Fledgling cassette label Caligari Records has already impressed me once this year with their maiden release, the nasty-ass blackened thrash assault of DeathCult’s The Test of Time, and just a few short months later they’re back to deliver the black metal tape TKO to the skull of 2013 with the debut demo from Germany’s Unru.
Unru conjure up a heady brew of noisy BM that’s infused with a chaotic metallic hardcore sensibility; think Converge around the time of Jane Doe or a less technical/jazzy Calculating Infinity-era Dillinger Escape Plan, but with the production values and vile atmosphere of Under a Funeral Moon. That isn’t to say that Unru are just a collection of influences; I’m merely trying to point out that the band takes a seemingly very disparate set of philosophies and approaches and combines them in a way that makes perfect fucking sense from the first minute the demo comes raging out of your speakers. It’s the discordant, desperate sound of reckless abandon distilled into an all-too-brief twenty-five minutes of music that’s both familiar and horrifically alien to behold.
Much like Caligari’s DeathCult release, Unru’s sound lends itself well to the cassette format, albeit in a wholly different way. The band’s use of noise, feedback and dissonance is only enhanced by the lo-fi qualities of the medium; scoff if you must at the tape revival, but the bands and labels who truly believe in it as something more than an attempt to cash in on nostalgia are really making it work to their advantage, and Unru is a shining example of this. Ok, “shining” might be a poor choice of words, as the music found on Demo MMXIII is anything but. It’s a filthy, distant-sounding swirl of sonic bedlam that’ll likely have some throwing the term “crusty” at it, but these guys are obviously good musicians with a wonderfully off-kilter approach to composition, and that sets them well apart from all the black/death/crust hybrid Southern Lordcore sound-alike bands out there, which ain’t no bad thing for this reviewer.
While the spastic, ultra-corrosive guitar/drum interplay is the demo’s obvious highlight, I’m a big fan of the absolutely possessed vocals that sound like some lunatic screaming down an endless nightmare hallway. I also dig the tone manipulation of the interludes, which at times remind of a less abrasive Prurient (during his harsh noise period of course); many of you may recall that I typically hate intros/outros/interludes, but the ones Unru have crafted here complement the proper songs perfectly, probably because the overall approach isn’t terribly different between the two, in spite of the varying results. Everything gels together perfectly, whether Unru are beating you senseless with tremolo riffs or mesmerizing you with a lullaby of pure feedback.
Overall, this demo is some of the best and most interesting black metal you’re going to hear in 2013, and it’s pretty darn exciting to think this is only Unru’s first demo. I’ve been inundated of late with young bands exhibiting a ton of potential, and of those bands, Unru have managed to capture my attention moreso than just about any other as we trudge past the year’s halfway mark. Caligari has a very strong year-end list contender on its hands here, and both this tape and their previous release are limited to only one hundred copies, so grab them now before they’re gone.