Quality will always trump originality, and bands like TrenchRot and Crypt Sermon embody that truism; the former released the great “let’s play Asphyx and Bolt Thrower” – core monstrosity Necronomic Warfare last year, and the latter recently released an old-school doom album that met with high praise from Steel Druhm. What does this have to do with Unrest? Well, members of TrenchRot and Crypt Sermon (along with USBM band Woe) have decided to grace us with an album of Nasum worship, which is quite exciting given their current track records. When I heard the remaining members of Nasum gave the unambiguously titled Grindcore their seal of approval, my excitement shot through the roof. Unrest have boldly pulled the biggest shoes out of grindcore’s closet, so let’s see if they can fill them.
For those not familiar with the Nasum sound, it’s essentially vicious grind mixed with dashes of old-school punk (think early Anti Cimex), topped off with whiplash inducing groove riffs and a ton of massive yet never forced hooks. Unrest stick with this formula pretty staunchly, with their closest relative being Nasum’s final record Shift. Vocally, Chris Grigg (Woe) brings a vicious blackened punk scream to the table along with a fairly standard but effective growl, and Steve Jansson (TrenchRot, Crypt Sermon) employs his Martin van Drunen-esque howl. This variation in vocalizations works its magic the most in “Consumption,” which sees Jansson and Grigg trading phrases in a great way during the verse and ratcheting the energy up to a fever pitch.
Sticking closely to the Shift blueprint with some nods to Napalm Death works well on Grindcore, but my favorite tracks here see Unrest’s members successfully incorporating their other bands’ sounds and influences into the mix. “Nothing (That’s All You Have to Give)” mixes some Bolt Thrower by way of TrenchRot into a devastating intro and outro, with the latter reminding me of The IVth Crusade. Napalm Death’s trademark galloping harmonics in “Protest Culture” segue into a riff that sounds like a grindcore interpretation of Asphyx circa The Rack with Jansson’s van Drunen-isms further increasing the impact and pleasing similarity. “Identity in the Internet Age” flirts ever so slightly with Woe’s brand of black metal with some well-placed frosty chords in a tentative relationship that I hope grows bolder on future releases.
None of this is meant to detract from the Nasum worshipping meat and potatoes of Grindcore, as every song here is a concise and energetic blast of memorable and catchy aggression. Whether it’s the callback to Helvete’s “Violation” on “We’re Calling You Out,” the Shift-like groove Grigg rides on “Quit,” or the melodic side of Nasum we saw on “Stormshield” and “Relics” approximated wonderfully by “False Brotherhood,” Unrest grinds with confidence and class. The production is much less polished than the latest Napalm Death and sounds like a well-done hardcore punk 7” with a rough and enjoyable sound that embraces grindcore’s live-sounding energy. If I were to nitpick, Brooks Wilson’s bass is hard to hear at times and sounds a bit thin when it’s isolated, but overall there’s little to criticize in Grindcore‘s sound. Instead of just taking Nasum’s aesthetic shell, these three went under the hood and put their slightly different spin on what made the Swedish masters of grindcore tick. It’s not new but it’s plenty exciting, and if the band writes another record doing “business as usual” I’ll definitely be along for the ride.
All in all, Grindcore is a great release and my favorite grind album of 2015 thus far. Much like Crypt Sermon, Unrest is “the real deal” in songwriting, performance, and authenticity, and their sound never gets the chance to grow tiresome with a lean 26 minute runtime. Grindcore is about as original as its name, but that’s a small price to pay for music this good. Unrest have given us an abundance of quality in the perfect quantity, and I’ll be back plenty of times this year.