I've had a long history with The Unseen. Back in late 1990's, I was very much into street punk and The Unseen were high on my list of favorite bands in the genre. However, after a while I became disheartened with the limitations that spiked haired street punk had to offer. Most bands sounded exactly the same to me, the records were poorly produced, and my excitement for it kind of evaporated. So I spent a few years without paying too much attention to The Unseen. Sure, I saw them live every now and then, but they didn't do much for me. But with State of Discontent, I feel like the band has been through a rejuvenation. They sound better, crispier, and angrier, not to mention these songs have a heightened sense of urgency and excitement.
One of the things that has always stood out about The Unseen is that they really know how to write a punk rock anthem, and State of Discontent contains some of the best anthems the band has written to date. "Scream Out," "Waste of Time," and "Final Execution (Armageddon)" are the obvious standout tracks, with some seriously sick guitar riffing and catchy as hell sing-along choruses that are perfectly suited for the circle pit. But every song in here is truly a winner, as the band doesn't slow things down even for a moment to even give you a chance to breathe. "Weapons of Mass Deception" and "We Are All That We Have" (which features Rancid's Lars Frederiksen on guest vocals) are about the fastest tracks on State of Discontent, and they're both benefitted by a powerful guitar crunch and a super tight rhythm section rounding them out. Vocally, Mark Unseen has found the right balance between his screams and more melodic singing. In the past, the band has shunned much melody in their songs, but here they're not afraid to explore such aspect, and it just enhances the overall listening experience.
One of the biggest problems with previous Unseen records was the lack of a production budget to really work out the songs and make sure they sound 100% solid. And yes, I know that street punk is supposed to be raw, but you can be raw without sounding shitty, and the band accomplishes this on State of Discontent. With the help of Dropkick Murphys' Ken Casey putting on the producer hat, and Mr. Brett himself getting involved in the mixing, this is easily the best sounding Unseen record to date. Try blasting this on your speakers while driving down the highway - I guarantee it'll get you pumped up. And if you're a sucker for political and social commentary in your lyrics, then look no further. Lyrically, this is the band's most focused effort yet, and also their most articulate. By no means are they at the caliber of a band like Bad Religion, but this is miles ahead of the "Fuck the government" attitude that plagues the street punk scene.
It's funny how things work. A few months ago, I had nothing but apathetic feelings towards The Unseen. Just a short while later, their new album is one of my favorite records to be released this year. Hellcat has scored some serious points with this baby, and any punk and hardcore music fan should take note of State of Discontent. The Unseen sure paint a grim picture of the society we live on, but man, what a stunning way of doing it.