REVIEWED: Human Impact (Self-titled)
In this dystopian urban vision, the masses toil and struggle in the unceasing grind of the capitalist world eater, digesting us in a low-level electronic squall while howls wrenched from despair ring out railing against an uncaring world and crushed dreams when the world once seemed so bright and we weren't the puppets of an uncaring elite.
But enough of the current events. It's time to lose ourselves in the world of Human Impact, a super group from New York and comprising members of Swans, Unsane and Cop Shoot Cop bringing their talents together. While this could be a good thing, it's not always a sure fire way to success – for every Shrinebuilder, where each individual talent comes together and each member gets a chance to shine while also contributing to a collective whole with its own identity, there's also a chance it'll end up like a Storm Corrosion, which despite having the talents of Steven Wilson and Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt ended up sounding a rushed and forgettable knock off. In case you're wondering, the only knocking off Human Impact will be doing is off your socks, and possibly most of your skin too.
For you see, if you've listened to more than five seconds of each constituent band you know what you're going to get, and if you've already done that you can just skip to the end because all you need to know is that it's been released worldwide already. But for those of you who are still here, the guitarist and vocalist is Chris Spencer, who was last seen wrenching clanky riffs out of a long-suffering Telecaster in Unsane while unleashing a roar that brought to mind an alarmingly pulsing neck vein. He seems to have calmed down in the three years since that influential noise trio rode off into the sunset, although calm is a relative term; his delivery has become ever more weary to complete the dystopian noisescape the other members of Human Impact bring to the jam room. The rhythm section is tighter than most, and that's because it's Swans alumni bassist Chris Pravdica and drummer Phil Puleo, who lock down the beat when the rest of their compartments aren't doing extended experiential existential dreamscapes, or just pissing about, depending on your view of the Swan's ouevre. Speaking of which, Puleo also pounded the skins in Cop Shoot Cop alongside compatriot Jim Coleman, which set punk fury against the angst of urban living to a mentally precarious industrial wasteland. Coleman's spent a career wrenching emotions like fear, anger, rage and terror from keyboards and other sundry electrical devices, a role he also performs with admirable dexterity in Human Impact.
Opener 'November' gets things underway in a meaty fashion, with the bass locking down a relentless groove while the Telecaster stabs away with precision amid the tumbling tribal backbeat, like the Swans at their most driving when you don't want to wring their necks for being so fucking boring and indulgent. Imagine a Godflesh with a touch more poly-rhythmic intensity and you're getting somewhere there, with contrasting couplets slotting together in nihilistic cadence. And that's fairly sedate compared to follow up tracks 'E605' and 'Protester', which mirrors the nervy jitteriness of Cop Shoot Cop's punk raging and the cantankerous filth of Unsane, especially when the latter spills into pure rage not last seen since idiots had a punch up over bog roll. That's not the only trick up their sleeves, given they manage to build an ominous, nerve-shredding build-up around a lonesome piano note and a one-two bass line in 'Respirator'. By then you're hooked up and jacked in, with 'The Dead Sea' bringing the procession to a close like an apocalyptic Killing Joke but determined to go out with a final flourish and a final grating alarm tone.
While it's not a massive departure from their alma maters, Human Impact is no less an impressive record for it. Their angst and anxieties all dovetail into a record that pulses with atmosphere and menace through every unsettling metronomic beat and tortured texture, every song an outburst against our awful, degradative post-modern condition.
'Human Impact' is out now on Ipecac