I normally like to lead into a review with a frilly introductory “frame” to prime the listener into the mindset that I believe the album I’m reviewing holds. Sometimes it’s a little corny (some albums are a little corny), but I like to think that, for the most part, it helps get people more interested in the article.
If I tried to do that with Unloved, the 2018 full-length album by mathcore/technical deathcore/noise/insert-a-genre here act Frontierer, it would read a lot like a stream-of-thought diary by someone with untreated ADHD. Unloved is, simply, all over the goddamn place—but in the absolute best way possible. Blending grind infused antics with brutalizing death metal and off-the-wall core influence, the listener is bombarded with one of the most dense and devastating forays into heavy music since The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza last graced us with a studio release—and I draw that comparison with measured intent because, if any band is capable of it, Frontierer and their album Unloved could—and do—fill the gaping hole that’s been left in chaotic heavy music since Danza’s departure. Spazzy, unpredictable and ruthless, Unloved is a monster that fans of anything extreme owe it to themselves to get subjected to.
Unloved wastes no time in waging war on the listener’s sanity with “Tumoric,” a spastic barnburner that uses hyperspeed grooves and shrill, abrasive vocals as a means to inaugurate the listener—initiated or not—into what Frontierer are all about. The band are built on (obviously, given the genre) immensely talented percussion that hits hard, fast and without warning. While more aggressive and straightforward cuts like “Darkside Moonstroll” see less focus on bamboozling fills and fleet footwork, other cuts—“Electric Gag” and “Bombgnasher” are just the opposite, using the percussion as a springboard to build booming bass and absurd fretwork from. No matter which track you find yourself on, there’s about a 100% chance that you’ll find yourself in awe of Frontierer’s instrumentation; this is as true of the drumming as it is of any of the stringed instruments involved in the crafting of this record. Be it guitar or bass, Unloved is huge in both the technical arena and beyond, into the spectrum of absurd aggression and brash brutality. Establishing a similar frenetic nature to their previous record, Orange Mathematics, the quintet focus on more fluid transitioning and less oppressive density this time around (as Orange was excellent, it was also damned hard to get through in a single sitting). Unloved doesn’t have this pitfall—as the tracks are unique and immersive on their own, while being cohesive and fluid as a collective. “Neon Barnacle” and “Heartless 101” are examples of the band exploring this aspect of their sound, using electronic compositions and effects to aid in transitioning from segment to segment and song to song, keeping the listener immersed by giving them a relative break from the carnage and crushing nature that the band have mastered and embody.
Just as Unloved is an instrumental juggernaut, it is a vocal powerhouse. While the band’s vocal element might not be the most varied, it is suitably intense—the listener gets this sensation from the first lyrics belted on “Tumoric,” throughout “Glitcher” and “Electric Gag” and all the way to the album closer. While the lyrics pantomime the scattered and sinister nature of the band’s instrumentation, the vocals are more constant, using a predominantly mid-range style with a shrill inflection to give it a sharp, slicing edge. See “Unloved & Oxidized” for example—where intense and immolating vocals drill line after line into the listener’s head with the absurd and ultra-heavy instrumentation serving as the figurative power drill doing the work behind them. The easiest way to describe Frontierer’s vocal element is this: it embodies the mission the entire band seems to strive for—unending, unrelenting utter intensity from the first syllable to the last rasping shout.
Unloved is violent, explosive and oppressive in a way that so few heavy bands are capable of even attempting these days. Borrowing from grind acts of decades passed (Ed Gein, Tower of Rome) and more contemporary –core acts (Ion Dissonance, Danza), Frontierer are furious and they don’t give a shit who knows it, giving birth to one of the most rambunctious and creative displays of power heavy music has seen in years.
For Fans Of: The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, Ion Dissonance, SeeYouSpaceCowboy, The Number 12 Looks Like You
By: Connor Welsh