CD Review: “Sterilize” by Unsane

After a five-year hiatus, New York noise trio Unsane returns to its roots on its eighth album. The dour disposition of the band’s previous release (Wreck) is long gone. Sterilize is raw and angry and relentless. It sounds like a band that’s young and hungry, not a band with 30 years and a healthy discography under its belt.

The album is lean. Every song feels essential and connected to the whole. Unsane oscillates between ranting ragers like “The Grind” and “Distance” and a seething southern-groove swagger on tracks like “Aberration” and “We’re Fucked.” The result is a staggered tempo that periodically pumps the brakes but never loses momentum. The tempo is so compelling that long stretches of instrumental noodling sneak past largely unnoticed.

Sterilize is a politically charged tempest of droning, squelching and clanking, a controlled chaos on the verge of breakdown. Chris Spencer’s vocals are panicked and angst-ridden, screeching desperate lines like “We’re going to run out of time.” But he finds opportune moments to trade off his soapbox punk vocals for melodic bits of chorus that offer a nice dynamism. There’s a definite craftsmanship guiding this chaos. Unsane knows when to let a riff sit and stew a few extra measures and when to launch head long into a feral cacophony.

This album is, without a doubt, a crowd pleaser. Fans are sure to find it refreshing to see Unsane stripping down and resetting. It’s harsh, but entirely accessible and an easy entry point for newcomers. Sterilize may not be the most innovative or the most experimental album in the band’s oeuvre, but it might just be the heaviest.

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