Unsane – ‘Sterilize’ (Southern Lord Recordings) Print
CD Reviews
Written by Rich Hobson   
Monday, 16 October 2017 04:00

Unsane artworkBands 20+ years into their career, especially those revered in the underground community, generally have three options available to them. First, they can double down on their previous sounds, aiming to constantly reinvent the wheel which brought the band adoration in the first place. Second, they can evolve, shifting their sound to embrace new and experimental things, doing away with the one trick pony altogether and trading it in for something more space-worthy. Third, they can chase every passing trend in the hope of tricking a few kids into giving them a pity audience, forever chasing the amorphous track-jumping bandwagon. On ‘Sterilize’ Unsane go for option one, smashing the single digit as hard and furiously as possible.


A record directly tied in to the band’s home, ‘Sterilize’ sees Unsane fire shots at the perceived sterilisation of the outside world. See, while the rest of us are staring down fuckheads like Trump and May, wondering whether WW3 is just around the corner, Unsane look closely at the community level and find plenty to rage about. Pulling no punches and holding a blazing torch to the milquetoast elements of the world, ‘Sterilize’ is Unsane at their most furious, a thunderous ten-track serving of aural assaults that will leave the listener bruised and bloodied.


Stylistically, ‘Sterilize’ is as straight-ahead as Unsane get; unwavering viciousness as riffs collide, vocals spit and hell rains from every possible angle. That doesn’t mean the band are complacent in their approach, though. This record runs miles ahead of where 2012’s Wreck left us. Deciding that their efforts were a little too subliminal on the predecessor, Unsane crank up every element of their sound to smash the listener as hard as they can, rattling teeth and leaving the pink stuff quivering in just over 4 minutes with opener ‘Factory’.


Drums tumble and bass-lines unleash a primordial growl on each and every track of ‘Sterilize’, the end result akin to the soundtrack to a natural disaster. Each track offers its own take on the cacophony that Unsane do so well – ‘The Grind’ offers the crushing heaviness of tectonic plates crashing together, while ‘Abberation’ is an air-raid siren during a carpet-bombing campaign. There are no hiding places across the ten-track assault of ‘Sterilize’’s runtime, the entire 37 minutes dedicated to tearing the listener to pieces.



Unsane’s heaviest elements are at the forefront on ‘Sterilize’, the record turning the dials right up on the intensity and sense of cacophony that they create. This sense of immediacy is one of the record’s strongest suits, the perfect noise punk record for the age of instant gratification. With almost 30 years’ history behind them, Unsane are one of the only noise groups that have managed to release music since the genre’s rise to prominence right the way through to today. As such, expectations of the record (and the band) are set fairly high, but to complicate matters further, their status as a major influence within the noise punk scene means the expectation will be for the band to somehow find a way to shape the scene further.


‘Sterilize’ isn’t a record of reinvention. Nor is it a record that gets misty-eyed over the band’s legacy, trying to recreate past glory days. Instead, this is a record which finds its groove early and sinks its fangs in deep, holding the listener in a bulldog death grip. Unsane aren’t trying to recreate their past career for the simple fact that in 2017, they still embody the same levels of powerhouse noise that they did on their debut in 1990. If anything, the band’s dogged determination to run with what they have is inspiring in and of itself; the band are absolutely certain of who they are and unashamed to own what they have.


Unsane are to Shellac what Motörhead were to Little Richard or Chuck Berry; both live in the same genre, yet approach it from such disparate places that neither truly resembles the other. And yet, undeniably both bands inhabit the same space, exhibiting the same key spirit. In Unsane’s case, that spirit is of unyielding ferocity, the tag ‘noise punk’ serving the band in the same way that the word ‘pop’ serves a lit cache of TNT.


‘Sterilize’ is out now.  You can get your copy HERE.




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