June 23, 2015 Unifier – Gutted (Album Review)
There is a band out there called Unifier, who are fairly new, from North Carolina. Those who have not heard of them, should make the effort to do so. There is something about a band that evolves after one album, which makes a music lover extremely pleased. Unifier has done more than evolve. They have broken through the barrier that many new bands cannot seem to do. They have done so boldly, yet with subtle effects, without crashing. They have changed through maturity, experiences, and have been unafraid to show some rays of beaming light through the veil of innocence. They took some chances and all for the good.
Unifier’s debut album, Colorado, was a good album with tones of the past, from the ’90s Grunge era, but still maintaining a safe mode. The newest EP consists of five interlocking puzzle pieces that fit so perfectly it is almost a math equation. The songs are heavier, a bit darker with more aggressive beats and lyrics, as well as more creative rawness. Each song on this excellent sophomore album gets better than the previous. The common denominator here is the guitar riffs, the pounding drumbeat, and the melodic harmonies, not just with the background vocals but with the harmonious sounds of vocals to instruments. It is perfectly timed and synchronized like a Bulova watch. Ok, too deep? How about this; it all falls in place perfectly like a good tune should?
The band consists of Aslan Freeman (guitar/lead vocals), Mike Kane (drums), Luke Rayson (bass/vocals), and Chris Carr (guitar/vocals). Freeman, with a college degree in Music Composition, is also talented at engineering and production. He figured, if he did not cut it as a lead vocalist in his band, he could always use his other talents to support himself. He did not need to worry, so it appears. Kane was in other bands locally in high school and they met up at the right time. Carr and Freeman met through friends and instantly jelled and started writing together. After they went through numerous bass players, Rayson came on board and that too was a good match. Like a math equation, everything fit in place and so the band was formed. Formerly Future Ghosts, their name needed to be changed due to a band from Chicago with the same name and dibs on it. There was a brief fight legally for the name, when the public relations people and lawyers thought it easier to just change their name. So many fans and friends stood by Unifier during this ordeal, they decided Unifier was a totally appropriate name, and so it was. That was just the beginning of the transitioning that took place.
Like most bands, each member was going through their own transformations, and the band went along with that mode of change. It is most evident in this EP, Gutted, also, appropriately named, since it was a sort of gutting that took place; cleaning out the debris of what was not needed and what was needed, to make the sound that they all agreed they wanted. Their earlier influences, mostly 90’s Alternative Rock, were Jimmy Eats World, Foo Fighters, and easily detected were Toad the Wet Sprocket, Smashing Pumpkins, and a little Green Day thrown in the mix. Those great influential bands can still be detected in this new EP, but with a new twist to them. A stronger more aggressive beat throughout each song and some great changes to the vocal ability of Freeman are highly noticeable.
The first track, “Fall,” starts out with a heavy pounding drum to match a heavy guitar following closely behind and then blends into smooth melodic vocals; very well blended by Freeman. The background vocals are so smoothly mixed there are no lines in the harmonies….just even throughout. The second track, “Break,” has a heavier beat throughout with a rich solid guitar. When Freeman sings soulfully, “I’m ready to break….I’ll do anything,” it is impossible not to believe him. A good cacophony of sounds with vocals and instruments break down into a solid guitar and drums.
“Mend,” from the very start, is solid ’90s replay with the familiar guitar riffs and steady heavy beat of the drums. As the ’90s did so well, Unifier does also, when they switch to a transition of moody melodic sounds that again, transition to a heavy steady beat. It is as if they vamped up the ’90s, put a new dress on it, and added a few new decibels; very innovative. “Sink” is where the real change takes place, a metamorphosis of their style from Colorado. Heavy, shorter chords and beats take this tune to a real mix of 90’s on steroids. It beefs up the sound to a near Heavy Metal with a piercing lead guitar so familiar of Heavy Metal sounds. They then add a blending of vocals that “sync” into the notes, perfectly timed with exact precision and become one. Again, the engineering expertise and production knowledge of Freeman is well-noted.
The last track, “Forget,” is a nice surprise, as the listener is not really sure where this song may lead to. It begins with the same familiar hard-hitting heavy beat of the other tracks, but there is a softer mood to this song, with a softer tone and element to Freeman’s vocals. The melodic breaks and the various levels to his voice show how far he has come vocally from the debut album. The background vocals also play into this melodic transition and they harmonize nicely with the instruments as the lead vocal takes frontline. This is a moody piece without surpassing the heavy beats and it all, again, fits perfectly in place; precision is the key word. When Freeman sings, “The lights on you…can you live with that……your secret’s on…” it is easy to fall into his mindset of what deception does to everyone involved.
It is clear and evident that chances were taken here, on Gutted, from their first go out of the gate. This EP is more progressive, which would be why they label themselves Progressive Alternative Rock, now. There are the familiar guitar riffs and drum hard-hitting beats from previous songs, but they certainly added some more advanced, progressive sounds, more melodic turns, and a more vamped ’90s feel than before. They have not reinvented themselves, as their signature sound is there. They have, however, improved their sound, with more progressive, advanced chord combinations, transitions from hard-hitting to melodic in places, and a more soulful lead vocal with varying ranges that blend expertly with the background vocals and the music as a whole. It appears that the band Unifier has grown, in many different ways, and it shows. Taking chances can be difficult, but for this band, they make it look easy and it paid off nicely. Whether a perfect math equation, equal on all sides, or an expertly crafted timepiece, made with exact precision, this EP is sounding good. CrypticRock gives Gutted 5 out of 5 stars.