By: Salvia Hex
We Killed The Union is a fairly new band from Tucson, having spent a couple years honing their skills on the local scene and the road before recording this, their debut effort. Their incendiary live shows have become quite the attraction in the Old Pueblo, bringing to mind some of the greats from yesteryear, like Pantera, who is obviously a touchstone in their music. I recently was sent a copy of this album for review, so let's dissect this and see what makes it tick.
I'll be forthright about this album right from the get go. This is not the best sounding recording from local band that I've ever heard. From what I understand through a little research and an examination of the album's liner notes, it looks like it was recorded at a studio in Tucson, then given over to Arcane Digital Recording to mix and master. Knowing the quality of work that comes out of Arcane, I'm going to lay the few faults of this album directly at the recording studio's feet then. The stellar guitar work of James Maxam is regrettably a bit thin, and not having been doubled as is usually the practice with a one guitar band, it is sometimes overpowered by this band's powerful rhythm section. There's a bit too much reverb on the songs at times and I don't feel the recording does the vocalist justice.
That said, don't sleep on this album. This is a perfect example of the power of good songwriting defeating poor production. There is a level of emotional depth displayed here that is not usually seen at a local level. We Killed The Union's sound ranges from a full on groove based metal attack displayed in the titular song, quite similar to the aforementioned Pantera, to songs just bursting with empathy like Wisdom Of Leeches or Mud River Blood, on which lyricist Sean Raines displays a deft songwriters touch with lyrics that brings to mind the songs of classic songwriters like Leonard Cohen or David Allen Coe. While there is plenty of bravado and bare-knuckled toughness to go around, this band is obviously in touch with the more personal aspects of music and life as well.
Another obvious standout to this band is the rhythm section itself. Bobby Hutchinson and Kevin Maxam play in lockstep, pounding away at your defenses in unison until you find yourself hopelessly nodding along. With the vocalist's tendency towards esoteric lyrics and his free flowing vocal style, you need a rhythm section that keeps things grounded and solid, that allows the lyrics and guitar work to ebb and flow, while never losing the direction and purpose of the song itself. These men ably fill that position, dealing out quarter notes like a slick card shark dishes aces in the Old West.
The packaging of the album also deserves a quick note. The band enlisted renowned Western artist Gabe Leonard to paint an original piece of art for the album's cover and design. What he came up with is incredible; two crows fighting over a human heart in the dying light of an Arizona sunset. Considering that most local bands put albums out with terrible Photoshop covers, I give them a big heap of credit for presenting this album in a very artistic and professional way.
All in all, this album gets my recommendation. It's a standout among local releases this year, in my ears. And while it may not be the best recording ever made, that shouldn't detract you from experiencing it. After all, I can think of quite a few albums that sound like dogshit, but I still listen to quite often, like Black Flag's "Slip It In" or Sepultura's "Schizophrenia" or just about anything from The Mars Volta. So don't miss this one, it's worth it!
Final Score: 7/10
We Killed The Union: Official Site