Human Impact are a supergroup with the emphasis on super, featuring Chris Spencer (Unsane), Jim Coleman (Cop Shoot Cop), Chris Pravdica (Swans) and Phil Puleo (Cop Shoot Cop/Swans). In noise-rock circles this is the equivalent to a football team featuring the likes of Luis Suárez, David Beckham, Paolo Maldini and Gordon Banks, the crème de la crème, a dream line-up made up of some of the most important players in the scene, so you can imagine my excitement when I was offered this up for review!
The band are signed to Mike Patton’s Ipecac label, home to many weird and wonderful artists. Mike has always had a very eclectic taste in music and Ipecac often reflects this, with artists as diverse as Martina Topley Bird, Melvins, Kaada and The Young Gods. The artwork of the album is of an upside-down New York (as proud New Yorkers this came as no great surprise), a black and white map of the world superimposed over the top and the band’s name in the centre.
The album commences with November a subdued number with some post-industrial tinges and a bleakly apocalyptic feel that recalls early Unsane. Next track E605 reminds me of vintage Amebix with some Killing Joke style post-punk darkness thrown in. Protestor starts with a familiar bass rumble and the precision riffing and bass/drums interplay make you think of early Helmet, this is a slightly heavier track. Portrait starts quietly with some electronic bleeps before some tribal style drumming from Puleo picks up the pace. Unsurprisingly for a band that features former Swans members, a little of that band’s sound was always going to inevitably creep in at some point.
there is a strong emphasis on subtlety, so if you were expecting the sledgehammer riffing of Unsane and the unbridled chaos of Swans you may be in for a shock…
Respirator and Cause, two competent yet standard slabs of noise-rock pass by, before leading to the atmospheric soundscapes which open Consequences, a track resembling The Damage Manual, a legendary and dare I say excellent supergroup which featured members of PIL, Killing Joke and Ministry. Relax is nearly 50 seconds of pure ambience, offering you a chance to er…relax as it were before heading onto the two remaining tracks on the album. Unstable is the second shortest on the album and oddly recalls At the Drive-In, especially the vocals of Cedric Bixler-Zavala. Finally, we reach The Dead Sea which concludes the album in a dramatic and epic fashion.
What to make then of an album that promised so much by virtue of its members? Well it’s an interesting listen which requires a lot of patience as the sound isn’t the most immediate, there is a strong emphasis on subtlety, so if you were expecting the sledgehammer riffing of Unsane and the unbridled chaos of Swans you may be in for a shock. The sound of the record isn’t quite as abrasive as you would expect considering the personnel, ‘a heaviness more implied than hammered home’. The band has obviously been reading the likes of J.G. Ballard and observing the news in recent months because the tracks are dystopian in nature.
This got me to thinking that maybe the coldness of the record rendered it a little inaccessible. I wanted to experience the ‘nod to a pre-Giuliani, unsterilized New York’ that the promo notes promised but instead felt a little underwhelmed and disappointed by the overall experience. This is a semi-decent record; and if this was an unknown band maybe I’d have been willing to cut them a little slack, but these are seasoned professionals with decades of experience in the world of noise-rock who are capable of so much more, or maybe ultimately my expectations were just too high.
Scribed by: Reza Mills