Of the many noise-rock acts to emerge from the East Village underground in the early '90s, none matched the corrosive vitriol and muscular fury of Unsane, a band infamous for its graphic crime-scene-photo cover art. Mixing the dissonance of Sonic Youth and Swans with an aggressive hardcore attack, guitarist and vocalist Chris Spencer and the original rhythm section of drummer Charlie Ondras and bassist Pete Shore created a crushing, cacophonous template that has since been hijacked by a parade of far less venomous alt-metal bands.
Unlike Helmet, a New York contemporary that softened its edge after signing to a major label, Unsane only turned more offensive when Atlantic took over its label, Matador Records, in 1993. "We never really liked major labels," explains Spencer during a recent phone interview. "When Atlantic wanted a video, we gave them one about a guy strapping a bomb to his body and going into the World Trade Center and blowing it up."
After an extended hiatus, Unsane returned stronger than ever with Blood Run, released by Relapse Records in 2004. Now signed to Mike Patton's artist-friendly Ipecac imprint, the group just dropped Visqueen, a slab of bluesy violence that has the band garnering some of the best reviews of its career.