Super Unison left a lasting impression with their debut full length Auto back in 2016, which took equal amounts of post hardcore and hardcore punk and injected them with a healthy dose of shimmering alternative rock circa the early to mid-90s. It offered up just the right amount of nostalgic sound while still pushing off in a direction all its own, and two years later the group has returned with a follow-up titled Stella. Stylistically the instrumentals have continued along the same path but the sound has pushed further outwards and the songwriting has gotten sharper and more focused than ever before. With just the right amount of intensity and weight to balance out the darker melodies, there’s a lot to like about Super Unison that should keep fans of any side of the hardcore spectrum coming back for more.
The group’s brevity continues to work in their favor, as with a running length of a little over half an hour Stella has a lot of big hooks that get under your skin quickly but don’t stretch out to the point that they lose their effectiveness. One of the things Super Unison does best on this album is to balance intensity with melancholy, as while there are plenty of passages where darker melodies draw you in there are just as many where the tempo kicks up and the power of the riffs and drumming jolt you back to attention. While there is an increased emphasis on melodies that spread outwards and exude a wistful, almost nostalgic feeling, Super Unison is still just as likely to capture the fire and power that drew many listeners to punk in the first place. Sound wise the material draws on a lot of elements that are reminiscent of 90s post-hardcore, with a healthy dose of multiple sides of the alternative rock genre. But even when there are guitar leads that capture some of the best elements of bands from two decades ago, the hooks seem to be pushing the sound forward rather than simply trying to imitate the past.
Meghan O'Neil’s vocals skew towards the harsher side of the spectrum, which creates an interesting dynamic between the vocals and instrumentals. Even as the guitars sprawl outwards towards dreamier textures O’Neil screams and shouts with so much energy that it often feels like it’s going to overwhelm you. It’s an enticing combination that works extremely well, and unlike some of the other singers in post hardcore today there’s a good deal of versatility to her performance that gives each song a slightly different feel from the last. The recording puts her vocals front and center, allowing the raw performance to truly shine.
Stella offers hooks from beginning to end and finds Super Unison taking their songwriting to the next level. With the weight and power one has come to expect from hardcore punk/post hardcore and the textured melodies of alternative rock, this is an album with plenty of substance. There’s a definite sense of nostalgia and familiarity to some of the band’s approach, yet it’s merged together in a way that blazes a path of its own. Stella is out now on Deathwish Inc.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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