Since 1988, New York’s Unsane have laid waste to the hardcore competition with every successive release. Pioneers of the noisecore subgenre, their 1991 debut featured a decapitated man on a train track (an idea that Mexican death-metal junkies Brujeria would later tweak for their debut album art), and every album cover since then has highlighted excess blood in some fashion. Visqueen, their first for Mike Patton’s Ipecac label, is no different: the cover exhibits a bloodied corpse wrapped in plastic (Visqueen is the brand name for this polyethylene film) and lying in an abandoned field. The music inside is just as grim, cold, and calculated for maximum performance when bludgeoned by blunt objects.

The album opens with the immediately antagonistic “Against the Grain,” rippling with impossibly heavy riffage—and a definitively drunken swagger—like Quintaine Americana before they faded into the wallpaper. “Last Man Standing” rides this iron horse to approach old, t-h-i-c-k Helmet, especially during the guitar bridges. Bassist Dave Curran has managed to tune his thunderstick down until the strings flop about, yet he attracts so much fuzz that Godflesh’s Benny Green is kicking himself for his fatal decision to leave said band. Speaking of the ’Flesh, “Only Pain” and its countrified counterpart “Windshield” sound like outtakes from 1996’s magnum opus Songs of Love and Hate and size up as true album highlights. “No One,” “Disdain,” and “Shooting Clay” speed along like a grimier Helmet, and “Line on the Wall” and “Eat Crow” could be Quintaine covers. The industrial leanings (literally: sounds of jackhammers, band saws, subway trains, etc.) of the closing instrumental “East Broadway” remind the listener of the metronomic power of drummer Vinny Signorelli.

Most impressive is the thickness of the chords—seriously heavy—thanks in part to the production of Andrew Schneider (Pelican, Cave In, Scissorfight), but heavy in an accessible way. Guitarist/vocalist Chris Spencer still wields a Fender Telecaster, an axe used for country music to add that extra twangy echo to every note. Though some of the songs run together—and they end up sounding like their peers that they so heavily influenced—Visqueen is a metal triumph and Unsane’s best yet.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Ayers
June 22nd, 2007


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