Although it will never get the same hipster cred as Seattle grunge or the diehard fan base of Florida death metal, the New York noise-rock scene that gestated in the Reagan era is just as important to the development of today’s underground music as its Eighties contemporaries. Human Impact, a new band that collects members from three of New York noise’s most important groups — the hardcore-influenced, ultraviolent Unsane, industrial anger mongers Cop Shoot Cop, and erstwhile Lower East Side pummelers Swans — actually sounds like all these groups making a racket at the same time.
“November,” the first song they’ve released from their upcoming self-titled debut (out March 13), begins as it should, with static, a robotic drum line, and a grinding, friction-inducing guitar riff. But it really comes into its own when Unsane’s vocalist-guitarist Chris Spencer starts gritting his teeth and yowling about struggling to feel empathy, losing everything, and an ocean of lies. What makes it great is how his agitation builds on the slow churn of the music, which he plays alongside Cop Shoot Cop sampler whiz Jim Coleman and percussionists Phil Puleo (of Cop Shoot Cop and Swans) and Swans’ Chris Pravdica. The music seems to thrust and jut out as dramatically as Spencer’s lyrics.
“Just one more tryyy, give it some time,” Spencer sings over horn samples in the bridge, before losing hope and singing, “We don’t survive.” It’s perfectly hopeless and depressing — you just want to get lost in the fury of the riffs — and if the title “November” (an election month) is any indication of what it’s about, it sounds right at home in 2019 as it would have in the Eighties. When it’s done you feel as though you’ve been through a meat grinder, and in the case of a band like Human Impact, that’s a good thing.