenging listen, floating on a warbling, driven bed of bass with last breath, death gargled, barely audible, murky utterances that sit underneath a layer of synths and atmospheric vocals. It’s unsettling at times, and the choruses (especially on standout track E605) brings welcome relief from the unrelenting darkness and sheer weight of the bleakness on offer here. For fans of Swans/Unsane, none of this will come as a surprise given the musical chemistry and shared entomology that the comprising members of Human Impact have between them. Having virtually invented a musical genre, Human Impact’s debut effort, certainly doesn’t stray too far from that musical blueprint…and why should it? Listening to this, you can also hear elements of bands such as Shellac, Killing Joke and Jesus Lizard also, but in a less frenzied and more controlled way, but that only tells half the story. On tracks such as Portrait, the thudding toms and bass give way to an almost jaunty guitar riff that acts as a freshly made bed for the vocals to defecate over.
If anything, Human Impact’s album lulls you into a false sense of security at times, leading you down the alley under the promise of a hand job, before pushing you into a pit of foul smelling effluence and then throwing milk bottles at your head as you succumb to the murky depths. That might sound like flowery, hyperbole and the warbling’s of a reviewer overstepping the boundaries of their remit, but this album poses questions that it refuses to answer. At times, grinding rock, at times hallucinogenic, Doors like tipsiness, before spitting back in your face with the more avantgarde tropes of Faith No More’s later back catalogue. It would be churlish not reference that this album has found a home on Mike Patton’s label, Ipecac, and you can see why. It’s bizarre, genre confounding mayhem that’s not constricted by any genre nor does it come burdened with any sense of expectation (aside I guess from fans of Swans who will, for the record, absolutely love this).
Human Impact does a pretty good job of summing up why we, as fans of the music and bands featured within these hallowed (virtual) pages, like what we do. There may be moments on here that could be considered mainstream, with riffs that could be found on Talk Talk’s more chart bothering moments, but it’s all underpinned by a fierce sense of independence, evil intentions, whispered threats, dirty fingernails, discordance and a devil may care attitude that contrive to make this a precarious, and joyous, walk on the wild side. I want to see this live.
(9/10 Nick Griffiths)