Thirty years. Unsane have been together for thirty years. Somehow, I’m just now hearing about them. Coming out of New York City, the noise rock trio have released their eighth full-length studio album Sterilize, which according to their bio is “a record that recalls the most defining elements of the band’s seminal Scattered, Smothered & Covered and Occupational Hazard albums, surging with the band’s unrelenting singular sound created by guitarist/vocalist Chris Spencer, bassist/vocalist Dave Curran, and drummer Vinnie Signorelli.” You know what comes next. We’re gonna break it down.
It didn’t take much for the opener “Factory” to hook me. It has a good speed to it and the riffs are groovy as hell. When the vocals kick in, you can hear an old-school punk style sound in the distinctive wails. I had to listen to this song a few times because I thought I detected some production issues, but it turns out that was just my crappy headphones. Drums and bass on “The Grind” really pop, and the guitar has more of a metal feel than punk this time around. A great tempo maintains throughout and continues to “Aberration”. The sludgy vocals liken to late 80’s American punk, and the whole track gives off an intense unhinged energy.
“No Reprieve” keeps with the heavy but evens the tempo just a tiny bit. It feels like a very early raw grunge track influenced by The Melvins or Mudhoney. “Lung” features some amazing grooves under caustic vocals, while “Inclusion” probably has the most even tempo on the entire album yet still manages to capture a raw and crude yet catchy sound that’s been prevalent on every track thus far.
“Distance” keeps the relentless onslaught going, showing that this band has had a pretty big influence on (and has probably been influenced by) modern metal. I don’t know why, but I was expecting a power ballad with “A Slow Reaction” and I’m happy to report that I was wrong. This track brings about the band’s sludgier moments, rarely deviating from the constant unrelenting attack of every instrument. “We’re Fucked” has a sort of bluesy, southern rock vibe to the riffs, but the rest is still very much Unsane. The slowest paced track on the album is also its last, “Avail.” The riffs ooze southern rock, and the vocals don’t kick in for about a minute and twenty seconds. Even then, they’re so few and far between that this could very well have just been an instrumental track and it would’ve carried the same weight. The pace picks up briefly at about the three and a half minute mark but the track as a whole is very chill and relaxing.
That’s really the only point where Sterilize has any kind of deviation. For all of its in your face, loud, scuzzy action, there’s very little here setting each track apart from the other. The lyrics are at times hard to understand or even hear, but that comes with the territory when you’re dealing with noise rock. It isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s raw, it’s energetic, and has a great flow. If that’s your thing, then whether you’re like me and have evidently been under a rock for the past thirty years or you’ve been listening to these guys from day one, Sterilize is a great album to have in your collection.
Bloodrock Rating: 4 out of 5 axes
02. The Grind
04. No Reprieve
08. A Slow Reaction
Chris Spencer – guitar/vocals
Dave Curran – bass/vocals
Vinnie Signorelli – drums
Written by Mitch Ellerbrock for Bloodrock Media on November 4, 2017