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There are a lot of things to like about this album. As a Nasum tribute, you’d be hard-pressed to find an effort better executed than this.

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Album Review: UNREST Grindcore

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There are a lot of things to like about this album. As a Nasum tribute, you’d be hard-pressed to find an effort better executed than this. And on a very basic level, it’s both very hard and very easy to mess up grindcore. Hard because with such a basic template to work from, any band should be able to take their own voice and make it fit in some cool way. Easy because many bands seem to fail at this. Unrest succeeds, from the riffs, to the vocals, even to the subject matter- there is so much to praise about Grindcore.

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I could go on for a long time about the catchy guitar grooves and crushing vocal arrangements on “Quit” or the ripping insanity of “Anything to Shock.” But instead, I’d like to divert your attention to the lyrics. This may seem like a weird place to direct a review for a grind album, “you can’t understand what they’re saying anyway!” But stay with me for a moment.

Many grind bands, steeped in the political crust-punk movement, have a penchant for pushing political themes and messages in their music. Though these often carry an anarchist or anti-authoritarian theme of some sort, the backdrop can at times contain one or more shades of the hard-left (though it seems to be lost on many of them that the abolition of property and the collectivization of resources would require more force and coercion, not less…but I digress).

In any case, this draws in many people with very strong convictions. At its best, it shoves the problems and contradictions of modern society right in our faces, impacting us on both a sonic and a lyrical level. Unfortunately, this also can lead to an element of self-righteousness, which the band addressed in a recent interview, speaking about the song “Protest Culture:”

The song calls bullshit on people whose politics are motivated by a desire to belong. I guess a lot of us find ourselves there at some point or another, especially when we’re young. The problem occurs when belief systems become too dogmatic. They create feedback loops of confirmation bias, the kind of thing you mentioned earlier that can happen within message-focused punk or metal, and that kind of group-think can stand in the way of real change.

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Indeed, the lyrics confront the listener head-on:

And you recycle every slogan that's colorful
A safe position in the company of everyone who already agree and will not challenge your alignment
But when will your true colors show?
This reactionary state of mind cannot allow you to grow
How far do you expect this to go?

One of the album’s other highlights is the straightforward blast and thrash of “You Take,” which takes on another set of tropes common in punk culture, those dealing with people who willingly become homeless. For anyone who wishes to learn about the phenomenon in depth, this book might be a good place to start. In another interview, the band goes into detail about the message here as well:

People who flaunt they don’t need the system, I’m not going to contribute, blah, blah, blah, I’m not going to live that way, BUT need people who work for the system to support them and help them survive. Especially in the States, that’s a product of privilege. In other countries there are people who have no support at all, there are people fighting who are fighting to survive…and these people who are a product of privilege choosing to live off of those who are contributing…You don’t need the system? You need people who are in the system though!

If I hadn’t been at work when I first read this, I would have applauded out loud.

It adds an interesting dimension to album like this when a band can both embody many of the hallmarks of a genre (opposition to authority, hatred for the powers that be, disdain for human waste), and yet still possess the self-awareness to point the finger at those very tropes when they run off the rails.

Cause you got what you want, don't you act so surprised
You choose the path of most resistance now you want some fucking prize?
You gave the finger to the system but still expect it to provide

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It reminded me of the “folk-punk” craze that struck around 2010-2011, something which I never understood. But in particular, it reminded me this kid I knew through some friends in the punk scene who came from one of the richest towns in Fairfield county, and had chosen to be homeless. It basically amounted to him mooching off his friends for money, food and places to stay while walking around shows with an acoustic guitar, playing terrible songs about evil corporations.

I go on this tangent because it really gets to the heart of what Unrest is trying to say here: you’re born with this mountain of privilege, with all the resources and potential that you could direct to making some sort of difference (e.g. become a doctor at a free clinic, establish a charitable foundation, donate to an animal shelter). But instead, by choosing poverty as a “statement”, you mirror the attitude of the idle rich you claim to despise – one that leeches off the surplus value generated by the labor of other people.

And I think the lyrics are worth focusing on because there’s only a few other things to talk about here. The production is awesome, everything is loud and clear, but not so polished that you lose the power behind the music. The guitar parts are constructed with a mind for dissonance, in a way representative of the genre’s best work. So basically, if you want to hear a solid grindcore album, listen to Grindcore.

8/10

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Favorite Tracks: “You Take,” “Protest Culture,” “Anything to Shock,” “Inaction” and “Quit”

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