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Super Unison - "Stella" | Album Review

super unison cover.jpg

by Patrick Pilch (@pratprilch)

Super Unison launched into the Bay Area punk scene in 2015, riding the criminally overlooked wave of California hardcore often credited to DIY spaces and record stores like 1-2-3-4 Go! Records and the self-sustaining 924 Gilman. Holding clout in both the Philadelphia emo and Bay Area hardcore scenes, the band is somewhat of a cross-country supergroup. Just a year after the demise of Meghan O’Neil’s former band PUNCH, drummer Justin Renninger (ex-Snowing) and guitarist Kevin Defranco (ex-Dead Seeds) asked O’Neil to sing in their new band. The frontwoman’s initial apprehension melted during their first practice—something clicked and Super Unison was born.

The trio’s sophomore effort is a sleek approach to melodic hardcore. Stella is filled with sweeping hooks and a revamped sound, as the album’s production value is kicked into high gear with the help of veteran engineers Jack Shirley and Steve Albini. Packed with tension and angst, there’s little breathing room on Super Unison’s latest. The band retain a broad and fiery sonic assault across ten tracks, lacing punk arrangements with a vast shoegaze aesthetic on songs like “Comfort” and “Nev.” O’Neil’s vocals are raw and relentless, recalling the melodic screamo approach of Nicole Boychuk (I Hate Sex) on high-octane cuts like “Falcon” and “Parts Unknown.” The jagged, stop-and-go riffs of “The Snake” escalate the back-to-back impact of the “Parts Unknown” and “The Birthday Gift,” two of Stella’s most pummeling numbers.

On their latest, Super Unison stress the fundamental form of music releases—easy to consume as individual pieces or entirely for a more immersive experience. In full, Stella can be an overwhelming listen, swathing listeners in an ebb and flow of “intense” and “more intense” moments that make for a dizzying headspace. But make no mistake, each track is a no-holds-barred punk venture into Super Unison’s visceral sphere of emotional post hardcore, an offering capable of capturing the attention of even the most unlikely of listeners.