Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Unseen Force-In Search of the Truth CD (Grave Mistake) review

Reviewing reissues always feels weird, because it never feels like a real review, it feels like just I'm just putting something into context, which is always about a very personal discovery since I wasn't around in the 70s/80s. This is a refreshing exception because I never really listened to Unseen Force before this was re-issued, so I'm able to give it a more objective listen. I've heard about this band before, and I probably heard the record in passing at some point and wasn't really impressed with it and passed on it. This is a pretty easy assumption because the first time I listened to this CD after it came in the mail, I wasn't really into it, it just sort of sounded like standard late 80s hardcore. Luckily, I let it cool for a couple of days before taking another listen, while I was stuck in awful traffic and bored out of my mind, so I was pretty much forced to listen it.

There are a lot of little things about this band that make a lot of difference, but they're easy to miss if you aren't paying attention. The guitar playing is excellent, but it's very subtly crafted so it doesn't get too "in your face". "Don't Know" is a perfect example of how to do a lot with very, very little. A few guitar slides with some volume swells adds a lot of effect to the song, and the two second, five note guitar solo at the very end is perfect. There are a lot of short little guitar riffs throughout the record that you can tell were written out and worked on even though they're so short; a lot of effort went into these songs. Parts of the record sound sloppy, but if you let yourself really take it in, the band is really just dragging out a shuffled beat, so it just sounds sloppy, even though they're repeating it the same way every time. It's a pretty simple effect that's by no means genius, but it's really effective and unique. There are other times, like the song "Sermon", which is blistering fast hardcore with spot on start-and-stops and perfectly synced rhythm changes that are proof that these guys knew what they were doing.

Perhaps the easiest thing to overlook on this record is the fact that it was recorded in 1986. It's easy to compare this to a lot of bands that have come out since and have been developing on the style, and then shrug off Unseen Force, but these guys were working on their own sound. In a lot of ways, the most impressive thing about this is the slow stuff. When a lot of bands were trying to break the speed barrier, these guys could play fast, too, but they weren't afraid to slow something down if they thought it sounded better that way.

The CD contains the entire remastered In Search of the Truth LP, but it also contains a live set from '86 and a demo from the pre-Unseen Force band 2,000 Maniacs. The live set is surprisingly good quality for the most part, and the few rough spots are short and easy to ignore. My complaint is that the guitar leads are a little hard to hear at times, which would probably make a big difference.

The 2,000 Maniacs material is good by itself, and great to have from a historical standpoint (definitely deserves inclusion on the CD), but it's exactly what you should expect, an early, undeveloped incarnation of Unseen Force. They sound like a lot of the BCT bands, with a couple of songs that clock in under 10 seconds.

I do have one real complaint. The press release sent with this CD contains some really cool information about the band and Richmond scene that really should have been put into the liner notes of the CD. Honestly, I would have rather had the info than the lyrics. But really, it's 33 tracks of killer 80s US hardcore for under 10 bucks, what more do you want?

Unseen Force-"Misguided Agression"
Unseen Force-Corrupted Seed" (live)
2,000 Maniacs-"No One Understands"

AND IF THAT'S NOT ENOUGH FREE MUSIC, I'm going to point you to a download for 4 Walls Falling, one of the several bands members of Unseen Force went on to be in, via 7InchPunk.com.

Buy it on Interpunk
Grave Mistake Records

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