More like insane than Unsane
As far as a band is concerned, lasting 30 years is a pretty damn incredible feat. Save for ancient rockers like the Rolling Stones who will never die out, there isn’t really an act, particularly in the noise metal/punk realm, that can say they’ve been influential to three decades of aggressive sounds. That is, except for New York trio Unsane. Since the late ’80s they’ve pulled inspiration from the gritty reality of their city, aesthetically and thematically subsuming their surroundings into their sounds. Despite how much New York itself has changed, Unsane hasn’t that much, and their newest album Sterilize shows that.
Compared to Unsane’s other seven albums, Sterilize has more of a combative feel to it. There’s always been a slightly hostile element to their music, but with Sterilize, it’s almost as if the band is pushing to prove they’ve still got that energy. “Factory” kicks the album off with a vivacious riff, with vocalist Chris Spencer’s labored shouting adding extra fierceness. On “The Grind,” a simmering beat bumbles through the duration of the four-minute song, really only serving as a backdrop for Spencer’s vocal instrument.
The thing about Unsane is their ability to fit more into the category of noise rock, while still maintaining a brashness of punk rock and the characteristic dirge of metal, adding in nods to other genres along the way. Sterilize isn’t as dark and mild as ’12s Wreck or even as bluesy as ’07s Visqueen (though the new album’s “Aberration” and “Distance” have a modicum of blues and southern rock to it mainly due to Spencer’s yowl), but it’s definitely driving in its force. “Lung” crosses over into a more melodic territory, at least, as melodic as cacophonous sounds can get. It pushes and pulls rhythmically, its distortion flowing seamlessly into following track, “Inclusion.”
Album closer “Avail” is one of the strongest on Sterilize, imploring somewhat of a slow, doom-esque quality with its impact. With nearly no vocals present other than some shrieks and screams, “Avail” drags the listener face first through the mud of its murkiness, occasionally allowing relief through sludgy riffs and bass lines. Considering how “Factory” started the album, “Avail” ends it with that same vigor.
To be their eighth release, Sterilize definitely demonstrates Unsane’s ability to still create and perform at the peaks they did when they first got started. It’s a fury of powerful musicality and a solid contribution to where heavy music is currently.