In 1982, Swans formed in crime-blighted Lower Manhattan amid the hive of creativity that was that area’s no wave scene.
Five/six years later, Cop Shoot Cop and Unsane formed in the same area and set the tone for many noise rock bands that were to form in the 1990s. Unsane frontman Chris Spencer, Swans rhythm section Chris Pravdica and Phil Puleo, and Cop Shoot Cop sampler Jim Coleman have now banded together to form Human Impact, a New York noise rock supergroup whose eponymous debut album harks back to the atmosphere of their hometown in those less innocent times.
Lead single and opening track ‘November’ sets the scene in an impressively sinister way, with Spencer growling menacingly “Watch the traffic flow, sweat burns my eyes … let’s get one thing clear … you’ve lost everything”.
The heavy guitars that Unsane fans have come to expect from Spencer are offset slightly by Coleman’s synths on songs like ‘Respirator’, ‘E605’, ‘Consequences’, and ‘Protester’, but his vocals are as furious as ever. His guitar works in lock-step with Puleo’s drums on ‘Unstable’ and ‘Portrait’, and echoes Killing Joke’s Geordie Walker while Pravdica’s dirty bass-playing recalls latter-day Unsane on ‘Cause’. ‘This Dead Sea’ is the album’s heaviest song and a memorably heavy closer.
‘Human Impact’ is far more than the sum of its parts. It evokes a frightening time and place of which its members all have lived experience and is the best noise rock album of 2020 so far by some considerable distance.
Words: Greg Hyde / @Gregory_Hyde
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