Review Summary: More "Full Collapse" than "Document #8".
It's impossible to bring up United Nations without focusing on the names which have been linked to the band in the past. When the punk “supergroup” first took web forums by storm in 2008, all we knew is that it was a loosely affiliated cabal of scene all stars: Thursday's Geoff Rickly, Converge's Ben Koller, and Glassjaw's Daryl Palumbo. None of their names were officially used in the credits, but thanks to Geoff's subtle hints in interviews at the time, we knew. Since then, United Nations became even more elusive. I still can't tell you exactly who played on their EP Never Mind the Bombings, Here's Your Six Figures
or their painfully limited, tour-only cassette Illegal UN
, but late last year their roster seemed to have finally coalesced into a consistent unit with Rickly being joined by Zach Sewell and Dave Haik of Pianos Become the Teeth fame, Lukas Previn of Acid Tiger, and Jonah Bayer of The Lovekill.
Even despite this ever shifting line up, United Nations has always sounded particularly rooted in their sound and aesthetic. This obviously has as much to do with the fact that United Nations is, and has always been, very much Geoff Rickly's creation. Even the ideas for their stirring debut were originally intended for what would become Thursday's A City By The Light Divided
. It's not much of a stretch, really. All one has to do is listen to “At This Velocity” from the aforementioned record to see what lies at the heart of United Nations. The Next Four Years
is no different. Where previous United Nations releases saw Rickly's emo-grind vision filtered through the creative lenses of his contemporaries, the line up behind The Next Four Years
is just as caught up in the zeitgeist of the current heavy music scene as it is influenced by Rickly's time in Thursday. The result is an instantly familiar record. The album's opening caterwaul pulls heavily from the Deafheaven playbook with its frenetic blast beats and dense tremolo picked guitars, but as “Serious Business” progresses, it falls into a welcome groove built on simple melodic leads and octave chords that is much more Full Collapse
than Document #8
The rest of the record continues in much the same way. While there are moments where United Nations initial emo-violence claim hold true, especially in the rabid Orchid worship of “Fu
ck The Future", for the most part The Next Four Years
is nothing more than what Rickly has been giving us, in one variation or another, for the last 15 years. Luckily, Dave Haik's skill behind the kit helps transform this tried and true template into something beyond just being an ongoing extension of the heavier side of Thursday. His stick work is truly wonderful. All one has to do is listen to the opening cadences of “F#A#$” to see just how much he can transfigure his surroundings from simple post-hardcore fare into massive metal fury with his cascading, well placed blast beats. Haik is the connection that bridges Rickly's current banshee wail with his tested songwriting fallbacks.
Taking it all into consideration, The Next Four Years
is at its heart an incredibly dated record. Every idea pulls from an instantly recognizable source, which is mostly Rickly's previous work, but at the same time that is what makes it such a refreshing listen. With “The Wave” movement within post-hardcore fading into stagnation, United Nations are a welcome reminder of the power in its past. It's the same energy that filled basements and all ages spaces for the last 25 years. It's that first connection in finding a sense of community in hardcore, but comfortably outside of the bro-mosh dudecore and mesh short wearing pit warriors that turned it into a still ongoing cliché. Most importantly, it's the earnesty that is currently missing from the scene as a whole. The Next Four Years
isn't the best record of the year, but it is the most honest – and sometimes that means so much more.