Grinding guitars assault us at the start of “Stuck in Your Way” and don’t stop thrashing us through the deluge of distortion that forms “Suffering in Silence,” “I Never Forget,” “Nothing Left to Sell” and the title cut in The Unbroken’s Human Crown, a fresh slab of metallic thunder currently out everywhere independent heavy music is sold and streamed. In a perfect mashup of 80’s style riffing and guttural, post-Pantera grooves designed to pulverize extreme metal fans of all stripes, Human Crown is a violent, often startlingly accessible record that formally introduces us to The Unbroken at their most unrestrained and relentlessly carnal. Diehard metalheads and casual listeners alike aren’t often interested in the same disc nowadays, but this is a rare case where both groups should be more than satisfied with what they hear.
Even had the fretwork been less virtuosic than it ultimately is in the progressive, Mastodon-esque “Human Crown” and punishing thrash throwback “I Never Forget,” I still think that both of these tracks would qualify as two of the heaviest to come out of the underground this season. The Unbroken have an exceptionally diverse sonic profile that contains shades of doom legends Trouble, an early, punkish Machine Head and the chest-pounding machismo of a vintage Anthrax, but what’s even more interesting than their tree of influences is perhaps the way that they channel them into their music.
“Nothing Left to Sell” and “Suffering in Silence” churn us in unique vortexes of percussion and riffing only to maximize the gloomy tension where we would normally expect catharsis, and instead of fading into a storm of soloing as most bands would, this crew often refrains and leaves us feeling pummeled and sorted at the end of a track instead of relieved. Difficult to categorize? Definitely, but the best metal bands in history, from Sabbath to Slayer, always have been.
If you’re looking for 21 minutes of sheer, unfiltered brutality this Halloween, you’re not likely to find another EP quite as pleasing to the ears as The Unbroken’s vicious Human Crown is. This is a group that still has a lot of ground to cover (and plenty of critics to please), but if this is a taste of their future, they’re in for quite the wild ride as 2019 shifts into 2020.